The fourth chapter of The Artisan Soul focused on imagination and image. While I was not nearly as fond of this chapter as the previous two, I recognized the underlying value it had. McManus uses cliches to illustrate how imagination is power and we, as artists, must use that power to create.
Unfortunately, our imagination, according to McManus, can also take leaps and bounds ahead of our reality. He describes how everyone wants to be great, how imagination is bastardized by ambition. “More often than not, our focus is talent—to become a great doctor, a great teacher, a great writer, a great attorney. And it’s completely human to imagine ourselves as the very best in a field for which we have a deep passion,” (103).
I have recognized this level of ambition within myself far more often than I’d care to admit. I write a good story and suddenly I think I’m cut to work at The New Yorker. I lead my team successfully and suddenly I think I’m suited to run GQ. I have done many good things in life, but I am nowhere near at this level yet. I am constantly reminding myself to approach all of my work with a humble attitude and a servant leadership mindset. Because while I may be at The New Yorker level one day, today is not that day and, “The only ideas that really matter are the ones that get turned into realities,” (103).
This is not to shut down my dreams. It is not to halt my ambitions. I intend on achieving my dreams some day, as everyone should. Rather, this is to take a breath, recognize where I’m currently at, and reexamine my approach. I love creating in terms of telling others’ stories, but the story is never about me, it is about them. I am just the messenger. “All art is created both for self-expression and as an extension of self,” (106). My art, with a paintbrush of words, is expression and an extension of who I am as a person. I want it to reflect well on my character, and in order to do that, I need to have the character I want seen in these stories.
Most people think being a journalist limits your imagination. They think we view the world in black and white. We see fact and we see fiction and our job is to report just the facts. This is true in part. We do not have the power to make up information. We must use facts in our stories. However, we can use our imagination to creatively tell stories. You can create a fascinating, engaging narrative off of pure fact if you know how to weave it together with the right words. “He knows that his unique style will find its own audience when it finds the person who resonates with the story,” (115). I aspire to write in a way that others can resonate with. That is the craft I am working on within my artisan soul.