Inspiration is something I find quite hard to come by. Whether it be for a story I’m wanting to tell, finding that just right thing to say, making a design choice or even writing a post for this blog. I know it’s not the case for everyone, but for some of those that I talk to on a regular basis, they share the exact same problem. Some have their muses (whether they be that of great music, stories of the past that inspire new ideas to come to fruition, another human being, etc.) which do the exact job they are supposed to do: spur creation of new concepts, ideas and art. They are a great thing, and those that have them should count themselves truly lucky.
For the rest of the un-mused world, though, we have to pull our concepts out of what seems like thin air. While that sentiment is not exactly true, it does seem we need to work harder to do what those with muses to do the exact same thing. Even in both cases though, there is one thing where; at least in storytelling, music, and the other creative arts; if it isn’t there, something truly amazing can’t happen.
That is imagination.
Imagination can put a whole new fold on the things we see and hear and think about each and every day. It can take a small room with very little decoration and turn it into a massive forest with trees of mythical sizes that go every which way. We can turn a small watering hole into the edge of an ocean, that we can sail on or swim through as far as we could want. We could see people of a different world, a different place, or even a different dimension or plane of existence all together. We can make something that never, absolutely not in one-hundred years ever never, forever never not happen; and make it so, if only within the confines of our head or the paper or canvas or camera in front of us.
Looking at the films of the last few years (that’s the way I mean to look at it, considering it’s what I’m studying), imagination sprouts up from time to time. It’s absolutely visible in some of the stories of the last few years. Now, I’m about to gush about a few films, some of which are personal favorites, but this is by no means an exhaustive list in the slightest. (500) Days of Summer was absolutely inventive in the way that it took the established format for story and twisted it, to quite good effect. Taking two separate points in the relationship that Tom has with summer shows us the absolute highs and lows that come with it and truly make us feel for Tom unlike most that we would see within romantic comedies. District 9 took a real world concept, racism, which in this case was happening within southern Africa, and turned it on it’s head, by bringing in a race of bug-like aliens called the Prawn to make the point just as validly as they could have done using nothing but human actors. Big (as in the one with Tom Hanks) took imagination to a level not done often, turning a kid to an adult after he makes a wish that can’t possibly come true. To think of a story like they did for that is just something that I still have a hard time comprehending, but adore none the less. Avatar brought an entirely new world to audiences over a year ago now. People were absolutely mesmerized by what they saw of Pandora and the creatures that inhabited it. Yes, the story was a bit Dancing With Wolves, but that still should not take away from the fact that to imagine something like that up is something truly amazing.
With those outliers though, we get a lot of the same more often than not. We have movies going into their fourth or fifth or sixth incarnations (at least stories that were originally planned as single films). There are remakes upon remakes upon remakes upon remakes filling the market with “You liked this film that came out 50/30/10 years ago? Why not try seeing it again, except with none of the magic that came with a new story told in possibly a new way. We’ll just update the graphics and conditions so you can relate better.”
So my question is, where has the imagination gone? In a world of remakes, redos, and sequels; is there any imagination left to create something new, interesting, and relateable but still have that spark of the strange and fantastical? I ask this because I feel like my imagination is in the dumps currently. I honestly have for years. Since the start of middle school, writing was done to fulfill an assignments page or word length, on a subject that you most likely did not care about, and most likely were unimaginative due to the fact that you couldn’t create details. You were tied down by the facts that were available to you that you had to write about, and it took no creativity. You just needed to follow the rules and you would get a mediocre to good grade. Our imaginations were never expanded. We had to fit certain criteria and for the most part creativity, imagination and implementation of the two were just not strong criteria.
Because of that fact, I feel that we’re starting to get stale. Our ideas are either complete retreads and rehashes, or “re-creations” of previous ideas and stories. Now that does not have to be a bad thing. Remaking a story from time to time that is a timeless classic can be quite fun and can be beneficial to the story (even with just a few changes). But doing them as constantly as they have been done in the last 10-15 years now can get quite tiring and finding enough truly new and imaginative stories and creations can be much harder than it actually should be from a creative community.
Now, to this point, I still haven’t explained what brought on this long diatribe and caused me to actually think about imagination. The title references to it. It’s the thought process of the writer of Peter Pan, Sir James Matthew Barrie, that made me truly think about innovation and imagination as an important part of the creative process of story or art. Specifically what got me started was watching the film Finding Neverland in film theory today. Those moments where he tries to get the Llewelyn Davies boys (specifically Peter) to see through imagination to the story underneath the every day that he was telling. Every once in a while going through a door in his darkened home to a peaceful day-lit field, or taking Sylvia finally to Neverland. It feels like those kind of moments are lost these days, with people who see those types of things being called crazy and told to town it down, at least in some cases. To see someone like Barrie (even in a slightly fictionalized story) that doesn’t let his imagination die out as he gets older, that still finds those amazing things in every day life; it’s just something utterly soothing.
Even with it’s soothing features though, it does make me wonder what does happen to this imagination that Barrie seemed to so still have a complete grasp on. Do we grow out of it? Do we get told that we shouldn’t keep imagining because those things just will not come true? I wish I knew. I remember (and have been told) that I had such an imagination as a kid. That I would tell stories upon stories upon stories of things my parents and grandparents had never seen before in their lives, let alone heard of. Amazing things happening to amazing people who lead amazing lives. Where in the world does that go? Do they pound it out of us after we start going to school? Does it die out as we grow older and the world becomes more and more small? As we learn more about the world around us, does our logic kill our ideas of magical and amazing things that just could never exist, but inside some dream world? I don’t honestly know. I wish I did. I wish I knew this so I could find some way to pull my mind back to that phase where anything could be possible as long as I could think of it and start there. But somehow, to a degree, it feels like the imagination is gone. I really miss it sometimes, especially now that I find myself writing for the love of it once again, not for assignments or reasons I can’t understand.
I just wish I could, but I don’t know if I can find Neverland ever again.