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Don't lose the discipline to daydream!

May 9th, 2007

So, I’ve been very busy for the past couple of years, working on building my press, freelance editing, and working the occasional hours at a part time job. It’s a period of time in my life that seems to have dragged on with near-constant work and very little rest.

As such, my own writing has suffered. I just haven’t written to any sizable amount in quite a while. After editing nine or ten hours straight, I usually don’t want to sit at the computer and put down words of my own. That drive gets hamstrung.

I thought it was simple exhaustion. Then I realized there was a deeper, less obvious problem: I wasn’t daydreaming.

Years ago, during those times when I did not have to have my brain working on something 100%, my mind would be running all over the place, dreaming up locales, characters, conversations, visual snippets, bits of action scenes . . . all the tiny building blocks of story. If I was driving, I was also talking to myself. If I was doing manual labor, I was blocking out a fight scene.

But some time ago, I began filling those moments with worries of business or personal matters. How was I going to complete the editing on such and such a project in time? Were things with the current flame really going to work out?

Rarely do these worrying sessions produce anything positive. In Tai Chi, we learn to be 100% involved and 100% aware. It’s a simplified way of saying that you should be able to do what you need to do in the here and now while still being aware of what’s going on around you and knowing when you need to react to something. That doesn’t mean you need to ignore your problems . . . it just means you give them their fair due and then move on.

I know I sound a little contradictory right now. I’m telling you to be 100% involved and 100% aware . . . and yet I’m telling you to daydream. I’m saying it’s imperative for writers to daydream . . . just don’t do it at the wrong time. Don’t get so wrapped up in your narrative that you crash your car. Don’t ruin a relationship because you never listen to the other person because you’re hearing other voices in your head.

But when the time is right, allow your mind to wander. Have fun with it. Just imagine. Then you’ll have so much more fuel with which to fire up the creative engines.

I know that since I’ve started retraining myself to daydream, I’ve been writing more. Not much, but more. The whole time and energy thing still gets in the way . . . but the characters get so insistent again, that every so often, I just can’t hold them back anymore. And I love having that feeling. I love knowing that I have to get a scene down or I’ll go crazy.