I have mentioned my four-year-old boy before. Full of life. Full of imagination. He is often found dressed as a superhero. Sometimes it’s a costume taken from the Halloween box. Other times he doesn’t have the outfit and needs to be more creative to become the character of choice. Whether it’s putting his Incredibles underwear over his head for a mask, or his little sister’s nighttime pull-ups around his arms for muscles, his mind is always working…and it’s fun to see. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Superman. Buzz Light Year. Hulk. Captain America. Iron Man. Popeye. And the list goes on. He’s been them all, or at least I thought he had.
One day last week when I came home from work, I found him wearing a black cape. He was holding a magic wand that I had recently carved for him out of a branch from an Aspen tree. I recognized who he was immediately. He sported a lightning bolt scar on his forehead and round-rimmed glasses. Harry Potter was in the house. But something about his glasses was different.
Only minutes earlier he had been digging through the costume box, looking for the round glasses that were so vitally important for his Harry Potter costume. He wouldn’t settle for being Malfoy or Ron or anyone else. He wanted to be Harry Potter. But he had no glasses.
And then…he had an idea. It included a black Crayola marker. He asked his older brother to draw glasses around his eyes, complete with a bridge over his nose and the arms running toward his ears. And it was perfect.
Many parents would frown on their kids drawing on each other. I was amused. And proud. To hear how he problem-solved when he had no Harry Potter glasses was awesome. It made me smile because I realized that he was developing his imagination. He is learning how to think. He is learning that there are more ways than one to skin a cat. He is learning how to explore inside his mind. He is learning to be flexible. He is learning what it’s like to be open to possibilities.
When I wrote Calvin Sparks I relied heavily on my imagination. I had to strengthen the discipline of diving deep into my mind. I had to break through the chains of constriction and tap into those hidden rays of possibility. And then…I stayed open…and explored…and allowed those crazy ideas to evolve. The ideas were always there, I just needed to go through the process of discovering them. And for me–and for you–it never ends. Ideas are waiting to be uncovered.
Do you let your ideas evolve? Are you set on one “right” answer? If you can’t find the glasses, do you give up? Are you open to other possibilities? No matter what your walk of life may be, you will benefit from developing your imagination.
So let it flow. Develop those ideas. Explore your mind. Learn how to think differently. And keep working at it. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll find yourself using a marker to color a mask on your kids’ faces–which I’m convinced is not necessarily a bad thing.
Rusty Anderson is the author of Calvin Sparks and the Crossing to Cambria.