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The Unboxed Brain is a monthly ezine bringing you innovation, spirit and creativity.  We feature articles by coaching professionals and others working on the creative frontier.

Paint the Moon Purple

 by Valerie J. Olson      

Sometime, around the age of ten or eleven fate conspires to retire our imagination. Before puberty we create with wild, inspired abandon, sparked by whatever the wondrous world presents to us. In youth, our fertile imagination has free reign to put a fanciful spin on our creations. The flowers we draw are black. The moon we paint is purple. We sculpt clay dogs with wings. We dream of being kings and queens, until someone in authority tells us it is not possible. Our culture places a HUGE value on practical productivity. Soon, time spent drawing, writing whimsical stories, playing with jewelry or daydreaming, is replaced by more “realistic” duties and activities. Usefulness becomes a priority, and creative time is relegated to spare time, which never comes to pass.

As a coach of “The Inner Game of Writing” I have found what holds writers back most is not a lack of imagination. Instead, what stops them is a negative use of the imagination. I can speak to this because I used to be a master of this kind of “use” of the imagination. I made mountains out of molehills, indefinitely postponing creative dreams. I entertained a troupe of niggly fears and self-doubts that could have easily (or at least readily) been dispelled or allayed by being truthful with myself, or asking for help. I feel extremely fortunate that I learned about the absolute power our beliefs, mental pictures and cognitions have over the results we “receive”. The imagination is ours to mold as we will. Discovering this, I vowed to turn the tide of the general tone of my thought and the pictures in my mind. Of course, sometimes we need professional help to do this, but often, all we need is awareness followed by action, and a lot of encouragement and persistence.

Now, I bring the psychology of the inner game, (of outsmarting and out distancing inner obstacles) to writers at all skill levels. After all, writers block is just a catch phrase for the host of fears that hold us back. Writing is mentally challenging. We don’t have to invite fear into the process. Writing is easier when our imagination is primed for the positive.

Winning the inner game of writing ultimately means producing creative work. It means being creatively active rather than stalled due to inner critics, procrastination or lack of support.

I see amazing results with clients who uncover their youthful imaginations. It turns out that their book idea, title or character was simply waiting until a path was cleared through the forest of self-doubts and fears. Novels, plays, poems, audiotapes, ideas and products pour forth without Big Bad Fear holding them back.

There are simple but powerful things we can do to regain the power to positively imagine – to dream – to envision – and create what we want.
They fall in three basic categories, 1) cognitive 2) emotional and 3) visual.

Cognitive Approaches

Here are three suggestions for changing the quality of your thinking to support your imagination.

1. Take note of the thoughts quietly and incessantly running through your mind. Make a game of substituting a positive thought for each negative one. This will give your muse breathing room

2. Make a commitment not to think about your normally preoccupying worries (but first list them so you know what they are). In fact, I suggest you go so far as to stop ruminating about yourself entirely. Focus your attention instead on the world around you, and look for interesting, inspiring and inventive things. This will give you perspective.

3. Understand that you’ve either made up, or inherited made up beliefs. Keep the inspirational helpful, joyous, and uplifting beliefs and off-load the beliefs that bring gloom and doom. This will give you enthusiasm.

Emotional Approaches

These three exercises can work wonders in eliciting hope, excitement and passion.

1. Make a list of people, places and things you find imaginative and inspirational. Often you’ll find elements of surprise, eccentricity, or audacity. Then make a list of what is surprising, quirky or uncommon about you. This will make you proud.

2. Unpack all your unlived dreams, untaken adventures, uncreated products or inventions, unimagined lifestyles, and uninitiated friendships with inspirational people. Give them your attention. This will knock your socks off.

3. Take thirty minutes and write about your vision for your life and your dreams. This will make you strong.

Visual Approaches

We are more influenced by visual stimuli than any other kind. Here are three ways to use images to perk up your muse.

1. Feed your imagination an endless stream of visual imagery, (sans the horrible and depressing), and use it as a prompt for your writing or creating. This will make you inventive.

2. Load up on magazines and cut out pictures of dreamy, off beat, fabulous things. Or find things that are attractive to you or that you just plain want. Glue them onto a poster board or index cards, or throw them into a basket and look at them frequently. This will make you feel prosperous.

3. Instead of writing, draw or paint your ideas, challenges, stories, feelings, hopes and dreams. This will make you feel young.

It’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. Your imagination is eagerly waiting for you to take that small, but consequential action. Please take it. Then take it again, and again, and again, until you fulfill all of your creative dreams. Until you again feel free to paint the moon purple.

 © 2004, Valerie J. Olson, all rights reserved



Valerie J. Olson, M.A., is a licensed psychologist and certified business and life coach. Val provides book consulting, motivational coaching and resources for both aspiring and published authors. She is the author of the e-book, “Stop Overworking and Start Living: A Spiritual Path to Balance”.

Val is the founder and host of “The Inner Game of Writing”, a monthly teleforum. If you want to write and are procrastinating, or if you are writing and looking for ideas, inspiration and community, please join us. The call is free, except for your long distance charges. It’s the first Tuesday of the month, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, CST.

Contact Val for more information at



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