In my previous reflections I wrote, as poetically and passionately as I could, of the almost infinite powers of imagination. When I speak on such a topic in the various presentations, master classes or creative workshops, the key question that arises is this: “But how do you awake imagination or how do you open your mind to the “gravity free and reality independent” thinking and ideation or storytelling that is liberated of all that we have grown to be gravitated by, or entrapped within?
Hence, I would like to dedicate this episode to the “how to”. Do keep in mind, all that I say offers my personal perspective on the ways I inspire myself, my audience, and those students I mentor.
As I had written in the initial episode of this series, to me, imagination represents the very origin of all. This is not applicable only to artistic expressions or endeavors but to all disciplines one can think of. Without it we would still be living in caves or sitting in the trees, munching on bananas, shivering from cold, being totally unaware of fire, or even the simplest of stone tools, forget the diverse kinds of sciences, technologies and everything else we have invented over the centuries. In other words, imagination fuels evolution, ideation, invention, and innovation in everything!!!
However, while some of us find, consciously or subconsciously, a path or an ability to preserve vibrancy of their imagination, most do not. In the case of the prior, it may have to do with their “make up”, upbringing, parents or a passionate desire to explore, to challenge the status quo, to break the rules, to question all and everything. Or maybe it has to do with an inner curiosity that does not let us accept what we are told by the elder, or our teachers, or the society at large? To us the “system” is the symbol of oppression, the foe to resist in almost any cause. To us, not understanding something is a challenge that motivates and inspires, it ignites our imagination, makes us restless until, if fortunate, we arrive at an answer, a climax, whether right or not.
A few examples: Albert Einstein imagined and then defined many of the rules governing not just our lives but the laws of the Universe. While these are constantly being challenged by other very curious scientists, and while Einstein’s laws are bound to evolve and alter as humanity learns and discovers, this man did it all without even leaving the planet! He imagined it! And then distilled it in very scientific and ingenious ways. Without the might of his imagination none of it would had ever been generated by his mind. One more, if I may, I just can’t help it. The man’s name was Henry Cavendish. He was a very wealthy man, but also a very anti-social individual. According to what I had read, he never, ever, left his castle. And yet, without stepping outside, without ever traveling, he calculated the weight of the Earth! How the hell was he able to achieve such a feat of imagination? The last one, I promise. Leonardo de Vinci. Thanks to his ingenious imagination he was able to conceive of designs for a computer, a flying machine, and other devises which were not feasible, or achievable, for the next 500 years. How did he, and the others, do all this?
As for the latter, those others, those who quietly submit themselves to what is expected of them, accept the rules in order to fit in, to be proper, to be seen as the very models for the rest of our society. Well, I shall leave the potential responses, you all may have, to your own imagination.
I have spent 25 years of my creative career creating short animated films for a diverse range of global clients. From the outset of my career I had made myself a promise not to take on projects purely for the money, or take any assignment simply because the more the better, or how can you turn down such a BIG project, or BIG budget or a BIG client? I took only those projects in which I believed because they challenged me, ignited my imagination, they kept me awake at night, they even made me nauseous, reckless, made me suffer, like pregnancy I spoke of before.
In most of the projects I was able to make a pact with given client. I promised them to come up with concepts that make them, or their station, of their client, or product look great. In exchange though I asked that they let me do what I want, instead of handing me a storyboard to follow and realize without injecting myself, my own ideas, my aspiration, into projects that, most of the time, took weeks and even months to create. True, I did not get rich as some. I did not produce as many projects as others, often I even lost my own shirt on creating a projects that I, at the end, was proud of, one that made others think, opened their minds, eyes, or ignite imagination.
Most of my projects, many very humble, won awards for creativity, innovation and imagination. Here comes the key, a potential answer to the “how” mentioned at the outset of this episode. In the impregnation stage of, the initiation of the project, I asked myself a simple “what if”? What if an egg did not like to be hit by a spoon? What if the snow shakers represented another space, another dimension? What if the little bumps on the fallen leafs were really big mountains, and what if they were alive? Many others “what if” followed. Maybe because I never liked reality and never wanted to accept it as the way it is, the power that dictates to me who I am and what I should think? These “what ifs” have kept me curious, questioning all and everything, reflecting on all that is around me, letting me imagine what if these things were not just static dead solids but alive, as they truly are? For when you truly think of them, they represent vibrating atoms, molecules and other such elements brought together to make up something, for a certain period of time. They joined forces, formed communes, to make something come to be. But they are not solid, not dead, not even the stones, nothing is. Now, let that bend and twist your mind, please!
So, the “what if” acts as one of my portals to the amazing space I call imagination, space within which nothing is unthinkable and almost anything is attainable. A magic space within which ideas roam free of gravity and reality, awaiting to be discovered and embraced, till something amazing will happen as a result of such encounter, a concept, a story, an invention or a solution, or vision is born. Thus I, and many others like me, the restless, become impregnated, again and again…
So, do you dare? Are you open to such risks? Are you willing to fly? Are you willing to say: to hell with gravity and reality, I want to be free! But, I am the first one to caution: yes, there are risks involved, you may, most likely you will, make mistakes, you will get hurt, maybe crash, feel pain, sleeplessness, sadness, fury, and all other emotions, pleasant and not. Do you have the stamina, and the drive to get up and then do it all over again, learning from the mistakes you had made?
In one of my short animated network IDs, one for Noggin, I projected imagination as an amazing roller coaster that propels its riders up and up into the sky and back. My message? Let your mind go for a wild ride, where all controls are temporarily taken away from you, and you find yourself flying. Try it, who knows, you may never want to get off again. So, my message to my readers, some of whom have asked: how do you embrace “gravity free and reality independent” thinking”, or “how do you cultivate your imagination”, I answer this, try it and who knows, you may love it.