A story: When all the architects and “bean counters” were devising a plan for constructing Disneyland, they worked out a system for keeping costs under control and getting the huge park built on schedule. To adhere to that system required that Sleeping Beauty Castle in Fantasyland, which was going to be visible from virtually everywhere in the park, had to be built last.
When Walt Disney learned about their cost-efficiency scheme, he overrode it and insisted that the Sleeping Beauty Castle be built first. He believed that the soaring creation at the heart of the park would provide an inspiring vision for the rest of the construction, and that seeing its image rising toward the sky every day would remind all the workers building the park what was meant to happen. It was a way Walt had of helping them share his vision.
Long after the park was built, “Uncle Walt” toured it regularly, offering encouragement to employees in the park. One day, an employee asked him about the building story, which was a legend among everyone who worked there. Walt asked the questioner to look up toward the Castle and to tell him what he saw. The young man said, “Imagination.” Walt put his hand on his shoulder and said, “Now you tell me if that story is true.”
What a wonderful little tale! Its a gentle reminder that nothing happens without imagination, and that with it, anything is possible. When Walt Disney first viewed the site for his magical children’s park – there was nothing there. In fact, it was a swampy, desolate piece of land. Yet, in his mind’s eye, he saw castles and kingdoms.
How wise he was to give everyone helping him fulfill his vision a visual touchstone so that they could begin to see what he saw. Sleeping Beauty Castle gave everyone who worked with Walt a visual anchor. Having a visual image to anchor our writing can be a powerful tool for us as well.
Every time we look at it, it can remind us that our imagination is the most powerful tool on earth and that it can give shape and life to “airy nothings” – our fleeting ideas — and transform them into characters and stories that move and delight.
A visual image doesn’t have to be grand. It can simply be a picture of a book with the title of your story and your name printed on it. You can hang it on a bulletin board or tape it up near your desk to remind you of what you’re working toward.
Walt Disney built a castle. How about you? Do you have any visual images you use to inspire and motivate you? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Write on!
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