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The Mastery Path for Writers: a new way to learn the skills you need

19. Using Material from Your Imagination

There’s another reason I recommend that people who want to do imaginative writing not spend more time than they have to with mass media: those pre-fab images fill your imagination with content that you may not want to collect. Many studies have shown, for instance, that someone who watches a lot of television will probably view thousands of murders in his or her lifetime. Are you sure you want to fill your imagination with these particular images?

Think about one of your favorite books (or a story or a poem or an essay). What is it about? What pictures have you collected into your imagination from this book? Write them down. If you like, try this practice again with another book.

Now look through the pictures you have noted. What kind of content do they contain? What qualities do they convey? (For instance: romantic love, courage, determination, danger, and so on.)

Now take some time to reflect, using nonstop writing, about the kinds of content you like to read, the kinds of pictures your imagination chooses to collect from books. If you like, reflect as well on the kind of content you don’t like. What does this reflection suggest to you about the kind of content you want to collect for your own writing?

Think of a personal experience you might like to write about. Now, in your imagination, put yourself inside that experience. And now use your imagination to make pictures of everything your senses give you while you are inside that experience. Simply collect all the pictures; don’t try to write a coherent piece. Give yourself at least ten minutes for this practice.

Then (or at another time, if you prefer), read through what you have collected and mark anything that stands out for you. If any new pictures come to you, write them down, too. Using as many of the things you have marked as you like (as well as any other material that may come to you), write about your chosen experience in any way you like.

What did you notice in doing this practice?

Look through your freewriting to find a subject that you want to write about; this time, pick one that is not a personal experience. Consider your subject, and, as you think about it, let pictures come to your imagination and write them down. Remember that you are simply collecting pictures, not writing a piece. Do this for at least ten minutes.

Read through your collected material, mark anything that stands out for you, and add anything new that appears in your imagination. Now, using the pictures you have chosen (or as many of them as you like), write about your subject.

What did you notice in doing this practice?

Now take some time to make notes to yourself about ways you prefer to use to provide your imagination with content for pieces of writing.

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