Let’s Talk About Daydreams
By Jeff Salter
First things first — Happy Independence Day to all of us living in America.
Secondly: I’d be willing to swear on a stack of Mad Magazines that this is NOT my suggested topic. And I’ll tell you two reasons why I say this: (A) I went back to the period right before this topic initially appeared (as a “leftover” in the April May June 2018 Schedule) and I could not find a March 2018 email from me recommending this topic, and (B) if I HAD suggested this topic, I would have asked, “Have you used specifics of any DREAMS in your stories?” Not Day-Dreams.
Whatever. I’m a good soldier and I’ll run with whatever topic is slated for the week. Problem is, I’m not exactly sure how to define “daydreams” — versus the way my brain just functions nearly all the time (now that I’m retired). For example: I’ll come across an interesting word or name and think, “Hey, that would be a great name for a character.” Or… I’ll see a guy running wildly in traffic while looking frantically over his shoulder – as I did a few days ago – and think, “Wow, sure wish I knew what he was running from.”
Now are those examples of daydreaming? Or just instances of a brain which processes a LOT of the external stimuli through this filter: “I wonder how / if that could be used in a story?” Or, more precisely, when I’m deeply involved in revisions of a manuscript, my brain will hardly let go of that story and its development… so, at any time day or night, I’ll be thinking things like, “don’t forget to mention the flashlight in Chapter Two (since they use it later in Chapter Five)”.
I asked my wife for her definition of daydreaming and she said, “letting your mind wander… remembering things… seeing or hearing something and thinking I wonder or I wish.”
It strikes me that a person’s attention and/or thought might be divided into these categories:
This type of attention or thought could include: research, study, test-taking, playing competitive card games, participating in athletic endeavors, practicing music, creating crafts or art, writing an essay, solving a math problem, conducting a science experiment, etc. In other words, there’s a plan, a goal… and specific, necessary steps to reach a desired result. Therefore, your mind can’t be wandering all over creation. Focused.
To me, an un-focused mind is not necessarily daydreaming, as “daydreaming” often has a stigma that the person is “goofing off.” I would assert that allowing your brain to drift and explore things which don’t require your immediate focus – see my list above – can be a very positive and creative way of “refreshing your screen” (to use an internet browser context).
Thinking “Outside the Box”
I seldom use this cliché term, because I think it’s too restrictive — perhaps a better image would be casting a net without any certainty of what (if anything) you might collect. But lacking a better way to invoke the imagery, let’s just say that thinking outside the box might be considered as a hybrid (of sorts) between the focused mind and the un-focused. If one is rigidly focused on some project or problem, too often they can miss some of the possibilities that we might locate “outside” that box (or captured in that wide net). That’s not being unfocused… it’s more like shifting your lens – focus and framing – from telephoto to wide angle and then back to something (perhaps) mid-range. But neither should this hybrid – thinking outside the box or casting the net – be considered as “un-focused”… because, surely, analysis (of whatever sort) must necessarily be focused on the issue at hand.
Are daydreams involved solely in the realm of un-focused thought / attention? Or could daydreams also be – as I posit –very much a PART of thinking outside the proverbial box?
In My Stories
I’ve previously mentioned that the idea for my novel “Stuck on Cloud Eight” arose out of a very simple image that crossed my mind while I was strapped onto a compression table at a chiropractor’s office for some 15 minutes. Not able to do anything else and hoping not to fall asleep (and start snoring), I was just gazing out the window at a nearby tree and thought to myself, “the heroine works in a chiropractic clinic and lives in a treehouse!” Of course, it took a lot of time and effort to turn that 12-word concept into a 79,000 word novel, but I did it. Was I “daydreaming”? Was I thinking “outside the box”? I definitely was NOT focused on being strapped down on that table. I had freed my mind to entertain itself… and it looked for a way to connect external images with a possible story.
Do you daydream? How do you define that process or state of being?
[JLS # 443]