My new favorite word is paracosm. A paracosm is a detailed imaginary world that children create. This imaginary world has its own geography, language, culture and history and its often filled with fantastical creatures. It is one of my favorite words because, as you know, I am creating a paracosm for my novel. Actually, for the most part I have already created it. I have spent most of the time these past 3 years creating the detailed world that my heroine encounters, and I keep adding to it as I go along.

Writers are probably the only few people (maybe the only people) who continue to develop their paracosms long after childhood. We constantly develop new paracosms, one after the other, each as detailed and unique as the next. It is an ongoing process that I would imagine would overwhelm most people. Cities of The Mind recently blogged about how it is even difficult to hold a conversation when this world-making process is going on. It is a delicate balance to hold all these worlds together while at the same time holding these different worlds apart. But the greatest challenge is keeping the paracosm-building process away from the real world.

I’m not saying that you get confused as to what is real and what is not real, a la “Inception”…

but sometimes when you are building so many paracosms on a consistent basis, you get used to letting any little imaginary story snowball, and any little idea turns into a giant paracosm. Even an idea that happens to have you as the main character and your real life as its setting.

For instance: You might get a new job and suddenly you start to imagine how long you’ll be there, and when and how you’ll rise in the ranks, and how eventually you’ll move on and be the head of your own company, and suddenly you’re on the cover of “Time” magazine for some reason. Wow, how did that happen? You don’t even know if half of what you just imagined was really what you wanted, but you’re so used to allowing a single idea to snowball into a paracosm, that even the most mundane thought can explode into something else.

Now maybe this is just an issue that I deal with, in which case that makes me the loony, but I don’t think this is so. I think even non-writers get carried away in paracosms of their making. For example: they go out on a date, one date, and suddenly they imagine being married to this person they are dating, and buying a house, then traveling to Europe, then comes the affair, and then the divorce–and now it is obvious as they look across the table at their date, that the fact that he didn’t laugh at their clever joke means that any relationship they have with him will certainly end in divorce. So comes The End of a story that never began.

Our habit of creating paracosms, or ideal worlds where all of our desires are met, can get in a way of life. It can drive a wedge in between what is actually possible and what is not. It can restrict us, instead of free us. So we look around and consistently see the world as not meeting our expectations. A partner is seen as: “not the guy (or girl) I had in mind when I imagined him/her.” A job might: “not be where I thought I would be at this age.” Your current struggles are: “not the kind of thing I would think I would ever have to go through.”

But who said so?

You did.

You imagined a world, a paracosm, and every day you try to make the REAL world live up to that IDEAL one you created. But how do you know this world is really the ideal? How do we know what is really good for us, and what isn’t? Aren’t we at risk of blocking something really good that may be coming into our lives, something we never expected and never did IMAGINE, but that is very good and possibly ideal for us anyway?

Is it possible that our imaginary worlds can become, at times, a drawback and not a plus? Our life surges forward, but we don’t swim with the current because we never IMAGINED that this was the DIRECTION the current was going to lead us. So we resist, we push back, and then we get stuck. Never going anywhere because we are waiting for life to go the way we want it. Until that happens, we’d rather stay put.

But what if we stop holding reality up to the blinding light of our imaginations? Why not open ourselves up to the idea that maybe the GOOD of life has always been flowing our way–it’s just that we kept on throwing that GOOD back, because it didn’t measure up to our IMAGINARY idea of GOOD.

What if we stop trying to imagine the ideal TIME in which things should unfold? What if we stop trying to imagine the ideal CAREER we should have?

Lately, when it comes to my real life, I’ve been putting the brakes on my world-making. The process has only served to set myself up for failure in the past, which is unfair to me and to others. I’m not saying dreaming is a bad thing, what I am saying is that maybe we don’t need to dream as much as we thought we had to. Maybe what we always wanted, and what we always needed, is already here with us. Maybe we have more power to form and shape the real world to our liking than we previously thought. Maybe we DON’T need to WAIT for the real world to catch up with the ideal world of our imaginations.

We are always looking for a great tree, the true symbol of our awakening, our best selves, and our best life. But maybe that tree we have been looking for has already arrived.

We think we must conjure up some magic image in our minds to make that great tree appear in real life. But what we really need to do is pick up the seed of that tree in our hand, start digging a hole, plant it, and first wait for the bud to appear.

The tree will come later… and who is to say it won’t appear even more magnificent than anything we had imagined?

much love,


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29 comments on “Paracosm

  1. Agatha82 says:

    Very wise post Ollin, and very true. Yes, people who have over-active imaginations always let their imagination run away with themselves, it is certainly something that happens to me on a daily basis. It’s not good when I am down, as everything spirals out of control inside my head in a bad way.

    • Sorry to hear that. But it’s great to hear I am not alone. I’m wondering what people do to put breaks on their rampant imaginations? I just try to think of something else as quickly as possible, or meditate and try to be present. But it is challenging.

      • Agatha82 says:

        Yes, it sure is a problem sometimes. I often go for a walk and listen to loud music while walking, seems to at least switch my head off for a while 🙂

        Meant to say, thanks for the new word: Paracosm, had never heard of it.

  2. milkfever says:

    It’s a rare experience for my very active mind to stop dead in it’s tracks. But that’s what happened when i just read your post. You are absolutely right. For the moment, I can’t get my head around the implications of what you wrote. It will need to filter down a little. I’ll have to read it through again.
    But, seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing this paracosm idea with us.
    I think the universe has just given me a message.
    Hmmm, must go and work this all out…

    • You’re welcome, milkfever. You know it’s funny. I don’t take credit for any of these posts. I mean I just share with you the hard lessons I have learned that have taking me years and lots of painful struggle to learn. So I am so glad that what I have learned could help others realize things for themselves as well. If I can serve as a vessel for the universe, as you mentioned, then I guess that is what I am here for. 🙂

  3. Melissa says:

    My mom has always said I have an over active imagination and I’ve taken it as a compliment. When you said this: “So we resist, we push back, and then we get stuck. Never going anywhere because we are waiting for life to go the way we want it. Until that happens, we’d rather stay put.” it really struck out at me because I know how that is. There are times when I am so focused on cultivating my characters and the world they live in that I forget about taking care of myself. I want things to go right, but I can’t imagine it to happen. I have to make it happen.

    Great post! 🙂

    • You know I used to be fine with running my imagination run wild, because I just never wanted to admit that there was anything negative about that process. But the hard lesson is that there are drawbacks to overactive imaginations, and part of our growth as writers is learning how and when to let our imaginations run wild, and when to reign them in, and let things be as they are. Or we risk getting in the way of our own potential for happiness. Thanks for the wonderful comment!

  4. Lua says:

    You are not alone in it Ollin- I deal with it all the time and I think most writers do. We’ve trained our brains to ‘develop’ plot lines from a single idea, we can’t help but do it automatically after some time. I think it’s a gift, but it’s also a curse. It can help us when we’re creating a story but when in real life, it can make our dates end before they begin 🙂

    I don’t believe in ‘ideals’- ideal job, ideal income, ideal partner, ideal house, ideal family etc.
    I do, however, believe what you said, “We are always looking for a great tree, the true symbol of our awakening, our best selves, and our best life. But maybe that tree we have been looking for has already arrived.”

  5. Barb says:

    sometimes it’s better to dream or, “be careful what you dream of, it might come true and you might discover it’s not as you had pictured it”! 😉
    Still, dream on (and write on)…
    Great post! 🙂

    • Thanks Barb! 🙂

      • Barb says:

        forgot to say: as you see, no, you’re not a looney, and not because most of us are writers…
        My favorite song of all times (from Sophie Marceau’s first movie ever, La Boum) is Reality, that goes “Dreams are my reality, the only kind of reality…” – You can google it, it’s by Richard Sanderson. Lovely song! 🙂

  6. T.S. Bazelli says:

    One thing I’ve learned is that reality never matches up to what you imagine. If you things playing out one way, it’s virtually guaranteed to go differently. I think imagination is very important, but like most things it can be both negative and positive. I’ve had to stop myself from creating negative realities, to stop and be thankful for what I do have, and allow my imagination to create possibilities instead of traps. It’s not always easy though.

    Great post. This one really got me thinking.

    • Thanks! I really enjoy sharing my revelations to my readers the most. That way I don’t feel all that pain and struggle to get to the revelation wasn’t a waste, you know? At least maybe it might help someone else, or give them a different perspective. I’m glad it got you thinking! 🙂

  7. What a great post!
    I have been struggling lately with what to do next, and wondering if I should simply try to “let life happen” and see where it leads?
    Then, I fear that that would be “lazy” and lead no where.
    I still have a massive question mark in my mind on this subject, but this post adds a bit of perspective.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

    • From reading your blog jenny, I know that you are going through some challenging times. Not too long ago I was also unemployed and there seemed no way out, and trust me, at that time it was VERY difficult to have the perspective that I know have on it. These past three years have been by far the most challenging and most transformative years of my life.

      But they have been so key to my growth as a person, and even the most tragic events of my past have somehow revealed to me that they had great positive influence on my life (this I uncovered only recently.) So I would challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to see how your current situation may be exactly what you need at this moment and that some force may actually be pushing you in a direction of your benefit.

      I know it sounds crazy, and it is SUPER HARD in practice then in theory, but be patient. I can’t promise the bad will go away overnight, but when we keep at it, and don’t demand the tree, but work on the roots, then we find some pretty awesome stuff can happen.

      Much love and blessings to you on your life journey. 🙂

  8. Wonderful post! I’d never heard of this word before, but I love words and word roots and your dissection of this one was fun. And I also fall prey to this quite often … I have a tendency to exaggerate and overreact.

  9. A well-timed contemplation in the wake of two consecutive nights when I awoke from vivid dreams like the sort I used to have in high school or early twenties, the sort when so many things that I have already decided for myself and committed to were still open possibilities…(probably no coincidence that this occurs soon after another birthday)…and it left me reflecting a lot on where I’ve come in relation to what I used to imagine for myself, where I’ve ended up that I suspected I would and where I diverted unexpectedly…and in this reflection, I realize what I’ve known for a while now—that wherever I am, I’m where I ought to be, when I ought to be. I do believe in everything happening for a reason, no matter how difficult the lesson learned, and in the end I always end up circling back to a point of peace, of happiness, back to my center, though more enriched through those journeys both in and outside of my control. I do like knowing, though, that I’m young enough to still dream and conjure up possible future scenarios for my life (aren’t we all always young enough for possibility?!), and feel more reassured with the knowledge that what ought to reach fruition will if I just let go a little bit and ride out the now in the meantime.

    • “I realize what I’ve known for a while now—that wherever I am, I’m where I ought to be, when I ought to be.”

      Right on, fallen monkey. Very poignant and a perfect way of putting it. I’m glad you’ve known this, only recently I’ve come to terms with this very wise truth. We are where we are at for a reason, and we are being pushed forward for a bigger purpose than ourselves–we just have to allow ourselves to fulfill that purpose.

  10. Cities of the Mind says:

    This is certainly good advice, although it’s gotten me thinking, and I wonder, exactly, where do we draw that line between what is real and what is fantasy? As is, both are largely perception:

    Cold hearted orb That rules the night
    Removes the colours From our sight
    Red is gray and Yellow white
    But we decide Which is right
    And Which is an Illusion
    ~Late Lament

    • Fascinating thought, Cities of the Mind. And what a beautiful poem to help illustrate your point. You are right, everything is perception. So how much is what we see of the world what is actually there, and how much of it is just the way we see it? That sounds like a great start to another post! 🙂

  11. unabridgedgirl says:

    Your date example? Perfect. Seriously perfect.

  12. […] recently posted something that got me thinking–so this is all his fault. Anyway, he was discussing the […]

  13. Artswebshow says:

    I found this post very interesting.
    I didn’t even know the word was paracosm.
    I actually create paracosms as a way of getting to sleep.
    My thoughts often go wild and keep me awake for hours.
    It can be very useful

    • I used to do that too! Except my paracosms never let me go to sleep! They keep me awake for hours and I got so used to that time being a time of creativity, that I still find myself letting my mind go wild at this hour. No coincidence a lot of my great ideas happen just before I get to bed, so I lose a lot of sleep trying to write it all down before it gets swallowed by sleeping! 🙂

  14. […] Paracosm {If the movie Inception was a blog post, this would be it.} […]

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