When was the last time you let your imagination pop on a comfy pair of trainers and head out for a good run around in the world? I’m not talking about coming up with a new meal plan when your supermarket delivery arrives with the substitution of strong mints instead of beef mince. No I mean a wholehearted playful think or experiment that really searches the filing cabinets of your intricate mind allowing you to create something utterly marvellous or ridiculous.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’m working through some planning for the next few years for Betty Etiquette. I want to change up how I work to be more environmentally conscious. Not just simply finding new packaging or paper to use, but really think about where the things I make will end up in one, three, ten years. I’m also looking at the way I run workshops and how I can reach new people and build communities with them.
So far there’s been a lot of fairly ornate lists that look highly aesthetically pleasing but don’t really get to the bottom of any answers. I’ve stared out the window a bit, gone for a walk and procrastinated to a high standard that, were it my actual job, I would be exceptionally proud of my recent work. But I’ve realised I’m just trying to slightly change the way I am currently doing things and not forcing myself to really use my imagination.
I’m not sure I would have noticed this if I hadn’t currently got a walking talking reminder in my life of how important engaging your imagination is. It is becoming increasingly hard to keep up with my three-year old's inventions and questions. Mini Ms Etiquette has reached that glorious stage where everything is a new investigation. I see her and her peers hoovering up facts and information that, once inside their magical heads, is tumbled around, exaggerated and then reappears as a newfound nugget of information ready to change the world.
Some of my favourites of late have been the announcement that aeroplanes that fly in the night sing a lullaby as they fly to help us all sleep down below. She's created Featherport, a distant land that you can only get to by going to the 'lift' at the end of our garden and then there's the secret tap in her playhouse called a Mootamacdoodle that can be used for dragons' medicine. I must remember these additions to our property to highlight them to an estate agent should we ever sell the house. I think three bedroom terrace houses in London with a Mootamacdoodle are quite sought after!
Now I tell you this not to sound like a boastful parent (although she's obviously got NASA potential), but just as a reminder that as you get older it is so easy to forget that to change something you don't have to just tweak what is currently there. Instead start by looking at everything that is not.
I realise I sound like an annoying consultant that has come in to your office for the day to do some team bonding and blue sky thinking exercises. I remember taking part in these and thinking 'well Deborah, as much as I like your spread of biscuits and a chance to use new my new notebook, all this talk about what changes I would make for the company if money was no object is making me feel a bit nauseous.'
But you know what, I think old Deborah was actually on to something! Perhaps we should take a little time every now and again to think about the most ambitious, the most fun, and the most ridiculous ideas and see if a little of that freedom of thought can leak into our everyday patterns of work and life.
Once you start to grow up it becomes apparent that not everything is like they told us in the movies and life doesn't have a lovely filter on it that makes us look a vintage postcard from Palm Springs. Opportunities seem to narrow and as you become part of more and more systems it feels like new imaginative ideas have no place in your world. We also get more suspicious and less willing to allow stories and ideas to have an element of the fantastic or unknown.
I bet you have watched a TV show or film recently and yelled at the screen, 'she would never have just been in the cafe at exactly the same time he arrived' or 'he never would have made that jump'. What happened to us? *Christmas spoiler alert* We used to collectively agree that once a year a fairly rotund stranger would shimmy down a tiny chimney and deliver dreamy presents with such efficiency that every child in the world would receive one... in one night. Maybe our ideas went to the same dark chasm that Tupperware lids and hair-grips go?
In 1871 Samuel Taylor Coleridge developed the concept ‘suspension of disbelief' in reaction to the declining belief in the supernatural. Where once stories of witches and magical forces would carry readers and audiences deep into romantic and gruesome tales, now the newly educated classes had science and research that worked to dispel these myths and stop authors, painters and playwrights from enchanting audiences in the same way.
Coleridge suggested that if there was a tiny bit of truth in a story coupled with a something utterly fantastical then perhaps readers could ‘suspend their disbelief’ and allow themselves to continue to enjoy the experience. Maybe we should be allowing ourselves to follow this advice now in these rapidly changing and often scary times for our world. Find a little bit of truth but then allow ourselves to believe with a full heart that something quite magical and powerful can happen if we give in to imagination.
So over the next few weeks whilst finishing my planning I’m going to try and recapture some of that childish naive imagination that I must have filed somewhere in the draw of bits and bobs. You know the one, every house has one. I suspect my ideas are all hidden underneath the dead batteries and old keys that I no longer know which lock they fit but daren’t throw away.
Fancy joining me? Go on, let’s all be more Deborah!
See you next week you beautiful beings.
Here’s this weeks top three things to delight your imagination.