Daydreaming my way, part two

DSC_0221The funny thing about daydreaming is that when you have time to do it, to really let go and lose yourself in some magical forest of discovery, somehow the paths into the forest lead to dead-ends. It is when daydreaming diverts from something that really must be done that the paths open to a mystical tour and you never know where you will end up. Those  commas in the text you are trying so hard to edit become tadpoles swimming in the bucket that you once put them in after fishing them from a canal. The canal becomes a lake, there are boats on it. There are boats too off the Maltese islands where the sun is shining and you are lying on a deck, glass of champagne in your hand. Bubbles rise in the glass and you remember the Bermuda triangle where ships sink because of bubbles rising in the water  and lots of tiny bubbles decrease buoyancy. But that doesn’t explain  planes falling out of the sky or does it? So you just have to look up wiki and on the way you find an article on the universe and download some pictures from the Hubble because they are so beautiful and relaxing, and evocative of something but what? Hey this one reminds you of jellyfish, stained glass colours in indigo oceans and what was that tune about indigo skies, and suddenly it is lunchtime and where has the morning gone?

Daydreaming is about your inner stream of consciousness where your mind of its own accord wanders from thought to thought, memory to memory making connections and associations that allow us to see things in novel ways. Daydreaming underpins creativity but is not in itself productive. Creative people are those who are able to harness their daydreaming, and steer it towards a tangible outcome, or snatch ideas in passing like forest fruits from the meandering pathways of fertile imagination. Creative people follow roaming thoughts to see where they lead but creativity comes not so much by accident as by design. Invention results from creative and experimental thinking. If rising bubbles sink ships, what happens in the air that sinks planes? If I change the character in my story from a girl to a boy would he think differently? Will my house be warmer if I grow a garden on my roof? How will smoked fish taste if I eat it with my fruit salad (the canteen had run out of plates, and yes it was delicious). Was salty caramel a lucky accident, and did that blogger who enjoyed cheese sauce on his apple pie discover it by design or error?

The difference between daydreaming your way passively through life and being productively creative is knowing when to let your thoughts wander, and when to switch off the dreaming channel and focus on the task at hand. Creative people are dreamers, true, but creative people are also task oriented, motivated to get things done and see the results of their creativity. Creative people are able to balance their dreaming with focused activity, harness ideas from their dreams and make something of them. I wonder why these lessons are so hard to learn. There I go again, off at another tangent.

DSCN1869This month has not been very dreamy for me as you can probably see from the lack of new posts. This has been a month of focused, task oriented activity. Reporting, marking, processing, form-filling, and  solving everyone else’s problems. Daydreaming does not pay the mortgage. Not Yet. 

Daydreaming my way into 2015

t5-720x512I have always been a dreamer. Mind like a butterfly my mother used to say. Flitting from one thing to another. Asking seemingly random questions – in the midst of arithmetic – why do tadpoles become frogs? Why did I ask at that precise point? Perhaps because the commas between the integers looked like tadpoles, and the next lesson, my favourite, would be about nature.

And so I have spent my life thinking about the next thing, or the last thing, or things that connect with other things but not about this thing that I should be concentrating on at this moment in time. My teacher was not happy with the daydreaming. She is depressed, she wrote on my report one year. So everyone tried to make me focus, keep my mind on the task, keep eating until my dinner was finished, keep on with the homework. Eventually and thankfully they gave up. Daydreaming makes life so much more colourful, but I have always tried to switch it off  when I find myself squandering away my time, or forget what it is I am supposed to be doing, or what our conversation is about.

It was during a guilty moment, when I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing, that Scott Barry Kaufman’s (2011) article snared me and pulled me back into focus. His research found that daydreamers are more creative, and able to keep nightdreaming running while at the same time concentrating [of a fashion] on various tasks. People with this ability are less able to resist distraction, but are able to keep their internal stream of consciousness (dreaming state) running whilst doing relatively complex things. This enables them to make connections between objects, processes, thoughts and tasks that would not be possible if the dreaming state was completely switched off. Creativity therefore seems to rely on the brain’s internal dialogue making connections between normally unrelated things in novel and interesting ways. So the next time you catch me daydreaming, please don’t distract me, I am mentally composing my next masterpiece. If only it could find its way onto a page.