I’m Jessica’s Creativity, that little disruptive voice from her imagination that writes in purple text. In this post I’m gonna teach you how to daydream.
Last week I explained the theory behind how daydreaming can improve your writing speed. Now let me give you some tips on how to daydream effectively.
Because it’s likely been many years since you last daydreamed, and chances are the last time you tried it you were probably told off by a teacher, parent, school crossing guard, or sibling who expected you to keep a look out for mom while he raided the cookie jar. (There’s no need to feel embarrassed, we’ve all been there before.)
Now, as an adult, your sensibleness may have stopped you from keeping your daydreaming muscles active. So this post has some basic reminders for those who are not yet adept at the art of daydreaming.
Pick a Safe Time and Place
Daydreaming can be great fun, but do not do it when your attention should be elsewhere. For example, don’t daydream while in control of a moving vehicle, bathing an infant, wandering across a busy road, fighting carnivorous dinosaurs, or disarming a nuclear warhead. That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get my drift.
Instead, you might try daydreaming while:
- Showering (provided you’re not in a drought-affected area where extra-long showers may be a problem).
- Washing dishes.
- Doing housework.
- Performing mindless tasks at work.
- Eating lunch.
- Walking (in areas where traffic isn’t an issue).
Look at your schedule and choose a few times during the week where daydreaming might be possible.
Don’t Set Yourself a Goal
The beauty of daydreaming is that you never know where you’ll end up, especially when you’re dreaming about your story. You might start off wondering how you’re going to reveal that your heroine’s Peruvian grandmother was the one serving poison sashimi all this time, and instead wind up solving the clue to your antagonist’s cryptic crossword.
That’s why you shouldn’t set yourself daydreaming goals. Don’t expect that you’ll come out of your daydreaming session with a specific answer, otherwise the pressure to perform will impose unnecessary limitations on your daydreams. Instead, allow them to flow where they will and enjoy the journey.
Having said that, do start your daydream with a problem in mind. Use a problem you’ve encountered in your writing as a launching point for your thoughts and then allow them to roam free. You might come up with the answer, or you might discover something completely different. Keep your mind open to all the possibilities before you.
Staring Out the Window is Fine
To start daydreaming, settle yourself in your environment and then start your mind rolling on the topic of your choice (like how your hero is going to escape from the marmot-infested pit he’s just fallen into). Don’t seek to control where your mind goes, simply give it little prods from time to time if necessary.
If you find yourself staring out the window with a blank mind, that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Often it’s not the thoughts themselves that provide the ideas, but the spaces between the thoughts — those spots where your Creativity can jump in with random words and ideas. Make room for your Creativity and don’t seek to fill every little void with thought.
Relax and enjoy the sensations of your wandering mind.
Once you’ve started daydreaming, you may want to prompt your mind and your Creativity to problem-solve and explore.
You can direct your daydreaming by inserting questions like:
- What if?
- Then what?
- What would the consequences be?
- How can we make that idea bigger?
- What’s the most unexpected/ridiculous thing that could happen?
- Under what circumstances would I consider wearing a chicken suit?
Use gentle prods to keep yourself moving forward and exploring options.
Don’t Settle for the First Thing That Comes to Mind
Often the first idea or answer that comes to mind is the cliched response because it’s the easiest — it’s what most other people would come up with if asked the question. You want the more creative option which means you have to dig a little, looking for several more answers to the same question to find something original and worth pursuing.
In this speech by John Cleese (of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame) he mentions that although he is not as talented as some of his fellow comedians, he stayed at his desk longer until he found the unexpected ideas that kept things fresh.
Try it yourself. How many uses can you think of for a brick? Your first few answers will be the usual — e.g. build a house, doorstop, fling through the window of someone you dislike. But once you get past those, then you start coming up with more interesting answers — e.g. heat it up and stick it in your bed on a cold night, use it to weigh down your hot air balloon. The longer you work at the problem the more interesting your answers will be.
The answers will come slower than the first few, but they’ll be worth the wait. There’s no need to rush your daydreaming. Spend some time exploring all your options, and when you think you’ve run out of ideas push for one more just to see what happens. Your Creativity may surprise you!
Don’t Overthink It
If daydreaming becomes stressful, then you’ve gone wrong somewhere. It should be an inspiring, entertaining, illuminating experience. If you find yourself forcing the thoughts, then step back and let your mind rest.
If there are no thoughts there, then just allow your mind to wander — like an arctic explorer across the snowy tundra (without the polar bears and the possibility that climate change is about to maroon you by slicing off a fresh iceberg beneath your feet).
Perhaps your Creativity needs the blankness of your mind to recuperate so she/he can give you an answer to your writing problem later.
Whatever the results of your daydream, by using these tips you can prime your Creativity full of ideas so when it comes time to sit down and write you’re both ready to get to work!
Tune in next week for a guest post by a fellow writer explaining how she uses ‘what if?’ to solve her writing conundrums.
In the meantime, what are your daydreaming tips? Share them with us in the comments.