Epic Daydreams & Writing

maybe she is dreaming of better days? --- than...
What is she daydreaming about? (maybe she is dreaming of better days? — thank you to my girlfriend for being such a patient model! (Photo credit: Wikipedia))

Once upon a time, I came across a statistic that only 3% of people really daydream. On a recent web search for that statistic, I can’t find any such reference. From what I can find now, everyone daydreams but I wonder if the statistic had to do with the number of people who would pass their time in a persistent daydream, a story that runs its course over several days. I suspect that the 3% figure would be appropriate if one limited it to, for lack of a better phrase, epic daydreams.

I find this interesting because I have always been an epic daydreamer, at least until the last five years or so. In high school, I had a weekend & summer job working in the kitchen of a 200 bed nursing home. That job taught me many things. One was that, working with people from the DC slums, I had really had a blessed life and that my co-workers who came from a different life had their own aspirations, even the 40-year-old alcoholic trying to make a living who was all-in-all, a decent guy with a lot less luck in how he had entered the world. Another thing that sank home was that scrubbing pots was no way to make a living. There’s one guy, about my age, named Napoleon that I still think about. He was more of a history buff than I am. He could give a short bio of every American president. I hope he has done well but I fear he hasn’t. I regret that I didn’t get to know him better. But when I look back at that job, what I really recall is the daydreams that kept me company as I pulled through a mindnumbingly boring job. The details are lost to the fog of decades but a few tatters remain: Diehard-like battles against terrorist in a high-rise (it was a tall nursing home); valiant, doomed-loves; dragons and demons and above all, every possible variant of the Lord of the Rings. All the over-ripe imaginings of a shy high school boy kept me company on that job.

Daydreams kept me company for many years. Over the years they tended to focus on fantasy-epics and could last a few days, sometimes a few weeks if I could find a theme that really appealed. Battling dragons, saving a world, unrequited love, and many other stories rolled through my head. They were particularly good companions for long drives where I could entertain myself for hundreds of miles.

English: Rêverie (Daydream)
Fantasy & daydreams.

But there came a time when the daydreams no longer spoke to me. I could no longer spin a story that didn’t quickly melt into a hundred other dreams I had already had. The mystery, the allure, had faded.

Why? I think it is simple: a daydream is an illicit little guilty pleasure, a confection of desires that can occupy for a while. Once, these confections could entrance for days or even weeks. But after so many daydreams, after so many permutations of my stable of desires, there was no longer enough life, enough mystery left to justify even a short daydream.

Somewhere (again, I can’t find the reference), I read that some researchers had found that eventually sexual daydreams petered out. Sooner or later, people stop contemplating sex. They weren’t willing to speculate as to why; they had only surveyed enough people to know that they gave out somewhere between ages 40 and 60. I know why. There comes a time where it no longer titillates. Just as with my fantasy daydreams, at some point the imagination gives out. There’s nothing new to capture the mind for a few minutes, hours, days. All that is worth dreaming has been dreamt. So what is left? Any empty life, echoing with stale hopes before death finally claims you?

Fortunately, no.

There are the dreams of others; called fiction. Writers offer glimpses into other people’s daydreams and the seeds of new dreams. But there’s more: I came to realize that my dreams were not dead. It is true that trite daydreams of glory, love and sacrifice can no longer occupy me. But the complexity of  a novel could entrance me, and not for days or even a few weeks, but for months.

Writing is better than idle daydreams that drift away into mist before you even know they’re over. Writing is a perpetual daydream that lingers in print long after I can forget the act of capturing it. Hopefully, someday my dreams will entrance readers but even if they don’t they now have enough weight to titillate me for the rest of my life.

My daydreams live once more, richer and fuller than they ever were. Daydreams are a wonderful thing.

Can't have a daydream without dragons!
Can’t have a daydream without dragons!

4 thoughts on “Epic Daydreams & Writing

  1. I needed that. Put a smile on my face and bolstered my resolve.

    Got my ms back and the verdict is not good. The editor’s words have made me decide to shelve my current project indefinitely.

    Sad, yes, but you are right. Writing does occupy my mind like nothing else, and I’ll keep doing it. If only to entertain myself, then so be it.

    1. Sorry to hear about the editor’s feedback. Sometimes the editor just doesn’t see the same story you do. Sometimes it needs some time away and/or a bit more work. And sometimes it is best set aside. I hate the latter choice; it’s like giving up on a child. But it can be the right choice at times. Best of luck with it and glad you liked the post 😉

  2. I, too, once had a boring job. I daydreamed about my Elfquest fan club. But, may I suggest, we often daydream as a way of looking forward to experiences we’ve never had, like a different career or a passionate relationship. Once life goes on, and we actually HAVE those experiences, we no longer need to daydream about them.

    This is substantially different than the “daydreaming” we do as part of our writing, where we’re flexing creative muscles and solving the puzzles of a manuscript. However, in both cases, it seems to me that daydreaming helps our minds prepare for unknown possibilities.

    1. Thanks for the note!

      For me, there’s two types of daydreams: the idle fancies that strike me at any time about almost any topic and the persistent ones where I am basically telling myself a story. The latter I’ve done as long as I can remember and would typicall be carried out over days or even weeks. it is this latter one that has changed for me. After decades of holding my interest, they could no longer engage me but once I redirected that “facility” to writing, they picked up again.

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