Opening the Gates

A World Locked in My Head

Recently I’ve been pondering why it seems so hard to take what is in my head and turn it into something real and shareable. Pictures, stories, songs, even entire worlds travel in their perfect forms through my imagination. They are delightful and inspiring right up until they slam up against the gate which blocks the road from imagination to shareable medium. Pieces of them trickle through the bars and onto paper or computer screen, but sometimes that’s the best I can manage.   

You see, I’ve been creating a world for a novel I am writing. The world in my head is lovely and interesting. There are bright, beautiful places nestled between vast expanses of desolation and destruction. I can walk through the ruins of cities I grew up in and revel in a lush garden oasis. It’s perfect. However, it’s also stuck in my head. I want to share it with you, to let you explore those same cities but the gates won’t quite open.  

As I create my world and begin to people it with characters, I find that the images in my head aren’t as perfect as I initially thought. Some of them don’t make much sense. How did the world get this way? Why is some of the world a ruin but other parts prosper? I don’t know. How did a mountain take shape in the middle of central Texas? Good question. What was the world like before? Is it getting better or worse? How do people survive?  The number of questions grows as I add characters and action to the world. When questions go unanswered, my world stays trapped behind the gates.

My problem is rather obvious.

I want this process of going from imagination to reality to have an easy button. I always imagined that once I sat down to write, the gates of my imagination would open wide, and my story would take its place in the real world for others to view and enjoy. It would need refining and perfecting, but it would exist; it would be real, and the whole process would be easy. Life is hard enough, without having to struggle to create on top of everything else. An easy button sounds wonderful when images and stories stick in our head for ages. If you think about it though, an easy button would make the whole thing rather boring. The real fun begins when start taking those ideas and go through the process of transforming them into reality.

Think about the world around you. The real world. Every object down to a blade of grass is made with intricate detail, has a purpose and is intimately connected to the objects around it. Relationships between nature, people, and even cultures have a depth and intricacy that make them endlessly fascinating. That sort of world doesn’t happen by accident. It is logical, planned and deeply intricate.

Creating Something Real

I don’t want to create something that rings false because it only exists as a pretty image that is easily cracked. I want to create a world you can imagine as real; a world you can see and experience alongside the characters. In fact, I want my imaginary world to feel as real as our world, and that means exploring all its intimate connections and details. Creating a world which you can explore means I must answer all the hard questions and find those intricate connections.

If you are a creator, step one of getting the gates to open is to allow those ideas to be shared and written down in whatever form you can manage. Ideas need outside input. They need to be inspected and analyzed. Most of all they need work. Remember though, that work is the fun part! Even if this means just sharing those ideas with someone you trust, you will get to explore your creations in greater detail and discover how all the parts should connect. You will get to watch a good idea become phenomenal.

Our brains can trick us into a lot of things. One of those things is believing our ideas are flawless. Sometimes it feels safer to simply say we are stuck than taking a cold hard look at those ideas. We must force the ideas out into the open and past the gates, placing them under the strictest scrutiny if we want to create something amazing. Only then can our images, our stories and our worlds have depth and meaning. The gates aren’t operated by magic; they open when you push them open. They open when you explore and improve your images, stories, songs and worlds as they journey from neurons to reality.

When I looked I looked at the logical problems in my world; I made myself research potential answers. Could an earthquake cause a mountain to form and the earth to crack? Yes! Was there even the smallest potential for something like that to happen in central Texas. Yes! I also had to change some things along the way because there was no logical answer for what I was trying to depict as reality and I will likely have to change more things as my world grows. I’m ok with that now.

What Do You Want to Create?

What flawless image fills your head with color and wonder? What perfect story writes itself in the deepest corners of your imagination? What song weaves itself, yearning to burst into the world? You can bring it into the world for others to explore and enjoy. I hope you will! If you are currently working on a project, whether it be a story, an image or even a world I’d love to hear about it. As creators, we should help one another out and sometimes a second set of eyes is the best way to refine and make our ideas even more wonderful. Let’s push those gates open together!