10 Tips to Exercise Your Imagination

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. www.peterleavell.com.

Our minds destroy the planet in one moment and save humanity in the next.

Or, we write a scene of death and torture, thievery and mischief, just before we go to church and worship an ever-loving God.

Yeah, we’re writers. We’re messed up.

Our imagination is our weapon of choice, and if we don’t keep our mind honed, we’re missing out on our potential. A few tips to expand your mind

1: Solving problems—our specialty. Like a solitary chess player, the mind is divided between two equal opponents. Guy/Girl, Bad Guy/Good Guy, Happy/Sad, Bad Situation/Good Situation. Practice getting a character into problems you have no idea how to extract him or her, then think, think, think. Get your character out! No worries—this isn’t a math story problem. So no tears.

2: Imaginations soar. Let it go! (My 12-year-old daughter is singing in my head right now.) Take time to reflect. Think big. Think bad. Think gloriously.

3: Dig. Dig through books. Dig fiction and nonfiction. Dig YA and dig philosophy no one understands. Dig poetry and plays. Digging books expands your mind.

4: Observe. Watch others carefully. What depths of good or bad are humans capable of? Or depths of feeling? In a café, I watched an 8-year-old boy in the corner booth crying. Not tears of a tantrum, just red eyes and tracks down his cheeks. Quiet suffering. His parents and grandparents ignored him. Listening, I learned his grandfather sitting next to the boy was going into surgery the next day, and they were discussing odds of survival. My heart broke for the lad, giving me a new depth to my own emotion.

5: Tell stories. But verbalize them. Make your tale as entertaining as possible—perhaps funny or intriguing points of views. Verbalizing good stories is great practice.

6: Be curious. Ever curious. And satiate your curiosity. I’m reading about clouds right now.

7: Balance rest and exercise. Come on. You’re a grownup. You know how your body works by now. Maximize your potential by exercising and eating what’s good for body and mind.

8: Hang out with exciting/interesting people. They fuel your imagination!

9: Brain synapses are important. Synapse is how information passes through the brain. Getting the left and right hand side of the brain to talk with each other is vital. I memorize poetry and recite. Then write. When I grow weary, I juggle—passing the tennis balls from the right side of my body to the left gets the two sides fired up and talking.

10: Learn math. Sigh. So you don’t have to make up a point when the title says ten points. You never know, it may help with problem solving, even if there are tears. (small, humble text)

Maximize your potential! Keep your mind humming!

By the way, two months later, in the same café, a grandfather with a walker sat at a table with a happy 8-year-old boy.

What do you do to maximize your imagination’s potential?