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Ten things I learnt from reading Albert Read's "The Imagination Muscle".

I quite enjoyed this book. He did rabbit on a bit, but he established his premise - that we can develop our imagination through conscious exercise - well enough, and provided some interesting histrocial examples.

    1. The imagination is like a muscle or a skill

    The imagination is like a muscle or a skill – it can be developed and trained. We develop our imagination by using it.

    Set aside time to practice – be disciplined – do it daily. Eddison set “idea quotas” for his staff; they had to create one small idea a week and one big idea every six months. The French film director Carriere would spend 30 minutes every evening thinking up plots. He wanted to do it when he was tired, so hr hsd to work harder.

    The daily ideas list is agood place to start.

    2. Imagine while walking.

    “Solvitur ambulando” – solve it while walking. Of Wordsworth, his servant said to a visitor, here is his library, but his study is outside. Nietzsche concurs – he wrote that all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking. And Kiereguaard wrote, "i have walked myself into my best thoughts."

    Walking, particularly in the countryside, is a good antidote for depression.

    An abrupt change in physical circumstances can cause the mind to disengage – try walking in the dark, or shutting your eyes in bed whilst thinking.

    3. Generally, it's easier when you're younger, but...

    There are many examples of people inventing and being creative when older. Franklin invented the bi-focals when he was 78. Elliot wrote Middlemarch in her 50's. Handle composed the Messiah aged 56. Verdi wrote Falstaff when he was 79. This is good news for me.

    4. Use "Commonplace" books.

    The philosopher John Locke was a great advocate of Commonplace books. What he recommends is - think in writing - either writing or drawing - but whichever, it's got go into a book. Reading something isn't enough - it's too easy to forget - we need to write down the interestimng stuff and perodically review it.

    5. Most ideas fail.

    Most ideas fail. The trick is to have many ideas. If you have many ideas, sooner or later you will stumble upon sopmething worthwhile. Good ideas also have long gestation periods, thge don't emerge fully formed, but have to be revised repeatedly. Often, what emerges at the end if quite different from what we started with.

    Gutenberg didn't just invent the printing press. It took him many years, and many experiments untiol he succeeded in getting it to work satisfactorily. And everyone knows about Edison and the light bulb.

    6. Talk to strangers.

    Either in real life (the best), or on-line, or one-way communjication by reading books, articles etc. The first coffee shop in London was opened in 1652. It became a meeting place where ideas could be exchanged. The coffee shop mania spead whith shops being established for lawyers, clergymen, merchants, and insures etc.

    Ben Franklin, on his visit to London, appreciated the value of the shops and returning to Philadelphia foiunded the "Leather Apron Club"

    7. Imagination starts with observation.

    The artist Joseph Turner, like Odysseus, had himself tied to the mast of a ship to observe a snowstorm at sea – that’s how he could depict it so well in his painting “Snowstorm.” Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth

    An aerospace engineer observed a flight of geese in a “V formation” and speculated that aircraft flying long distances could benefit from doing the same.

    8. Beware cliches

    Cliuches can be a habit of unthinking. Cliches are weapons against sceptics and a prop for authority. Cliches are lazy and hinder imagination.

    And beware alliterative platitudes. In the O.J.Simpson trial, his defence attorned kept repeating "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit.," Alliterations, like rhymes, can be persuasuve.

    9. Success isn't a formula.

    There are many examples of people who start a business and succeed, and then try to start another, but fail. They use the same approach, techniques, skills etc, and yet they fail.

    Geniuses make more mistakes than anyone.

    10. Some tips on developing imagination:

    Have many sources - read widely and outside your domain. Speak to people outside of your usual crowd.

    Prefer first hand evidence, rather than 2nd hand.

    Think on paper (or tablet nowadays) - but just don;'t rely on your memory. It's not designed for that.

    Don't worry about practical applications - purse science can result in benefits further down the reoad.

    Be patient.

    Always, to slightly misquote Oliver Cromwell, I beseech you, in your bowels, gthink it possiuble you may be mistaken.

    11. And finally...

    Mary Shelley’s subtitle for “Frankenstein” was “The Modern Prometheus”. Bet you didn't know that!

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