In Defense of Daydreaming

People often ask writers where they get their ideas, a question I’ve always found interesting. What do you mean where do I get them? I don’t get them anywhere. They come to me. This isn’t to say they’re all generated by my mind from thin air. They’re a mix of day-to-day observations, knowledge gained from researching an interesting subject, and my own internal angst about something. But it usually starts with daydreaming.

As I was thinking about this post my mind began to wander. I went from daydreaming about being a bestselling author, to thinking about being Ernest Hemingway, to his quote about writing the truest sentence you know, to writing my own truest sentence in my head, to giving that sentence to a character. And now I have a book idea about a villainous puppeteer.

I wasn’t purposely looking for a new novel idea. It just came to me as I let my mind wander.

daydreaming meme

And it’s not just about coming up with book ideas. Here are some of my recent daydreams:

-Create YouTube channel with as many followers as John Green. Then sell as many books as him. Then be famous.

-Not only make a book trailer for my book, but also create a music video where I dance with the very famous actors who will star in the movie based on my book. (Don’t worry. I’ve got the choreography all figured out.)

-Open my own animal sanctuary and have hundreds of cats, squirrels, or whatever animal crawls/flies/swims its way into my heart.

-Learn to sail and then sail around the world. I’ve already envisioned what our boat will look like and what I’ll be wearing.

-Make dioramas of Chapstick tubes dressed to look like characters from movies and TV shows. This project is thoroughly sketched out, complete with caption ideas and props. I’ve got Jaws, The Breakfast Club, Poltergeist, Dexter, The Vampire Diaries… It’s going to be epic.

In some cases, I’ve taken the daydreaming a step further to actual planning and goal setting. But if we’re being honest, it’s likely I won’t actually accomplish all of these things.

So I think the next logical question is:

Well, if I’m not actually going to do all of these things, is it a waste of time to daydream about them?

I say no.

I believe daydreams help to shape my present and future. Maybe they provide me with tools I’ll use in the future, allow me to practice possible scenarios in my head, and identify possible tactics and solutions. They help me define my goals and figure out who I want to be in the future.

And for every handful of daydreams, I know I will make some of them come true:

-One day, I woke up and decided to write a book. I daydreamed about it, came up with a plan, and I actually did it.

-Logan realized that he loved woodworking. He daydreamed about it. I daydreamed about it for him (because I’m really good at it), and we decided he should quit his job and we should move to Maine so he could attend furniture-making school. We daydreamed, we planned, we moved. And here we are.

maine freeway sign

It was much warmer when we arrived…

And I know that while some daydreams won’t come true, they might lead to something else.

-Perhaps I never find the time to make my Chapstick dioramas, but maybe a character in one of my books does.

lip balm

I’ve already begun to collect them!

-Maybe I never have a hit music video with my famous actor friends, but I create a video of well choreographed dancing cats that I post to YouTube and use the proceeds to start that animal sanctuary.

cats sleeping

You guys better put your dancing shoes on.

So I say indulge in your daydreams–you never know what might come of it. And to the people who say daydreaming is a waste of time, I say pfft… where’s your story idea for a villainous puppeteer? Or more importantly, where’s your dancing cat video?

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35 thoughts on “In Defense of Daydreaming

  1. lindsaycummingswrites says:

    I too am a lover and believer in day dreaming. I don’t think I could function or accomplish anything without it. It has also created my distaste for electronics. They pilfer from our creativity and keep us from day dreaming. They keep us in a trance of useless and thoughtless information.

    I say this as I just got off of my Facebook page.

    I seriously need to see your chapstick scenes!! Please! It sounds so amazing! You could use those instead of pictures in your blog! It’s so you:)

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      I read an article that said people in a study were given the option of sitting in a room with nothing, including their smart phones, for fifteen minutes or to be given a mild electrical shock. Most people chose the shock! I’d be choosing the fifteen minutes–there’s lots of daydreaming that could happen in those fifteen minutes.

      Yes, I really want to do the Chapstick scenes. Maybe when I get back we can do some together. I can already picture them with little fangs 🙂

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    Hear hear. Wonderfully said. Thought is the start of all action, after all. When it comes to writing, thinking things through in our mind is often as valuable as actually sitting down to type it out. So I’m with you–daydream away. Just perhaps not while we’re driving in heavy traffic. 😉

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      Thanks, Carrie! Yeah, the other day I was daydreaming in the shower and I couldn’t remember if I’d shampooed or shampooed and conditioned. It’s probably best I wasn’t behind the wheel 🙂

  3. Trent Lewin says:

    You, my friend, are a dreamer. And that is fantastic. I agree, writing ideas just land… often when I’m in the shower, thinking about nothing. Then they materialize. I really need a whiteboard in there, but that might defeat the purpose.

    I admire you guys for making changes and moving and following your daydreams, whatever comes of them. You cannot go wrong with that approach, even if you end up doing something different in the end. I think this is the most courageous thing you can do, actually.

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      Yeah, shower and doing the dishes both work for me. Maybe it’s something about the water.

      It’s been scary at times, and kinda sucky sometimes, and I’m sure it will be for some time, but we couldn’t go on the way we were before. It was killing us and then, well, what’s the point?

  4. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    I agree that daydreaming is important. There was a thing on NPR about how being on our phones all the time has eliminated boredom and it hurts our creativity. I agree. I get my best ideas from daydreaming.

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      I believe it. I love my phone and I think the technology is great in so many ways, but it’s become a crutch in so many ways: when I can’t remember, you know, the name of the person that was on that show; when I’m by myself in a social situation and I need to look like I’m doing something; when I’m watching a TV show and it just isn’t interesting enough, so I have to surf the web at the same time.

      • Jeff | Planet Bell says:

        I am making an effort to cut down on my online time and use it more efficiently. I too have been known to be “watching” tv and surfing the web. That just isn’t good.

        Check out Pico Iyers Ted Talk about this topic. He makes some interesting points, and you get to hear his cool accent.

        • Jennifer Windram says:

          I just watched it and it took all my power not to play on my phone at the same time. Sigh.

          Yes, he makes great points and his accent was awesome 🙂 I liked his commentary on bedtime and checking those messages just one last time. I always do this – right before I read, then again after. Then again if I can’t fall asleep right away. I obviously have a problem…

          • Jeff | Planet Bell says:

            It appears you have a problem. You should probably look at WedMD and other intent sources to see if you can find any help. Maybe you could ask in an online forum for help. Make sure and check for responses often though since it is important to communicate with people offering help online. I’d make sure and check right before going to bed.

  5. roughwighting says:

    I am a BIG daydreamer from day one. In fact I can even remember daydreaming when I was a toddler. And as a teenager. And… well, daydreaming is up there with writing and reading – all three are essential for creativity and happiness in living. 🙂

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      Wow, daydreaming as a toddler. I don’t know that I can go that far back, but I remember doing it all the time in grade school. I think some of it comes from my mom. If I would go to her and say I was bored, she would always say, “boring people are bored,” and then I would find a way to entertain myself, usually making up some sort of game, daydream, imaginary friend…

  6. M. C. Dulac says:

    A well argued defence for the essential right of daydreaming. I do like the idea of the villainous puppeteer. The cats look like they may need some encouragement though if they are going to be in that dancing video.

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      Yes, the cats are going to be a little hard to motivate. Maybe if I entice them with some catnip.

      The villainous puppeteer – I’m totally doing this. After I finish the other million books in my to be written queue 🙂

  7. Kate Loveton says:

    I’ve spent my life daydreaming! I’m a ‘daydream believer’! As an old James Bond theme song goes, ‘you only live twice – one life for yourself and one for your dreams.’ 😀 Great post.

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      So true! I certainly couldn’t be a writer if I daydream, but I also think the rest of my life would suffer if I didn’t daydream. It helps me figure out who I want to be and what I want to do.

  8. heatherbcosta says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with daydreaming or being a daydreamer, as long as one remembers to close their mouth while doing so. I have an unfortunate habit of getting so caught up in a daydream that my lower jaw often drops. When the drool starts running down my chin, I know that it’s time to ‘wake up’ so to speak…. 🙂

  9. julie says:

    Jennifer. I have been thinking of you so often. Then I get here and find this post, written on my birthday and so totally relate. I have a big ranch in Montana or Wyoming (of course my kids are with me). Big. Where I also have my animal sanctuary, and big open skies and lots of nice land with a big ole home that is grand but also comfy and a couple of good friends who live nearby but not too near. They worry about us when the weather gets bad or something, and we do holidays and fun get togethers often. But not too often.

    Sometimes I go south. Maybe Georgia or Alabama. On my plantation. Again the animals are there,(the kids go without saying you know) with a similar cast of characters. Maybe west. San Diego. Hawaii. (those are my “Igotwaytoomuchmoneywhatshouldidowithitnow?” fantasies. They usually include multiple homes, boats, and various toys. Occasionally, I sell everything and buy an RV. Me and the kids and the critters see the continent.

    I hope you are doing well, that you will see grass soon, and that you are happy. Clearly you are, just a little too busy for the Chapstick dioramas..

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      Hi Julie, Wow I can’t believe this comment has been here for two months and I haven’t responded. I’m terrible! All of those sound like fabulous ideas – and you could have some well traveled critters if you go the RV route 🙂

      I’ve been super busy revising my novel and had to do way more revisions than I anticipated, so I’ve been buried in that. Logan is almost finished with school and then we’ll be off to Cape Cod to work for the summer and then likely back to Denver. I’ll be posting a blog post soon 🙂

  10. librarylady says:

    Hi Jennifer! I daydreamed about having a blog and look what happened. Unfortunately now I neglect it, but it did happen. Still freelancing and loving it – though taxes were brutal. Hope all is well with you.

    • Jennifer Windram says:

      Oh, yes, the taxes for my consulting business are a total pain. I’ve obviously been neglecting my blog too. I’m trying to get through some major revisions on the novel before it’s due back to my editor. I’m glad you’re loving the freelancing. Sounds like it’s keeping you really busy 🙂

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