"Sorry, I was working," I replied.
Working? What kind of work has you staring off into space, daydreaming?
Creativity strikes me at the strangest times. I have already posted an article about how I get some of my best ideas while I'm sleeping. In response to that article, other writers have reported that their ideas come unpredictably while driving, or when stuck in traffic, or in the shower, or when walking the dog, or when they should be busy doing other things.
In addition to getting ideas during those activities, I can also be very creative by doing absolutely nothing at all. Yes, by daydreaming.
Staring off into space is part of a writer's job. If you happen to come across a person who appears to be daydreaming, don't hurry to wake him or her. It could very well be that the daydreamer is a writer, hard at work conceiving plots, characters, and dialogue.
Because I can imagine the intricacies and complexities of my book's story when I'm staring off into space, I make a point not to do this while driving. As I'm working the car in and out of traffic on the way to and from work, I tell myself that I'll plot my novel later, when I'm less likely to cause an accident.
Of course, I don't always schedule a working session on my book at the dinner table. Daydreaming is not necessarily a planned activity. Daydreaming comes whenever the muse strikes. Daydreaming, it turns out, is an important mind exercise and everyone should allow for a bit of staring off into space.
Daydreaming exercises your mental muscle
As Mark Sisson writes on Mark's Daily Apple, "When you daydream ... you’re exercising your mental muscle. You’re honing your critical and creative thinking." He advises everyone (not only writers): "See what comes out of free, spontaneous thinking."
In an article in The New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer writes that "A daydream … is just a means of eavesdropping on those novel thoughts generated by the unconscious. We think we’re wasting time, but, actually, an intellectual fountain really is spurting."
I wonder if he is referring to the same "novel" thoughts that I have when I'm daydreaming!
I was considering what to write as a conclusion to this article, but then I started daydreaming. Please excuse my absentmindedness. I was just being creative in a writer's sort of way.
Writing in My Sleep
Thanks to Richelle E. Goodrich for her permission to use the daydreaming quotations in this article. You can find more information about Richelle, her books and her writing, on her author blog.