What if

By Nick Stimson, playwright, theatre director and Writer Co-Mentor on the Teachers as Writers project

Whether it be writing a poem, composing a song or symphony, labouring at a novel or a play, painting a picture or making a sculpture, or participating as an active maker in any creative art form, we have but one aim: to unlock and access the imagination. The complex skills and techniques we acquire along the way have only one purpose: to crack open that well-guarded safe that contains the imagination.

The imagination. Such an awkward and difficult entity. A shape-changer; the genie that appears and then disappears again. My dictionary defines it as:

The faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

 The ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.

 The part of the mind that imagines things.

A very tricky customer, the imagination. For a young child it’s immediately on tap twenty-four hours a day. Everyday objects can become extraordinary; the world around them teems with possibilities.  As we get older we build up layers of inhibition, barriers to our own creativity. Why? Because the landscape of the imagination can be a frightening place and becomes more frightening with age. It lacks certainty, it’s volatile and unsettling. It’s much easier not to go there.

But the heart of the matter, the reason why we write, paint and compose is to find our way back into the imagination because the imagination, frightening though it can be, is the great transformer, the great alchemist inside us all. It can take base material and transform it into something wondrous, surprising and life-changing. The imagination is the place of infinite possibility. Writing and the other creative arts are not some partitioned-off part of our individual lives but a shared place that crosses all frontiers. The imagination is the great ‘what if’. Once encountered, it permeates all of life. The negative and the dead end are the opposites to the landscape of the imagination, which is positive and contains endless possibilities.

This is why finding ways to allow young people to access the imagination through writing is not only important but essential. We are not necessarily aiming to make those young people into future writers but we are aiming to give them skills and techniques so that they may have their own encounter with the imagination and, with luck, take that encounter forward into their futures. What if…

Nick Stimson


The Teachers as Writers blog will now pause for the holidays – have a great summer and we’ll see you back here in the new term!


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