According to my dated Webster's dictionary, the "formation of mental images of objects not present to the senses, esp. of those never perceived in their entirety; hence, mental synthesis of new ideas from elements experienced separately" is imagination.
Imagination might seem to be a totally free idea, like the phrase "pure imagination" in the song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But the candy there must have been synthesized from something.
Is imagination more like dreams? A concoction, mixture of gases, totally out of reality's atmòsphere?
Thinking more about the power of imagination in everyday life, I saw how it worked on the romantic level, not knowing a person very well; on the suspense level, worrying about a possible danger; as a mystery, suspecting a culprit; in science, not knowing except that much is possible; at the plane of children, not knowing except that anything is possible.
First I considered some romantic scenarios:
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You went to a party where you spent much of the evening talking to a guy. Then he called and asked you out. You know some things about him. But it's a few days before you will know him better. Who is he when he picks you up?
In a few days, a writer with an imagination could have outlined a whole relationship and planned the wedding. Only to find that... immediate attractions don't always lead to the ideal. Who did he turn out to be? I'm not much of a romance reader because I told myself too many romantic stories that dissolved after the first date. What was in my head wasn’t the real person.
So we have the genres of romance and women's fiction and literary fiction. The trouble is that the disappointment of life not being what you asked it to be, happens.
Or your friend who is engaged to a handsome doctor invites you on a blind date evening. You dress for this occasion and you have filled in the blind spots as best you can, and then, for the first time, you meet a hospital administrator. You shouldn't conclude that all hospital administrators lack romance but this one isn't Dr. Kildare. The imagination can get it all wrong, except some central detail like financial security.
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The worst is when the guy imagines that you're like his mother or some other woman that he could love more easily than you, and that includes his ideal woman. Someone says, “But it's not you to do that...”, or some other hint that you haven't turned out as imagined. That’s quite a quandary, someone knowing you better than you do.
So you go to the classifieds and you actually get a job interview at an art museum. You've been to the museum so this job is one to dream on. Oh, the lunches and the people you'll know better there. After all, the best part of a job is lunch. The imagination can get through many hurdles even if you're like me, you couldn't take art classes except for photography. But the job is perfect; it entails publications.
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I'll always feel that my imagination failed many times and that I hadn't prepared for reality. So a museum administrator doesn't do art on the job, doesn't dress for that, and he isn't looking for flaring creativity at a desk job. Strangely enough, I interviewed at three art museums amongst other interviews where I was surprised at how my mental image of the interviewer was far from correct. At one museum, I was taking a typing test when two attractive men who looked like artists came into the room and told me to move for them. They had to convey a huge piece of art out of the room. That happened during the next test, and then I was looking for the hidden camera. Or was it a test to see what I would do?
If I imagined a story about that interview, it would never have been as good as the story that came out of real life.
Even so, the best part is the imagining because you can enjoy your own plans. When you see that perfect apartment description or you imagine that a vacation visiting friends is going to launch you into a new life, afterward, you might want to read something that warns you and illuminates about people and places that you don't know.
So I like the idea that the imagination, especially the writing imagination, is a synthesizing process. When there is some knowledge about setting, character, and lifestyle, the process could hit the mark better. I imagine that I'm not done pondering fiction and imagination.