Talking to the Creative Winch Buddies I mentioned in my last post has caused me to reflect increasingly on how and when we refine our techniques as writers. Whilst most of it is surely done in front of the keyboard or the blank sheet of paper, at least a small fraction of our creative development must be attributable to subconscious external influences. When I was pondering this, I focused on one such influence in particular – childhood. More specifically, inspiration blossoms in its most carefree manner when we are most carefree, letting off steam in the school playground. I was one of those children who never quite got into the traditional lunchtime games, such as Tag or Manhunt, since I preferred to make them up on the spot instead.
Anything went in my friendship group. If you wanted a spaceship as big as Planet Earth itself, you could have one. If you longed to become an immortal, all-powerful being, all you needed to do was assume the right persona. You’ll notice a sci-fi theme in our games! At the time, I only saw these improvisations as an effective way of killing the lunch hour, but I was perhaps also unknowingly nurturing myself through leisure. Experimentation was rife – as we were fans of multiple franchises, it wasn’t uncommon to find a Dalek facing off against Darth Vader in the same story, and the rules and parameters were just as fluid. It didn’t matter how many times somebody’s character had been killed off in the space of ten minutes, as they could simply devise increasingly contrived recoveries allowing them to be miraculously resurrected. Like I said, anything was possible, and it could all unfold in pretty much any space, regardless of whether it was the wide open expanse of the field or the tighter confines of one of the quads. When the space was smaller, it forced us to adapt what we created, and in hindsight this must also have been beneficial to my future endeavours.
Children do, of course, use their imaginations for things other than play or escapism – one notable example can be found in how they tell little white lies. I know from childhood experience how these can take the form of long-winded anecdotes, as I went to school with a boy who insisted to his classmates that he’d once defused a bomb to save a town, and that he’d been to the Monaco Grand Prix multiple times. Looking back on these now that I am older and somewhat wiser, they obviously seem ridiculous, but he told them so convincingly that we blindly believed him without question. Depending on who you ask, fibs can be good or bad for children, but these were just harmless fun – and if they encouraged my friend to use his very vivid imagination, they really can’t have done any harm. For some people, such conduct might just pay dividends somewhere down the line.