‘My imagination is a Monastery and I am its monk.’
Keats’ words to Shelley (as the Romantics caught hold of the concept of ‘imagination’ and ran with it), caught my attention this week as I read an article on William Blake. I, like most writers I would assume, like to think about my approach to writing fairly frequently – the language I use, the point of view I take, the theme I focus on and so on – but above all else, when it comes down to it, pure imagination is key.
Like anything, if over-worked, writing can become prescriptive, unnatural, formulaic… when all it really needs sometimes is a healthy dose of imagination and a little less rule-keeping. I love writing which surprises me, grips me with beautiful language and takes me somewhere I just wasn’t expecting. I enjoy, as I’ve mentioned before, the stream of consciousness type of novel which is, to me, endlessly fascinating in its tangential complexity or straightforward observation. It’s truly imaginative and not just in the story (or as some might protest – ‘what story, it’s just random thoughts!’), but in the language.
Imagination of course, shouldn’t just be confined to the plot, but to the essential ingredients – the words. It strikes me that in prose, focus more often goes to story structure whereas in poetry, there’s more attention given over to the words. Each word, to be exact. In poetry, every word must win its place.
Is your imagination a monastery? Do you make it your focus like Keats did?
Do you immerse yourself in all the fantastical, impossible and utterly absurd elements that your imagination throws at you?
And – do you write them down and explore them further, or shut them away in favour of the formulaic and what is expected of the modern-day writer..?
As Blake said: ‘One power alone makes the Poet – Imagination The Divine Vision’.