Imagination in Action by Shaun McNiff

The world of the creative artist has always been inhabited by free and independent thinkers. In fact the vast majority of the most creative individuals the world has ever known have been mavericks in one way or another.

In his book Imagination in Action Shaun McNiff explains exactly why this is the case.

He states: The creative act involves doing things differently, sometimes even in unthinkable and illogical ways, which can be risky when the world values conformity and prescibed truths.

He also suggests that …all creative individuals engage with the forces of nature and through the active use of the imaginiation disturb the reigning order.

These include such artistic pursuits as movement, painting, drawing, object making, performance, writing, vocal expression. Whilst his book mainly explores creativity through art it also looks at athletics which is a unification of both art and sport.

In part one of his book McNiff explores creativity as a force of nature and explains that becoming a effective participant in its process is as natural as breathing.

This means that everyone has an ability, if not a responsibility, to engage with their creative selves.

McNiff explains how he believes that this stream of creative power that is freely available to some artists, is really only accessible to those of us who are not so naturally talented, only once we are prepared to dig deep within ourselves and draw it up into the light of day.

So then why is the creative instinct dampened down in so many of us?

McNiff believes that there can be several reasons for this and explains that as a result of his experiences whilst teaching art therapy that they are mainly due to our over-emphasis on thinking all of the time, factors relates to low self-confidence and harsh or critical self-judgment.

Part two of ‘Imagination in Action’ opens with the author focussing upon these sorts of challenges that we have to face when looking to strengthen our artistic talents.

He explains how creative expression, in all of the arts, tends to be encouraged when approaching a project not actually knowing what the end will be from the start. He suggests that it is this important aspect to creative manifestation that makes it so challenging for people accustomed to thinking through what they are going to do before they do it.

These sort of inner blockages requires courage, strength of conviction and a strong sense of inner confidence to overcome but he emphasizes that these are the challenges that need to be faced before the creative energy begins to flows through us.

Other important conditions that need to be considered when trying to develop creative energy includes the need to work alongside the right sort of people as well as doing so within a sympathetic environment.

Finally, McNiff reminds the reader that at the end of the day what really manifests a creatively inspired life are those good, old-fashioned characteristics of persistence, determination and commitment.

Whilst the process of daily and committed practice is vitally important to helping the creative fountain blossom it is important not to over-structure your life to the point that your inadvertantly destroy the spontaneous flow of ideas.

Obtaining this sense of balance in our creative lives can be challenging—but the rewards can be great!


Imagination in Action presents the reader with an intense and highly detailed examination of the complex journey that all potential creative individuals have to make when considering moving from a static to free-flowing orientation.

It seems that once this essential, but somewhat challenging shift in orientation is achieved, the mind, body and psyche interact with the flow of creative energy to bring about a creative manifestation of any kind.

The author refers to this process as ‘relaxing the controls’.

Imagination in Action is effectively a working manual on how to unwind that spiral of creative energy and which remains in a largely contracted state within all of us.

The author does an excellent job of explaining how this is achieved in his book.

With the addition of commentaries from established creative people—active from a wide range of artistic fields, along with the author’s own personal and professional experiences working with creative clients this book become not so much a manual of instruction but more a slow and gradual unveiling of insight into the world of the artist.

In this regard I found it to be quite easily one of the most spiritual, non-spiritual books that I have had the pleasure of reading for a long time.

So often those of us who are active in the world of spirituality forget that at its core the spiritual or religious impulse is derived from our internal connection to universal creative power.

It is so uplifting to read a book that acts as an important reminder to us of the fact that through the practice of art and creative expression we are more closely, and effectively, actively engaging with spirituality in all its forms.

Imagination in Action offers the reader a powerful set of working tools, insights and practical exercises that are guaranteed to help us become better channels for creative power. It is a remarkable and impressive book that offers so much to its reader on so many different levels. I am sure that it will be an absolute godsend to any artist wishing to perfect their craft, to those creative individuals who might be experiencing blockages to their own creativity as well as to the many first-times seeking to release the creative beast that remains dormant within themselves.