Imaginational OE

Imaginational OE reflects a heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Often children high in Imaginational OE mix truth with fiction, or create their own private worlds with imaginary companions and dramatizations to escape boredom. They find it difficult to stay tuned into a classroom where creativity and imagination are secondary to learning rigid academic curriculum. They may write stories or draw instead of doing seatwork or participating in class discussions, or they may have difficulty completing tasks when some incredible idea sends them off on an imaginative tangent.

Source: Sharon Lind, educator

I always enjoyed long car rides as a kid, because I could get my work done.

My work was stories.  And the work I did in the car wasn’t the writing, but the imagining.  No one expected me to accomplish anything while in transit, so I was free to think about ideas, plots, and characters, which was almost always where my mind would go when I was free.

I don’t remember how old I was when I wrote my first story, but it was probably around kindergarten; it was about people who lived on the sun, and I wrote it with a red-orange marker on a piece of yellow construction paper.  Dad pointed out (with evident delight, being a sci-fi buff himself), that this was something called science fiction.  The first story I can date was in the summer before second grade, and it was about a little girl named Cutey who had a scoop of grape ice cream (given that the marker I had to color it was light purple) that got mixed with some chemicals that caused it to grow to the size of a house.  I made a whole series of stories about Cutey, which I wrote in booklets made from the partially-used computer paper that my dad would donate to my Montessori school. I would fold it in half, staple it along the fold, and fill the resulting booklet with story until I ran out of pages, crossing out the residual programmer printouts whenever I came across them.  I rewrote Cutey and the Tornado several times, finding this Girl vs. Nature conflict to be of particular importance in my early works.  Cutey also went to Hawaii where, naturally, a volcano happened to erupt.


We got a reliable Internet connection at home in 1996, when I was almost 14.  The first thing I asked was whether I could make a webpage so I could publish a series of stories I had been writing over the past couple years about the Carlson Septuplets.  Soon I had met a lot of fellow young writers I met online; many of them wrote fanfiction, but that didn’t interest me because I couldn’t fully control the creative process.  Others with imaginational OE may well feel differently, but in my case, I wanted to invent everything.

The OEQ2, an instrument designed to measure OEs in a way that’s quicker and easier to score than a long interview with an individual subject, focuses on “fantasy” to measure imaginational OE, but it’s worth noting that fantasy doesn’t only mean magic and other worlds and so on.  I did write stories that had magical or fantastic elements in them, but I also had the Carlson Septs and another series about a girl who went to live in Japan with her American family.  No magic was required in either case, but there was still quite a lot of “what if?” involved.

Eventually I learned that my ability to visualize things was somewhat unusual.  In high school, in a class on opposing viewpoints in science, we were discussing the process of having a back-street abortion.  There wasn’t a single visual aid, but I created such a strong image in my mind that I passed out because of the image and sensations that occurred only in my mind.  Parents understandably focus on the role of imaginational OE in their child’s fears; well, as a child, I was terrified of the Emergency Broadcast System, because even if it was “only a test,” that awful alert sound would fill my mind with impending funnel clouds, and also possibly nuclear weapons, prompting me to write in my first grade Montessori class about my concern that a technical error could lead to an accidental nuclear launch.  Imaginational OE remains an important component of my worries as an adult: the ease of envisioning things like car wrecks makes it hard to completely banish them from my mind.

Imagnational OE 2 - shutterstock_147480458

As this blog attests, I still do a lot of writing; I don’t do as much creative work as I used to, but that’s something I’d like to change.  I still have lots of ideas.  I love weekend mornings, because ten o’clock a.m. is—seemingly innately—my most creative time.  I wake up, start a warmup of ideas while reading a book or showering or swimming or vacuuming, and by ten, I am always eager to start writing something.  Once I start working, the state of flow can last for a good several hours, though eventually I usually realize my blood sugar has dropped while I was in that flow state and I have to eat something.

The things I write now incorporate imaginational OE in that I’m often thinking about the world as it could be.  It’s therefore a key part of why I think positive change is possible.  It really does help to be able to visualize world peace.  Just as imaginational OE can increase fear and anxiety because we can see those car wrecks or terrorist attacks in our minds’ eyes, it also helps see more clearly just how the world could be different.


From here, you can go back to the top level
on Dabrowski and overexcitabilities, or continue
through my personal narrative with the links below.

Intellectual   ★   Imaginational
Psychomotor   ★    Sensory   ★   Emotional

Or some other people’s stories about their imaginational OE:

Jade Ann Rivera on her imaginational OE in childhood

Laugh, Love, Learn’s posts on imaginational OE

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