I've read a whole lot of how-to books on writing. I've read every book in the writing section in Borders, mostly during my first two-year period of writing. I read or skim every new writing book that lands on the shelves, just because. (I think I'm afraid I've missed learning something huge.)
They rarely talk about imagination.
They say to write what you yearn to read, but I don't think that's enough. They teach you to plot, plan, and revise. They teach you to up the stakes and to follow the journey.
I have plenty of spy stories I'm yearning to read, but I haven't finished one, yet. In the comments, yesterday, I whined that no matter what NY story I undertake, my imagination tends to stick with what pseudo writes. (*blush*)
With one of my series, most every reader who writes me says they wish they could "go there." Ohmigawd, they have no idea! I would die to go there. DIE! I love that world! When I'm writing it, I spend probably twenty or thirty hours a week "living" there. The main character is one of my "friends," and I visit him often while writing other worlds.
I spend more time in a day imagining my story world than writing it. I probably imagine ten scenes to every one that makes it in my story. Five hours of imagining to two hours of writing.
I think you have to write the story that grabs you so much, you would love to live there. A world so fascinating, you want to spend hours upon hours of imagination time exploring it.
I "live" in my WIP: during the shower, during car rides, during cleaning, while falling asleep, while waking up, while going through the motions of my day. If my imagination time is interrupted by worries about teaching or students, then my writing time suffers.
My main character's name and mine are regularly interchanged in my imagination. I "become" my main character. I feel what she feels. I cry real tears. I laugh out loud. I become afraid, depressed, thrilled, in love, and even, sometimes, traumatized. No kidding, seriously shaken and traumatized.
Maybe it's not everyone's process. Maybe it is. I find if I'm not interested enough to live intensely in my story world for weeks and months, then the writing doesn't happen.
I am utterly in love with my worlds.
I've always lived in these worlds. Always. My earliest memory of them is first grade. Every night, it took me two hours to fall asleep because of living in these worlds. When I finished my first real story as an adult, I fell asleep within five minutes, completely at peace. Finally! I swear, 70% of why I write is so I can fall asleep in peace when the story is written and "done."
If I don't write these stories down, they don't get an ending.
Sometimes, rarely, I have to force my mind into my current WIP. This sometimes works, sometimes not so much. I have to be enraptured by the world.
How big a part of your life is the imagination time? Do you yearn to live in your story world? How often do you imagine your story during the day? Do you imagine more than write? Write more than imagine? Is it equal?