I believe if two words could capture the word “imagination,” these might come quite close. Whether they are spoken aloud or held as close and silent as a wish, they set a foundation for all the castles and kingdoms of our daydreams and hopes. Our forays into the realm of “what if” are valuable. Writers know this, but creators of all kinds recognize the potential in an empty canvas, an un-frosted cake, a vacant lot, a bolt of fabric, a blank wall, a plot of dirt. Writers might ask:
What if people could fly?
What if you couldn’t see color?
One of my own stories came from one of these ventures when in ninth grade history class I confronted myself with What if tea were the world? It was an intriguing notion, and I spent hours envisioning caravans of camels laden with pounds of Earl Grey trekking across treacherous sands and pirates hording deep, secret caches of English Breakfast. It wasn’t until nine years later that I got the story to paper and called it Fortune Days. That was the act of another “what if” that plopped down on my head in the middle of graduate school, saying, What if it’s time to write this one down?
What if I put this here?
What if we build it this way?
Problem-solving is another one of imagination’s great facets, giving us the vocabulary to think and see beyond what’s in front of us. And that power makes us creative, inventive, and brilliant. “What if” opens our mind’s eye to what something could look like, how things might be. This is relevant and useful for revision, planning, sketching, building, and anything else involving movement. There should be a caution with these scenarios, however, especially if you’ve got an overactive imagination.
If this is you, you might find yourself thinking these things:
What if I’m not strong enough?
What if it’s my fault?
These questions are not always bad things to ask yourself, but they will grow like weeds if you water them too much. They’ll choke out other “what ifs” growing around them.
Don’t forget to cultivate these questions, spaced out from others so they have room to expand:
What if there’s more to me than that?
What if I decide today will be different from every other day?
Given equal parts thought and consideration, these can grow into great, beautiful things. This is how motivations are born and goals are achieved. People have built airplanes, cured diseases, ended slavery, written books, united countries, and walked on the Moon because of questions like these. They looked beyond the walls of what is now to what might be and thought, What if I made it possible?
So that brings me to these questions:
What if there’s something only you can do?
What if you did it?