By nature, I am a creative and imaginative person, and once, when I told a someone this, many years ago, she reacted as though I had bragged, out loud, that I was some particularly intelligent creature, a genius.
Well, yes, in a sense; but everyone, I believe, is a genius in some respect, whether it be the ability to decorate cakes with intricate swirls and curlicues of icing, philosophize, unplug a toilet with deftness and skill, or write brilliant newspaper articles at lightning speed, each one succinct and structured—and mine just happens to be the possession of an overactive imagination. This encounter with a past friend was one of many of the downfalls to being imaginative I have encountered over the years.
Since as far back as I can remember, imagination has been the backdrop of my life. Playing by myself, I pretended tiny flattened seeds fallen from a tree in the school playground were the teeth of rats, collected by a tooth fairy who had been exiled and turned wicked, and that if I placed them under my pillow, she would arrive, dark wings flashing and nails extended, to retrieve them. In imaginary games played with my siblings, I came with a host of exciting scenarios: our beds were boats, the carpet around it sea, filled with ferocious sharks and octopuses. At age seven convinced myself that I was a fairy trapped in a human body so thoroughly that any glints or sparkles I saw out of the corner of my eye made my heart beat, as I thought the confirmation of my true ancestry. Even today, when I look or see or read anything, my mind probes for the stories; an abandoned train track lights my mind on fire, and I begin to wonder, and wonder; or some passing mention of a fact transforms into a creative concept.
Any books without the slightest dab of fantasy—which is much of “proper” literature, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, John Banville, Charles Dickens (except for A Christmas Carol, that is)—bore me to tears and bring upon the urge to disembowel myself to bring an end to the suffering. Books that employ conventional fantasy, populated with quests and romances and goblins and dragons, are also dull as heck. What lights my imagination is the strange and the unique, the more fantastical and wondrous the better; give me insect-headed creatures who visit stores to buy colourberries to make art, worlds where insects are large as dinosaurs overrun the land, children who fall into an alternate universes where spirits are given baths heated by the aid of a boilerman with several arms that can stretch and contract as far as he desires to reach drawers.
When I come across anything mind-burstingly original, my mind gives a little euphoric leap, like an excited beetle, and I occasionally even let out, while glued to the book or screen, an actual cry of delight. Imagination, for me, brings about a drug-like high, allowing me to transcend the reality of this world into some higher realm, and is, whilst immersed in it, the closest I have ever come to happiness.
I am allergic to reality. The sting of it is salt rubbed in an open wound. It is almost as though I was born with an invisible hole in my head, through which magic spills inside my skull to marinate my brain. I am a completely internal creature, lost inside myself, worlds inside worlds; it is something that is very hard to describe, yet I feel as though I must do it, if only to shed light on the creative personality, and allow for the chance of some validation.
In fact, I would even go so far as to day that writing is purely a medium for me to exercise my imagination, to distill its efforts into something tangible, liquid dreams for others to drink. One of the greatest regrets of my life is that I am the worst artist under the sun, and cannot draw to save my life, for if I did, I would most likely be making fantastical animations set in mind-boggling strange realms rather than writing. In my mind, the stories are so clear, playing out as though in a film—and writing is a very difficult medium to tether it down with, not to mention limited in its scope and detail by the reader’s own imagination and the writer’s skill.
Being this way has led to its own share of problems. I am a loner, extremely averse to extended periods of social contact, and would be very content being alone for months on end with nothing but my own imagination to entertain me. In addition, because my internal life is so powerful, the force I exert on the external world is very weak. I am housebound, after dropping out of university earlier this year, experience every sensation from emotions to sounds to an excruciating extent so that the faint rumble of a car outside on the road vibrates through my skull as though I had my cheek pressed against a washing machine, and only truly feel alive at night, when the boundaries between what is real, and what is not, melts together—and, if you were ever to meet me in real life, a little odd. But all that, I think, painful and awful as it is, just comes with the territory. If I weren’t so sensitive and handicapped in some ways, I wouldn’t be highly creative; everything is linked, and if one end of the scale is very high, then the other end has to be lower.
This, however, has led to extensive problems. For one, the fantasy I read, and sometimes the fantasy I write, too, is never enough: I always want to be more immersed in the imagination, for the highs to be greater, for the concepts to be stranger and weirder and therefore more wonderful. It is rather like a man who loves food desiring to taste something that, when he places it on his tongue, sends him straight to heaven, and keeps him there, only every dish he comes across, delicious though they may be, just doesn’t have that special “something”. It is a situation that leads to a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and frustration, and sometimes I feel, frighteningly enough, that only by dropping down the hole of madness, wherein fantasy replaces reality entirely, would I truly be satisfied.
Another downfall is that people find it very difficult to understand me, the way I see the world, and some of them are often downright disturbed by my quirkiness, sometimes even my own family, and this is become especially worse as they become nearly the only people I interact with. Like a child, I will grin, in mad delight, at the sight of a nifty bit of graffiti on a wall that lights my imagination; and in the past, I have been known to suddenly stop in the middle of the street, and squint up at a shape I have seen in the clouds, or fall to my knees and peer down at a caterpillar, crawling across the grass, enraptured and fascinated. The misunderstanding, however, is mutual, as I can’t imagine how people never seem to take a proper look at the world around them, or play pretend every now and then, and I suppose they can’t imagine how anyone could be so childish. But that is because I am a perpetual child, forever skipping ahead to look and point and gasp.
But those problems pale in comparison to getting a job in this day and age. In society’s eyes, I am an aberrant, and the irony is that in order to be truly original, I need to veer away from the pack, and be more isolated. Originality is seeing the world from an entirely different perspective, and you can’t do that if you’re own perspective is constantly being clouded by other people’s. Yet reality encroaches, as it does for my characters: I, like the people in books, must eat, must keep a roof over my head, and to do so I must be engaged in socially-approved employment in order to gain socially-agreed-upon tokens.
Now, the problem is that creative people—based on the few creatives I have met and spoken to online (two of INFPs I met through this blog, one an established fiction writer and another a woman who paints in her spare time)—are very easily bored. If something doesn’t capture the imagination, then to force us to do it, or think it, or read it, is like trying to open your mouth wide enough to swallow a rock the size of your head whole. We just don’t do it. We can’t. Our minds will wander, we will daydream, and we will be miserable. I would rather choose to be homeless and beg for paper and pens in order to write than be forced into a field like medicine or accountancy, where not only do you have to socialise, but cram facts and numbers into your brain, which is, for me, the intellectual equivalent of pushing barbed hooks into your own flesh.
Unfortunately very few jobs in the world today require imagination. They might require skill, and intelligence, in abundance—but imagination, wild, unfettered, sweet-and-sour madness? Forget it. Even the supposedly creative professions, like architecture or graphic design, are often not very imaginative, and, besides, are not suited to my particular form of creativity in the first place, which is fantasy, fantasy worlds and fantasy characters. Which basically leaves only three options. One is to take a low-paying, mindless and isolated job, where I can daydream while my hands work. Another is to make a living from writing fantastical and strange fiction, something that will take several years to achieve. And the third, well, the third isn’t really an option, but it is to become a professional Absorber of Knowledge, which is an offshoot of being a fiction writer, anyway, as the more stuff you learn and know, the more material is available for your mind to utilize when the time comes to create.
At the moment, I am looking into the first option. Now, my brother, when I told him about my plans, protested that if I became a factory worker, or even a cleaner, it would be gross waste of my intellect. Surely someone like me, of average intellect, was smart enough, if not to be an engineer or a scientist, at least a teacher or a journalist. He looked down on the idea. He told me it would be “beneath me”. But I disagree. Mindless tasks like washing the dishes have helped me stumble across ideas in the past; and after coming home from work, my head would be bursting with ideas to write down, and I would feel invigorated from the solitude, rather than exhausted as I have been in the past when I attended in the socially-approved activity of attending university.
Of course, it is unlikely even this plan of mine will come to fruition, as many other factors come into play: the job has to be quiet, in a space with dim lighting, and one in which I can work alone; in my head, I see myself in a quiet room, packaging objects, putting things into bags or envelopes. However it’s a lot of requirements, and I doubt any job on Earth, apart from being a fiction writer, would meet them. So, in the meantime, I will write, follow my imagination to its farthest reaches, severely creative but severely handicapped, and no matter where I end up, I will never stop dreaming, and no matter what happens, I will always have my own mind to find refuge in. Here’s to imagination, and dreaming with your eyes wide open.