Andrew Hammond, our Reading Activists writer in residence, gives you some top advice and his thoughts on using your imagination:
If you take your pet monkey into the garden at night time (I assume you have one) and point to the moon, the chances are the beloved creature will just look at your hand and nibble it. (No offence to monkeys, I love them). But if you take a child into the garden at night time and point to the moon, he won't look at your finger, he'll look at the moon and wonder. Our imagination is one of the things that makes us human.
If you ask your computer to consider the moon (via Google), you'll get a long list of factual answers. Ask a child to consider the moon and you'll get list of questions instead: Can you imagine living there? Is it made of cheese? Are there aliens on there? Can I travel there? Can I go to the moon with a magic machine and shrink it to the size of a marble and go to school tomorrow with it in my pocket? Can I do that? Please?
Imagination defines and distinguishes us
Imagining. It's what we do; it's what defines us, distinguishes us. And if we don't use our imagination we almost always go mad. At least, I do. Celebrated author, Somerset Maugham, when asked why he writes, once said, 'Writers write not because they want to, but because they have to.' That resonates with me - if I didn't have an outlet for the myriad of weird, exciting, silly, scary and profound thoughts in my head I'd pop like a balloon. Writing provides me with that outlet. I can write to escape, ponder, create, startle, amuse, disturb and entertain. But most of all, I write to give vent to my imagination and, hopefully, to set my readers' imagination in motion too.
And how amazing it is that some simple marks on a page can actually change the physical state of the person reading them. Think about it. Just a few well-chosen sentences is all it takes to quicken the reader's heart beat, bring a sweat to the palms, a dryness to the mouth and a sinking feeling to the pit of the stomach. And that's because the words on the page enjoy a direct hot line to the imagination. It's not the words themselves that are doing it - it's the effect they create inside the head. It's a marriage made in heaven: some imaginative words from a writer and a whopping great imagination from a reader. It's bound to lead to some monumental adventures.
Being a Reading Activists writer in residence
One of the many things that excites me about the brilliant Reading Activists project - and why I am so pleased to be your writer in residence - is that it does what it says on the tin: it encourages young people to find their voice and articulate it, wherever and whoever they are. I've spent years trying to do just that as an English teacher. And what's the best tool to help you find a creative voice? Your imagination. Everyone is born with an imagination - it was the most prized part found in the box when you were assembled. But it's big. Very big.
If you wanted to write down the number of thoughts - or separate pieces of information - your brain can process, or imagine, it would be 1, followed by 10.5 million km of type-written zeros, scientists tell me. If you wanted to write that number on a piece of paper - it would stretch to the moon and back 14 times. Don't tell me - you're imagining that sheet of paper stretching to the moon and back, aren't you? Yes? So you do have an imagination. And you have to give it an outlet. Why not writing? Have a go. Make up a new world. Make some people. Then see what they do. The characters in my books often surprise me. No, they really do. Here's the secret: when you create fictional characters they take on a voice of their own and surprise you with their imagination. That's how it works.
So get writing. And glance up at the moon tonight.
Andrew Hammond is the author of CRYPT series and is a Reading Activists writer in residence.
We encourage 13-24 year olds to use the library, volunteer, and inspire others to read.
Our Reading Well titles also use reading as a tool to support young people’s health and wellbeing.