July 22, 2014

A World of Pure Imagination

“But that’s impossible!” said little Charlie, staring at his grandfather.
“Of course it’s impossible!” cried Grandpa Joe. “It’s completely absurd! But Mr. Willy Wonka has done it!”

I work as a writer for a web company. I also write on my own, sometimes on this blog, and sometimes in a journal (but my journal entries are often like unpolished essays). Very occasionally, I write fiction. It is something I want to do more.

For me, fiction is the hardest to write.

Creativity with constraints is so much easier. Blog posts are constrained by reality. I try to relay events, or memories or emotions in a way that evokes feeling, but that is still based on my true experience. And reality has its limits.

But fiction has no constraints. Letting go of those constraints can be liberating, but it is also overwhelming. When the possibility of writing something becomes the possibility of writing anything, how do you even start? But it is only when you let go of those constraints, when you are no longer governed by the rules of what is possible, that you can invent gum that is actually a three course meal. Or an elevator that goes in every direction, including up and out of a building. Or a little boy who finds a golden ticket and enters a “world of pure imagination.”

Pure imagination.

I have worked in Silicon Valley for a long time, and seen a lot of creative ideas. As part of a design team, I think a lot about creativity. How do you evoke new ideas? How do you nurture a creative environment? But even the most entrepreneurial tend to think with constraints: business constraints or computing constraints (maybe even legal constraints). It is very hard for someone to come up with a truly original idea, to think freely without the limits of what is possible.

But when we write, we don’t need to worry about those constraints. Don’t have the computing power? Write it down, and now you do. Can’t figure out how your character is going to be in two places at once? Just write it down - you’ll figure it out later. In fiction, your characters can fly, be invisible or go days without eating. They can be everything and nothing, and things we haven’t even thought of yet.

It is hard to free your mind in such a way. But when done right, amazing things can happen.


This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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