use your noodle: “On Imagination”

I received a reviewer’s copy of Mary Ruefle’s chapbook essay “On Imagination” and tore through it in a single sitting – during which I took notes, underlined generously, and paused to marvel at how her written experiences were so spot on.

“On Imagination” details the ways in which we, the world’s creative types, use imagination to craft. It also expounds on the ways that everyone uses their imagination daily – to fall asleep at night and imagine they’re safe from harm, to get in a vehicle and imagine they’ll arrive to wherever they’re going without crashing, etc. etc.

This essay is less of a textbook and more of a mindfulness guide; I’ve since quoted its wisdom in conversations with other writers to ask how their imaginations influence (whether consciously or subconsciously) their work. Ruefle considers how our imaginations create our perceptions of the world – how when we mishear someone’s sentence, we’re actually creating a new reality, one in which the sentence we thought they said is actually what they said.

She then uses this knowledge of the imagination as power – if you can understand and flex your imagination, you can nudge the imaginations of your readers or audience and create a more convincing world / argument / narrative.

I strongly advise teaching this essay if that’s your profession. At the very least, pick up a personal copy from Sarabande Books if it’s in your budget (~$13 including shipping) or if you’re already a Ruefle fan. You’ll be pleased to learn about her personal life and inner thoughts while marveling at the importance – and prevalence – of imagination.