Flaps are extended. Wheels are down. The throttle is at about 45%. Somewhere up ahead, hidden in the rain and lightning, the airport is looming, waiting to receive the Boeing 737. Then, there it is. The lights from the runway pierce through the darkness. The pilot exhales with a sigh of relief. They’re going to make it. He checks his altitude and glide path. He’s on visual approach, the ILS system inoperable. His co-pilot is in the seat next to him, slumped over in his chair from some unknown medical reason. The pilot is on his own. With experienced hands, he guides the plan through the rain, closer and closer to the runway. At the last minute, with altitude dropping, he drops the engines to idle and glides through the air.
The landing is rough. The plane is tossed this way and that. He struggles with the rudder, doing his best to tame the beast he’s riding down the runway. He throws the engines in reverse and finally, the plane slows down and comes to a stop. He made it. It’s over.
My son looks up at me with a smile. “I made it, daddy! Did you see?”
I saw. My son, playing a flight sim on my tablet, landing everything from jumbo jets to cargo planes and private jets. He puts the tablet down, knowing his time is up. Without a word, he runs over to his toys and moments later, he’s dragging a box of toy airplanes over to the kitchen table. A minute later, planes of all kinds and sizes are landing and taking of at some unknown destination, known only to him.
The imagination is a wonderful thing and there’s something truly special about seeing imagination at work in kids. They straddle the world we live in and the world they make up in their minds with ease, going and back and forth as if they were one and the same. It’s awesome!
When writing, I often feel the same way. I’m straddling the world I live in with the worlds that live in my mind. I do my best to transfer the images I see in this other world to the pages of my writing. Sometimes I’m successful. Other times I’m not. On occasion, glimpses of these world simply reveal themselves as plots and story ideas and as many of you, I furiously do my best to write everything as quickly as possible. There is nothing worse as a writer to have a great idea only to see it disappear because you happened to be in your bed just about to go to sleep and your tired mind convinced yourself that you’d remember it the next morning. You didn’t.
In a way, this path to this other side has to be maintained, fed. At times I find that if I don’t feed my imagination, it becomes harder and harder to explore. Spreadsheets, reports and endless meetings have a tendency to dull the mind and leave one or two desires after work, such as eat and sleep. So, we have to take the time, keep the imagination alive, kicking and worth exploring.
We all have our own way of doing this. Reading can really get my creative juices going and movies and TV shows does the job as well. Even just driving to work when my mind can wonder does the trick. I do, however, have a favorite escape, a place where I like to go, a place where my imagination can flow freely, where I’m not a mere observer but a participant. Video games.
Alright, I know, some of you just lost interest. What good can there possibly be in video games? Isn’t it all a massive waste of time? How can there be any value in games, particularly for kids? Ok, granted, to some extent I can agree but it’s very stereotypical to look at video games that way. Playing Call of Duty day in and day out as some do and admittedly, I have also been guilty of in my younger years, is probably not the most educational or beneficial. However, if you look at the many open games out there that allows you to move as you wish, to explore and build your own world, you might see the attraction I see. To me, jumping into a space ship and exploring one of a million planets is much more interesting than watching Star Trek on TV. I get to explore, not just watch. Or, mount my horse in Skyrim and explore a huge open landscape with cities, castles, dungeons and a multitude of creatures. These are the places where my imagination feeds.
Anyway, forgive me if this has turned into an argument about why video games can be useful, that’s not my intent. My point is: I have found it useful to take a step back from time to time, to recharge and kickstart my imagination a bit, to get back into gear. Being the sci-fi geek that I am, I am about ready to dive into the world of Elite: Dangerous and take on the role of a space explorer, trader or maybe even pirate. I’m not sure yet. With hundreds of thousands of planets and worlds to visit, the possibilities are endless. It’s a return to a world I played in almost 20 years ago with a predecessor to this very same game. What do I expect to get out of this? Incidentally, I have several space based plots sitting on the shelf, awaiting inspiration and I’m hoping that taking a trip to space, even an imaginary one, will get the creative juices flowing. To me, that’s time well spent.
Ok, so what about you? When I realized that I need to go on an adventure, I couldn’t help but wonder about my fellow writers out there. Where do you go for your inspiration? You now know that on random evenings when I’m not writing or coding, you can find me piloting a spacecraft between random planetary systems, mining precious metals or trying to rip off fellow traders to make a quick buck. Where do you go? How do you recharge and kickstart your imagination?
Anyway, feel free to comment…as for me, my ship is waiting…I’ll see you on the other side. Oh, and if you happen to be in the Elite universe, look me up under Mors Planch….or read about him in some future adventure to be sure to come out of my fingers in the not so distant future.