Monday, November 28, 2011


I recently read an interesting article on how creating an imaginary friend can make you a better writer.  Kelly Kautz claims that one top advertising agency even gave its imaginary friends their own office space.  For real! 

Without peeking at the answer, how do you suppose imaginary friends
can help us to become better writers and artists? 

Their presence can either make or break us, depending on how far we’re willing to go to hang out with them. It may be wise to spend quality time together, but I wouldn’t recommend paying a visit to their homes… 

My old imaginary friend, Monique, was much more exciting than my ordinary, colorless classmates. She’d moved to the U.S. from Paris, France.   

I spoke often of her to my parents and even picked out a house in which I thought she might live. It was a fuchsia, shingled house on the edge of town with haystacks in the front yard. Quite picturesque to a child’s eyes, and most unique.

As my family was riding down that stretch of road one day I pointed out the place and said, “That’s where Monique lives.” My dad corrected me. “Can’t be. That’s Sam Hinnant’s house.”

Sam was an old man who helped my daddy on the farm, and who spent a chunk of his pay on booze. “Oh, well then maybe they moved,” I said.

While my creative energies were at their peak, I decided I might as well go all out and paint as farfetched a scene as possible, so I chose the career of an astronaut for Monique’s father. 

They moved from the fuchsia, shingled house bordering the city limits into the heart of town. Her family had now taken up residence in an old, two-story bungalow complete with a forever-bright green lawn. 

One Saturday I announced that Monique had invited me over to play that afternoon. And so my dad dropped me off at the house I’d chosen for my imaginary friend.

I walked up to the porch, then turned and waved him off, and pretended to go inside. As soon as the sky-blue Ford turned the corner and was out of sight I headed aimlessly down the street.

That afternoon I walked all over town, hoping to see someone I knew. Someone real.  I ventured into Mr. Elijah’s TV store and noticed that several stations were on simultaneously, but not one show was interesting enough to capture my attention.

It was, after all, Saturday afternoon and no programming was geared toward kids that time of day – it was all about the adults. Sports programming, fishing, cooking, and wildlife shows... nothing worth anyone’s time of day as far as I was concerned.

 I meandered out of the shop and down the street again, then headed back to the stranger’s house that supposedly belonged to Monique and waited for my daddy to come and pick me up.

It was almost dark when he arrived, that gloaming time of day when streetlights magically appear out of nowhere to illuminate sidewalks and cast long shadows. My mother was sitting in the passenger seat, apparently on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

As soon as I climbed into the back seat I knew I was in the deepest water ever. Mary Lou Cuddington from church had called my mother earlier and reported that she had seen me from out of the picture window in her living room, wandering around their neighborhood like some vagrant.

How could I have possibly known that Mary Lou Cuddington lived right across the street from Monique?

So, who was your imaginary friend?    

How can imaginary friends can help us creatively?


  1. Marvelous story as always, Debra!
    I didn't have an imaginary friend per se, but my brother and I created a whole world of characters and stories using miniature animals we collected (do you remember the Steiff brand from Germany?). These little fellows got into all kinds of predicaments and had the most glorious adventures. I believe that this creative play and story-building helped me to become a writer.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful memory with all of us. :)
    Blessings, my friend!

  2. I didn't have much in the line of imaginary friends, but the cat I had growing up worked pretty well. thanks for sharing this wonderful memory and story, how awesome that your father let you go to Monique's home. <3<3<3

  3. Hi Martha! How was your trip? Glorious?
    No, I haven’t heard of the Steiff animal collection, but I know that imaginary activities we engaged in as children prepare us for life calls.
    Glad to have you back! Missed you.

  4. Hi Jan, my quirky pal!
    Did you dress your cat up in doll clothes and ride him in the stroller -as long as he’d stay in the stroller? I did ;-) And did your cat have nine lives? One of mine did.

  5. Totally fascinating Debra!! What an imagination you had (have). Seems like you were creating parallel stories and universes from a very early age - which I can imagine would be very helpful in honing your ability to develop fiction.

    I don't think I ever had an "imaginary friend" per se. I had "spirits" that I searched for and felt lived in the house - perhaps one part imagination, one part intuition?

  6. Kristen, like in the book, House of Spirits by Isabel Allende? What a fascinating read!
    Guess what I’ve been doing ever since I returned from The Spirit That Moves Me... Okay, I’ll tell you. I’ve been writing on silence and stillness. That’s right: your message inspired my own. Thanks! One creative soul feeding another. I like the way that works ;-0

  7. Ooo Debra, I don't remember having an imaginary friend but I have to dig deeper into my past lol...This is so fascinating! Could we have imaginary friends at any age and time? I wouldn't consider my guardian angel nor Jesus imaginary, should I? But they are the ones I often talk with.

    My small niece Fau has an imaginary friend, but her dad says it's a real spirit...hmmm... I wouldn't dwell on that...

    If it help in creativity, then I would really like to have one :P

  8. Melissa – Any age is fine to have an imaginary friend, I'd think. I saw a cartoon featuring a woman wearing a tee shirt that says, “I’m with Him,” and an arrow pointing straight up to a cross. A boy passing her turned and said, “Aren’t you a little old for an imaginary friend? LOL! So we must have an “imaginary” friend still. Only, I don’t consider Jesus unreal, just invisible sometimes. Some may say Jesus and your guardian angel are imaginary, but I think they're genuine beings.

  9. What a fascinating story Debra...I have had nothing like that ever in life...but I think it would be really nice,someone to have all by more loneliness...

  10. Alpana – Facebook is the adult way of having imaginary friends ;-) Looks like you’re wealthy in these. And then there are real friends, which you are blessed to have so many of!

  11. Hi Debra,
    I never had an imaginary friend, but after reading your fascinating story, I wish I could get one.. lol ;) I can imagine, how if feels like to have an imaginary friend. Nice post. :) xx

  12. Debra what a fascinating friend you have... I did not or maybe do not re collect having one.... However I do have cyber friends that I can interact with and enjoy conversations...
    You are one lady I would love to have in my circle of coffee friends... you will take us through a world like no other..

  13. They say children have imaginary friends and it is a possibility they really see them and talk to them. I do not recall having any, I guess I always had my brother to play with, he is just a year younger than me. Very interesting post Debra. I wonder if such friends do exist, someone like a guardian angel to watch over them.

  14. I loved your story! I don't know if my imaginary 'characters' were friends...but I had a bunch of them.I gave them birthdays and created descriptions and personalities for them...too bad I can't remember any of them!

  15. I did not have an imaginary friend when I was a kid...had lot of real friends though. Nice story to read and more importantly you love your imaginary friend.

  16. Shreyna – Read that article on creating personas, the one I linked back to in the first paragraph. It’s never too late to create the kind of imaginary friends Kelly Kauz talks about. X0X

  17. Savira – Yeah, cyber friends are sort of like imaginary friends, aren’t they? Take you, for instance. I’ve never even met you in person but I feel like you’re probably real ;-) A charming, beautiful, talented lady from another part of the world that I get to interact and share segments of my life with. But how would I know for sure that you really existed unless… well, unless I joined your coffee circle? What fun!!! Can I just imagine for now that I’m really there?

  18. Rimly – You make a good point. When you have a sibling to play with, you don’t really need an imaginary friend, do you? Since my brothers were considerably older than I, they weren’t around for me to play with. Get this: one of my brothers is 10 years older than I and the other one is 10 years older than he. So I was a lonely child, and desperate for company ;-) You know that some children even set an extra place at the table for their imaginary friends.

  19. Deborah – Dig deep inside and you’ll remember your old characters, surely you will. If I ever get the nerve, I may share the story of my Barbie and Ken dolls, and the orange sports car in which they eloped to South Carolina to get married. I set up a drama and acted out the whole proposal scene ;-0

  20. Janu – You must have been surrounded by siblings who kept you company. I’ll bet you were one popular girl growing up, loved by everyone, the life of the party, the belle of the ball – and you still are!

  21. So interesting, Debra! So imaginary friends aren't just for kids. I'm sorry I don't remember having any imaginary kids as a child. My niece has a wonderful time playing by herself because she has so many imaginary friends to keep her company. It's a truly beautiful thing to behold.

  22. Fawn – Your niece is blessed to have so many friends ;-) I remember reading that studies have shown “gifted” kids often have imaginary friends. It must be the creative mind at work. May we never lose our childlike ability to imagine!
    Once again, congratulations on your success. Way to go!

  23. Debra, how this post resonates with me! I've had too many imaginary friends to count but my favorite was Fred. He came into my life when I was around eight years of age. We did everything together. My son "inherited" the need to have an imaginary friend when he was four and promptly named him Julian. Don't ask me where he got that name. Julian quickly became a member of the family and like the advertising agency in your post, he too had his own place; his own place at the table, in the car, and even in the family room. I remember one time I went to sit down and the Son shrieked like someone had done him bodily harm. "Mom," he said, "You sat on Julian! I think you squashed him and he's dead!" It took a good two hours to convince him that Julian was not bleeding internally and that my butt had only kept him warm the two seconds it rested on him. Julian "went to live in the woods with his family" when the Son turned five. Nowadays, Dennis the poltergeist keeps Roxy and me company. He accompanies us everywhere--even on our trips to Spain! Thanks for the lovely post! :)

  24. Love it! Your best story ever!

    When Joey was little he had an 'Imaginary Mom' who told him it was o.k. to do things I said, 'No' to.

    "Can I have a sucker, Mama?" he whined.

    "No, we're going to have lunch," I replied.

    "My Imaginary Mother says I can..."

    "Maybe you should go live with your Imaginary Mother ..."

    And we see how that 'Experiment in Creativity' is turning out, right?

    Really enjoyed this -- I will share your story at

  25. Hi Debra:
    Does it count if my imaginary friend was a real person and a real friend?

    I remember my friend, Jim M being my friend both imaginary and real. My maternal grandmother told a story (when she was living) that Jim would accompany me wherever I went.

    One such time was in the morning at breakfast, my grandfather came down to breakfast and sat at his regular seat. According to my grandmother I burst out crying. "No!" I said, according to her. "You're sitting on Jimmy!"

    I think artistic people whether they're painters/writers/photographers/actors whatever have a deeper sense of what exists then others. I think they have a deeper imagination and having imaginary friends is one way we cope w/all that is happening around us.

    Excellent post, Debra!

  26. Bella – Oh I love Fred and Julian! What a cool name for an imaginary friend: Julian ;-) Thank you for introducing us. When we play along with our children’s imagination, we are better parents, don’t you think? Like that time you sat on Julian, and spent 2 hours trying to convince your Son that his friend was okay. It reminds me of when my little Daughter was afraid of microscopic trolls at bedtime. I recall saying, “Not to worry, I’ll go get the spray; that’ll take care of them.” I came back into her room with a spray bottle and squirted under the bed and all around the room, and she fell asleep just fine ;-)

  27. Linda – Hilarious! I’ve never heard of an imaginary mom! Joey must be the writer, I’m guessing;-) This story would make quite a children’s book, wouldn’t it?
    The Other Mother… the mom every child dreams of having. The mom who gives suckers for dinner…cookies and chocolate drinks for breakfast…lets you play with Batman all day instead of doing boring of school work. The adventurous mom!

  28. Chris – That’s a great story about Jimmy M! He was both real and imaginary? Is he still around? Thank God your grandmother didn’t crush him with her butt ;-) Jimmy M, who accompanied you wherever you went reminds me of the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, My Shadow.
    I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
    And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
    He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
    And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed…

    Yes, artists, writers, actors, all have a deeper sense of imagination, absolutely!

  29. Yes, Joey is the writer :-)

    Actually, I was the Mom that let the kids play batman all day ...

  30. Another superb, cutting edge post. I don't know how you do it Debra. But wait, of course I do, it's those imaginary friends.

    I often consult my imaginary selves who are imaginary friends, of a sort, and who sometimes manifest so strongly they become real...

  31. Linda – Just wanted to let you know that tonight I met with my Earthette Club and told them your story about Joey’s imaginary mom. Wild and funny! We went on with scenarios for awhile on what an imaginary mom would look like ;-)

  32. Cathy – How many personas does it take to write a novel? A good fiction writer needs lots of (imaginary) friends in high places, and several in low places too. And yes they are real. You know you’re a writer if you find yourself in the grocery store by the canned pineapples, asking if your protagonist would prefer Del Monte or Dole. Or if you discuss issues in your story (out loud) while washing dishes or dusting… and your son-in-law walks in, then later asks your daughter if her mother is crazy because she talks to herself :-(

  33. Absolutely and if you write fiction, you have imaginary friends already :) My characters taunt, torment, and speak to me about what they are going to do next :) So long as we keep them in check and don't let them become alternate personalities, I think we are okay ;)

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  34. Mel, exactly! We must not become their puppets ;-) Let them know who’s boss! Don't BECOME them.
    I had such a mischievous character once that she made me nervous:-(
    Peace and Joy!

  35. Debra, loved your post, as usual :) I didn't have an imaginary friend because we were four brothers and sisters and we had our cousins living with us, they were three of them. So you can imagine how crowded and full of noise our house must have been. We played, laughed cried together and there was no time to think of anybody else. Now that I sit alone at home, with both my kids off to college and my husband away on his outstation tours, I feel the need for a friend in my head. The quiet demands I talk to a friend and discuss my hopes and fears. Thank you for such an amazing post.

  36. Oh, is it possible to love you even more? But I do...with each and every post. Oh, goodness, do I ever. Thank you, my soul sister, for sharing yourSelf with the world, with all of us, with me:)

  37. Sulekkha – with that many kids to play with, who needs an imaginary friend?
    I have an idea of what you can do now to have company while the children and husband are away. Make up a character and write a short story or start on a novel. Trust me on this, a main character can take up a LOT of your time. Can you introduce her (or him) to your readers sometime soon, and let us know how it’s working out? You have such an imagination that this project might be loads of fun for you ;-)

  38. Brynne – Thank you for making my day brighter. I can’t help but notice that you have an extraordinary gift for helping others see happiness and wonder all around. I love my trips to your magic kingdom, way better than Disney’s! Wish me inspiration on this book I’m contemplating writing. It’s about childlike believing. So far the only title I’ve thought of is, Childlike Believing… the path to the kingdom (or something like that). Do you have any ideas? Please help me brain storm. The stories are in the vein of “Imaginary Friends…” but are not about just that. Mainly it's about becoming, once again, the child we once were. Like Simba's father told him to do.

  39. Hi Debra! thanks for your kind comment on my blog and I am your latest follower. An imaginary friend would be exactly what I need right now...I don't seem to be able to progress the draft of my novel! Could I borrow you Monique for a while?
    I used to call my secret diary the name of an imaginary friend. But I grew up...

  40. Muriel – Thanks! I’m following you on both NB and Google Friend. Now, about that imaginary friend…you have one already. Who is your protagonist in the novel? Male or female, THAT is your imaginary friend. When I was writing a novel, my main character, Eleanor, took over and I felt I was merely taking dictation ;-) She ran the show. As mystical as it sounds, there is that creative part of us that transcends our limited reason and rational thinking. I’d advise you to let the characters lead you, especially the protagonist. See how it plays out and get back with me.

  41. Well, I didn't have an imaginary friend but along with my best friend we did create an imaginary world of little people with names and adventures etc. we carried the little people (really little game pieces) out of a boxed game around, exchanged them back and forth. Really, I'd forgotten all about it. Don't kids just have the best imaginations?

  42. Lynne – You know, we need to be more like that as adults, don’t we? The more encultured we become growing up, the more imagination we lose – not to mention the sense of wonder that seems to disappear with adulthood. When you and your best friend created miniature worlds, you were in touch with that divine realm. I’m working now on finding that child I once was. What about you?

  43. Debra that the sweetest story I have heard in a long long time. I had imaginary student (pillars) when I was a kid. I would discipline them and teach them alphabets all afternoon. Makes me blush now but thanks for bringing the memory back : )

  44. As always Debra, LOVED it!!

    I am probably one of the most creative (creative thinkers) I know in a sense I can dream up the wildest things and often or not I've been seen trying to make it, live it or whatever.

    But I never had an imaginary friend, OH! I wanted one. I'd look for one everywhere(turns red)silly me I used to think that an imaginary friend was like a fairy, so I'd search all the bushes around my house, neighborhood. Com'on that's the perfect place to find an imaginary friend. Isn't it? Nope I was completely off track with that one.

    Needless to say, it wasn't until I was old(er) like older. That I finally found my imaginary friend. I talk to her often, and get this, she talks back, but she sounds alot like me. Hmmm come to think of it, darn that wasn't an imaginary friend. It was me (again) talking and HA! answering myself .... again

  45. I don't know where I'd be without them to be honest. I suppose when I am writing they are there with me making suggestions, encouraging me. I don't really think about it, but if I stop and question myself it feels as if there is something inside of me spurring me onwards. Debra, I so enjoy how you make us confess our secret writer secrets. I am glad to know there are others out there like me, well not exactly like me, but have similar quirks.

  46. Kriti – Are you a teacher? Because if you aren’t, you must have missed your call ;-) If you once taught the alphabet to imaginary students, that’s a sure indication of a call to teach, wouldn’t you say? But then again, maybe it signified a call to write, which you are doing beautifully! Please write that story sometimes. So precious!

  47. Debbie – I’m expecting to read a story written by your imaginary friend. Seriously. Wild imaginations mean only one thing: a creative spirit. You know, I ponder sometimes how certain people are so successful with their writing. Stephen King, for instance, must have an army of these make-believe friends. And though I’m not much of a romance writer fan, I have to wonder about the imagination of someone like, say Daniel Steel, don’t you? Wonder where these characters come from… unless they come from within the heart and soul of the author.

  48. Brenda – Me either; I don’t know where I’d be without these imaginary friends. In fact, this very post they’re expounded upon since I first published it. Sometimes we call them our muse. Whatever their names are, they rule and reign over the creative side of our brain; apparently right brain inhabitants, yes? Today I contemplated exactly how I might engage them in a little left brain activity, like helping me organize a manuscript I’ve begun. But alas, there seems to be nobody home (like at Monique’s house ;-) Where do I get help with organizational skills? Ever encountered that problem?

  49. I honestly never had an imaginary friend, but always wished I did! My daughter has had an imaginary friend...she used to call him "Mr Furner Man"..not sure where her idea came from! It was actually kind of weird ;) She used to say, oh, Mr Furner Man is here, he's in his red truck! I'd look, and nobody would be there. She used to say that he was sitting in the car with us, etc.

    I think it's great when kids are that creative!

  50. Jessica – Wonder where your daughter met Mr. Furner Man ;-) And where did he go? Did he just up and drive away in his red truck?
    It is great when kids have this much imagination, and it’s equally great when we adults manage to hold on to what we once had as children. As Wallace Stevens said,

    Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
    We say God and the imagination are one...
    How high that highest candle lights the dark.

    Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
    We make a dwelling in the evening air,
    In which being there together is enough.

  51. Debra this was such an engaging read! Although it could have been potentially dangerous (I'm thinking like a mom for a moment) to just drop by Monique's house and then roam the streets as a kid...that wandering allowed you some time to be alone with your thoughts, to explore your inner world in the real world. And wow, talk about character development! (Hers and yours!) I can totally see the benefit of an imagination as vivid as yours for a writer, for an artist of any kind. For me, it has never been the imaginary friend thing that made my creative juices flow...but the wandering around, particularly in nature and a great deal of solitude have nurtured my creative spirit.

    I'm so glad you dropped by from Kristen's and I am very pleased to meet you:-)

  52. I love your writing. Thanks for visiting my blog too! I've had imaginary friends in my adult life . More of the psychic variety. You inspire me to explore that a little. Terah

  53. Laura – I’ve wondered when someone was going to mention that: the potential danger I could have been in :-( Such a risk would be unimaginable in today’s world, aye? Your thoughts are so very much appreciated, especially the part about the wandering around being a source of creativity for you. Be it wandering around in nature or wandering around in our inner world, it is indeed the exploration that stirs those creative juices.

  54. Cowgirl Red – There are times when art creates the artist, don’t you think? This psychic world (complete with its own characters) can become more real than the outer realm… Scary, isn’t it? I remember years ago when writing a novel, the characters seemed as factual as friends and family. And in fact, they took up so much of my time that my energies were spent on them, to the exclusion of outer world friends sometimes. Finding balance can be a difficult thing.

  55. Not sure I had any imaginary friends. I used to explore the undersea in my mother's broken down Desoto that sat gathering summer dust in our driveway. We also used to fly it to outer space and to imaginary lands with dinosaurs.

    As an adult, I imagined myself fathering myself when I was a child, it helped me to understand the value my father failed to encourage and nurture. It was a real cool and liberating epiphany of sorts to have done so. I think it was freeing.

    The whole imagination friend thing is genius for developing characters for fiction. Cheers!


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