Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Daydreaming and the Mundane Mind

Sometimes I am amazed at what other people don't know, like this:

Surprise! Daydreaming Really Works the Brain
Got a tough problem to solve? Try daydreaming.</p>

Contrary to the notion that daydreaming is a sign of laziness, letting the mind wander can actually let the parts of the brain associated with problem-solving become active, a new study finds.

For me, daydreaming is one of my heavy-lifting mental processes, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. It's one of the most powerful things I do. There's a certain part of my mind that I disengage for this, but otherwise, almost everything that I am comes on line at full steam. The impression of speed and weight and flight is tremendous. Imagine a locomotive ... with wings. That's what I was doing the other day when I knocked out 5000+ words of story, and then more or less collapsed because my body couldn't keep up with my brain. It's exhilirating.

That version really only works when I'm writing. I can do a lesser but still very useful version for problem-solving or brainstorming. And I can warn people that the more you use your imagination and your daydreaming, the stronger they get -- and there are drawbacks to that. Worrying is essentially an extrapolative function, and the stronger your imagination, the worse the tendency to worry and the harder it is to stop. Also, the stronger your imagination and the more powerful the lateral connections, the harder it is to choose the focus of your creativity or attention and the harder it is to keep focused on a particular thing. Like a huge free-spinning engine, it wants to whiz around like crazy. Most of the time I can exert a reasonable amount of control, but sometimes it just zooms off in a direction of its own and all I can do is hold on for dear life. And sometimes the power steering goes out and I am left trying to manhandle the monster engine by brute force, which is exhausting.

Now, I'm okay with this arrangement. I realized early on what was happening and a fair bit of why, and decided that I was willing to pay the price. That sort of awareness seems to come naturally to a certain flavor of writer. But I could well imagine more mundane folks being caught wholly off-guard after some well-meaning attempts to teach them brainstorming techniques caused their worrying to increase or their focus to waver.

So if you're working to develop things inside your own head, pay close attention to them, not just the intended effects, but the side effects. Sometimes there are ways to ameliorate the side effects, but if they're innate to the objective -- caused by the same force you desire for some other reason -- then you will either have to cope with them or give up on your goal. You'll be better equipped to make the right decision if you know what's going on in your head.
Tags: personal, science, writing
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