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Scheduling a Daydream

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I asked myself what a successful writer would do, how would I spend my day if I was wildly successful, and the answer was to write, but also to daydream.

(I am already successful by so many measures, but by many others, not so much.)

If I’m going to “act as if,” then, I’ll protect my writing time, and make sure the writing gets done. And I’ll daydream.

I need to wander the pathways of my thoughts, without interruption from anyone else’s thoughts. I need to sit in boredom until an answer comes to me. I need to ask “what if?” and then “what would happen next?” and then “but how can I make it rabbits cooking pies?”

I do enjoy: podcasts, online essays, guided meditations via an app, Voxer messages, text messages, movie trailers on YouTube. But I recognize that all of those things get in the way of my daydreaming.

Sometimes I don’t need to daydream. Maybe I have enough to work on or I have already followed a thread of ideas, and I just want to listen to a podcast. Or sometimes, truly, my intuition tells me that there will be information in that podcast that will lead to an idea. But sometimes I want to listen to a podcast because I’m a little bit afraid of where my thoughts would lead. They might tell me to scrap everything I’ve written so far and take the book in a different direction. They might say, “Hey, did you want another idea for novel? No? Too bad, here you go!” and then I know I have to write all of that down. They might give me an idea so huge, so wondrous, that I have no choice but to make it happen, and that’s scary to me. So instead I might put earbuds in, slip my phone into my pocket, and then as soon as the idea comes, the outside messages are throwing dodgeballs at my face to get me to think about something other than the inspiration.

What I need (and I say this not from a place of should and shame but from knowing that this, truly, is what I need): I need to leave my phone behind when I go for a walk, I need to put it in another room when I’m making dinner, when I’m folding laundry, when I’m driving. I need to sit in the silence and see what happens.1


The other day I cut out fabric pieces for a pair of pants I’m making, and I listened to a podcast while I did it. Sure, fine. Except the little voice in my head kept saying, “You know, this would be a great time to let your mind wander.” But I had already pressed play, and felt like I had to see it through to the end. (It’s like — if we eat dinner in front of the television, then dinner takes as long as the television show lasts, but if we eat at the table, dinner takes as long as the human conversation lasts, which sometimes is shorter than the TV show, but it’s at least human-paced.) I’ll never know what idea I might have missed by listening to something. (Maybe nothing, but I’ll never know.)

I will step away from screens if I feel myself getting tired. I will read a book, even if that’s not a “productive” thing to do. I will go for a walk without my phone. I will stare, and think, and trust that the inspiration will come.

I’m doing The Artist’s Way for the second time right now, and in the chapter I just read, Julia Cameron talks about how our acts of creativity are divine magic flowing through us. We open ourselves up to the flow, and we give a gift back to the universe when we listen to the inspiration and act on it. I am extremely good at blocking this flow by staring at my computer monitor instead of staring out the window. Computers are great, but not all day. Not for everything. My brain, though, my creativity, my intuition, the flow of inspiration, that is great for everything, and so I’ll walk with nothing in my pocket and hold my arms open (probably literally) and catch all the ideas that come.

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If you’re looking for a slightly more structured way to schedule in your daydreams, might I suggest The Short Story Project, where we will read short stories and write in response to them? It kicks off next Wednesday and starts in earnest Tuesday, September 12, and is a great way to dip your toe back into focused creative time, with a helpful and supportive group.

Do the Work
Pep talks about writing and creativity, mostly while I'm walking the dog.
Julie Falatko