We are born with imagination. The world tempers it, perhaps washes it away during our waking hours. As children, we heard, “You have a vivid imagination!” Somewhere along the way, imagination was suppressed by society’s pressure to “fit in.” Imagination, in most, became disconnected from the world we live in daily. Creativity and innovation are recognized and rewarded.
The pathway from imagination to creativity may have taken a detour, but sometime in everyone’s life that pathway reconnects. It is then we realize the power of the imagination and its influence over creativity. Questioning the difference between imagination and creativity is like questioning the difference between night and day. Each day is greeted by light; bright or muted brightness. Daylight gives birth to process, the means by which we create. Building a machine or painting a painting is the essence of creation. It has an end product that is tangible; a physical presence.
The night covers us in darkness, a filter or disconnect to the creative process. Imagination illuminates the darkness filling its space with hope, intentions, and material things not seen or possible in the light. Converting what we see and experience in the shadows of our imagination becomes a process of intention which then leads to creativity. While they are different, they are dependent on one another. As Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” If one can dream it, with intention and a creative process, one can produce it.
Ann Pendleton-Julian and John Seely Brown put forth this analysis: “Creative activity aims to do something purposeful. The imagination is something that emerges. While creativity works towards products that exist in the real world and have real-world purpose, the product of the imagination is the ‘imagined object;’ it is the image itself. That image comes with meaning but any purpose it contains is that which rise from it as it intersects with other cognitive process.” Furthermore, “It is precisely because the imagination is given permission to play without pragmatic intent it finds connections between things that are not obvious or easy.”
For artists, imagination is the playground for the product produced. “To create one’s own world takes courage,” Georgia O’Keefe stated. Imagination becomes the artist’s voice. It is the subconscious playground that emerges over years of work developing as a center of gravity, which in turn provides the confidence to create. “Whether to make music, experiment with gestures and color on canvas, wrestle with the string theory, the experimental imagination honors this search…it is focused play,” Pendleton-Julian and Seely Brown put forth. Imagination does not need a center of gravity or the creation process to exist. Imagination avoids boundaries, rules, gravity, and the thoughts of being real.
As our confidence or ego grows with each accomplished expression of creativity, our connection to playful imagination can become threatened. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,” –Pablo Picasso. Keeping imagination separate from creativity is the challenge.
Linda Riesenberg Fisler began working at Procter & Gamble in 1979 after graduating from high school. Linda’s career started as a technician working in the physical properties lab testing toilet paper. During her 26 years at the company, computer technology was in the early stages, and Linda’s interest and assignments naturally migrated to this area with assignments from representing business requirements of computer systems to developing the technology needed by the users. Linda was one of a small number of non-college graduates promoted to management. Linda refers to these years of her life as attending P&G University.
Linda’s imagination and love for creating were never far from her mind and hands. Feeling stymied and hindered in the corporate world, she resigned from Procter & Gamble in 2006 to pursue a more creative way of life. Linda studied art, taught oil painting, and worked for Master Artist Kevin Macpherson (2006 -2009). In 2015, Linda began writing a novel series, launching book four in September of 2018. She also is the producer/host of a podcast, called All Things Creative/Art Chat. Through this podcast, she interviews master artists of today exploring the techniques, skills, and theories of the creative process.