I shoved my hands into my pockets and stared up at the sky. The stars were so big and close it felt like you could stick out your tongue and lick them. A man who looked like a wizard laser pointed constellations of swans and crowns. It was the first fall Saturday and my boyfriend and I were at a stargazing event outside the oldest west coast lighthouse in a quaint coastal NorCal town. The air smelled of brine. That morning, we woke up together in a forest. The Redwood trees surrounding us were as tall as towers.
I squinted my eyes into the telescope and that’s when it all hit me. My imaginings had really come true. I flashbacked to the previous winter. I was single and living in Michigan, fresh out of a breakdown and a breakup. My first book consisted only of a few sentences saved on my laptop. I had an eight month deadline and no idea what I was doing. I would stare at the computer and cry. Imagining gave me hope. It helped me to keep moving forward, even when there was no guarantee that anything would ever come of it. I imagined falling in love with a romantic soul. Someone who appreciated beauty and had an open mind and a free spirit. I imagined that we lived together in San Francisco, the city I loved the most. We would sleep under stars, drink wine in the park, and spend mornings watching the fog roll over the candy colored homes. I imagined that my book was finished and published. I would go visit it on the shelves at the library and at the cute independent bookstores along the park.
And then it all happened so fast.
That spring, I met a blue-eyed San Francisco-based classical musician in town for a concert. One night only. I expected nothing from the experience but went along with the story. After all, this was my daydream. Flash forward six months later, and I write this article from the 13th floor SoMa condo that we now live in together. Those early sentences turned into a real book that was published and is now being translated into multiple languages.
I don’t know why I ever doubted myself.
From DIY Hawaiian writing retreats 20 minutes from the Obama’s favorite beach to non-fiction book deals with a top five publisher, I am no stranger to conjuring up and living out lovely experiences courtesy of my imagination. Growing up, the romantic fantasy movies I watched and far out fairy tales I read taught me that when the imagination is concerned, there are no limits. Anything can happen.
Some people scoff at the daydreamers. But, why? Isn’t daydreaming just its own form of magic? As a storyteller, I was skilled at scheming up enchanted scenes. Why couldn’t I do that in my own life, too?
When I first started what I now refer to as intentional imagining, I was in high school. I began writing my teenage self into interesting opportunities: testing beauty products for my favorite brands, a byline in national teen magazines, making out with a now famous musician who I had a crush on.
To imagine is to stay in touch with the inner child, the child who still sees the world as it could be, not as it is.
I never judged it. I didn’t try too hard. If it sounded fun and made me happy to think about, I continued to mentally rehearse the fantasy. I would envision an experience I hoped to have, and then write out the story rich with detail and metaphor.
The first step you must remember whenever intentional imagining is to get crystal clear — what’s your fantasy right now?
And these don’t have to be serious, lofty goals. Have fun. Be honest. Allow yourself to imagine and define joy in any terms that make sense for you. Life is made up of small, beautiful moments. It’s not always the major milestones that matter most, but rather how we decide to live out our days.
There are no rules when you dare to write your own story. By realizing that our words are magic, we wield the power to write ourselves into any storyline that we desire.
The more you work with your imagination, the easier it becomes. You can begin the process of intentional imagining anywhere, anytime. Pen to paper writing allows us insight into our deepest desires. When writing, go into as great of detail as you can. And don’t forget to infuse your daydream with feeling.
The process of intentional imagining is stronger with a co-dreamer, or a person who can add energy and ideas to your narrative. It’s important to intentionally imagine your story with someone who is encouraging, supportive, and can help see you beyond whatever limitations you’ve written yourself into. The right person can add to the vision, believe in it, and boost your spirits throughout the process — all of which is crucial as you watch the story unfold.
Andrea Kasprzak is the author of IMAGINATION TRANSFORMS EVERYTHING (Seal Press, 2019). She teaches workshops and helps clients access their imaginations and script a real life story that is better than fantasy. She also writes fiction for young adults and children. For more information or to book a session, visit andreakasprzak.com.