You read a book you love, you imagine the author to be someone who could be your best friend. You read the next book, it’s even better. You feel you know the author. You meet the author at a book signing and he doesn’t have a flash of soul recognition. Or maybe he is dumpy, frumpy, and a bit cranky. You go home and toss out all the books and change your fanmail review on Amazon. Your imagination has been bruised.
Interesting, huh? Once we have an image of someone in our heads, we don’t want them to be anything else. We say things like, “I used to like her, but then she changed. . .” or “She wasn’t anything like I expected.” And quite often, if the real person is not like our imagined one, it’s not ourselves we adjust. Instead, we walk away, slightly angry and disappointed. The real person failed to be our imagined creation.
After meeting me at a book signing, one woman realized I am not the illustrator she imagined me to be. Although I state this clearly in both books, she had thought that someone who writes like I do, and does art, must also be an illustrator. She thought I was just being modest. And here I was, not a modest illustrator, writing a how-to book on expressive art. The nerve! She told me as much, and walked away without buying a book. Deep breath . . . and. . . not my problem to solve. Yes, I write about expressive creativity, but my focus is on the Inner Critic, the voice that ruins who we are and shames us for not being someone we can’t be.
Often training clients who have never met me imagine me as younger, thinner, prettier. Their faces go through contortions while they try to think of something acceptable to say. My favorite (and most flattering comment, to my ears) was, “Your emails are so professional and smart, I thought you’d be more like me.” Yes, that’s exactly what we want. Recognizing our best selves in others so we can like them.
Those reactions is one way I prove to people they are creative. We make up images, backstories, expected behavior, and are then surprised, disappointed or even a bit angry when our imagination “fooled” us. The sign of real creativity is to be open to change and surprise.
—-Quinn McDonald is a writer, coach, and writing intstructor.