Friday, 24 May 2013

Unleashing Your Imagination

The definition of writing is that it's a language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols.

That sums it up very neatly doesn't it? But that summary is just the stone which hits the water; there are so many more ripples to explore. Writing to me is about having my voice heard, unleashing my imagination, making new friends in my characters, boosting my confidence, a way of keeping me focused, a method of learning through research, increasing my organisational skills by accurately setting time-lines in my story and putting the chapters in the right place to help the story flow and most definitely - escapism.

What made me think of writing this blog post, was a critique I had to do for this month's fiction group at Nottingham Writers' Studio. I'd started by picking out the odd grammar mistake and highlighting beautiful similes, when I became more interested in what the writer was saying than any grammatical errors. Two sentences jolted me. I read them again. 'It occurs to me that writing can be a means of control which is lacking elsewhere in our lives. Writing is sometimes taken up when life itself fails, disappoints or falls short in some way.'

It occurred to me that I took up writing novels in 2007 just as a certain part of my life changed and I felt my control of life was, for the most part, out of my hands. Did my sub-concious lead me to start a novel that Sunday morning as a way of gaining some control back? I've often remarked that I love writing because I'm in charge of my characters' decisions and directions. I can tell them what to say, lead them out of danger and direct them to a happier life. I become lost in their lives and actually feel that my characters are my friends as I disappear into my writing. Is this a sort of therapy my mind led me to as a way of protecting me? Perhaps. Writing is known to help people with traumatic problems, so why shouldn't it help someone who has just lost their way?

Writing about traumatic and emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological well-being. As a way of healing affected people, they're asked to write about past stressful events. Those who do so, generally have significantly better physical and psychological outcomes compared with those who write about neutral topics. Writing is so much more than a textual medium. It can be used successfully as a therapeutic tool for survivors of trauma and in psychiatric settings and is associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems. Not bad for just putting pen to paper!

If you can’t change something about where you are in life then change it by writing. Go to the ocean in your mind and listen to the sound your footsteps make on the pebbles or feel your toes sink into the cool sand. Listen to the waves as they hush up and down the the beach, smell the salt-air and sweet seaweed. Write about the cherry blossom festivals in Japan by going there on the page. Can you smell the fragrant blossoms as they tumble to the floor in the mild breeze? How about indulging in the freedom of skiing. The skis are swishing from side to side as you glide down the hill, looking up at the blue shadows on the mountains and the sun glinting off the peaks. Go for it. Indulge in a little imagination. It's a fantastic tonic!

I read an interview in The Times last month by Rose Tremain, the Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. She said,
'My belief in the imagination is absolute. Part of the joy of writing is going on a journey somewhere outside my own life.'

And it does help to escape from time to time, if only in our imaginations. As the old cliche goes, a change is as good as a rest!