The In-Between: Why It’s Good to Daydream (How to Earn a Career in Writing, Part 7)

Be open to new ideas.

You can picture it in your mind. All of it.

It’s different for everyone – maybe you see yourself sitting at a table, signing some books. Maybe you picture arriving on a website and seeing your story on the home page. Maybe you can see yourself just living comfortably, making a living doing this writing thing, happy.

We all daydream. We think about what we want, what it will feel like when we finally get there.

What are you doing as you’re losing yourself in these imaginary futures? Struggling through late nights so you can get enough writing in before you have to go to sleep, only to wake up before the sun tomorrow so you can get to your day job on time? Wondering why you have to take this random class you don’t care about just so you can get a degree? Submitting pitch after pitch, always hearing nothing or having to face rejection – again?

Maybe you try to keep yourself busy … because the thought of never actually getting what you want is just too much to deal with.

Maybe you need to just take things slow … and let your brain work its magic.

Because while it’s true that you can’t succeed without first working harder than you ever have before, you can end up crushing your creativity under the weight of your stress if you aren’t careful.

You need to give yourself time to think, time to plan, time to dream.

Television writer Emma Koenig puts it like this:

“When you give up external stimulation for a minute, your brain is freed to stimulate itself… That is exactly when you are going to have your amazing idea. That is when you are going to decide you want to try something new. That is when you are going to talk yourself into doing something you are afraid of.” (Hustle Economy, p. 67)

So it’s late at night, you’re tired from your job, you’re too wired to write – yet your mind is racing and you can’t sleep. Daydream.

You’re bored during class, you feel like you have a decent grasp on the material yet you still have to sit there and wait. Daydream.

It’s lunch time, you have about 20 minutes to submit another pitch to another busy editor, but you’re feeling low on ideas. Daydream.

Don’t just sit around and wonder what success might look like for you. Think about what you need to do to create it. There’s a Big Idea in there somewhere, waiting for you to notice it. Take a moment to sit back, to let your thoughts run around. It will appear. You will recognize it. It will change everything.

I get my best ideas for posts and articles when I have a slow freelancing day. Ideas pop up when I’m working, too, but I give myself a lot more down time than I used to. It’s necessary for creativity to thrive.

You know where you want to be – and if you don’t, you need to give yourself time to think hard about what you really want. It takes time to figure out how you’re going to get from where you are to whichever daydream sticks the most in your mind. It takes strategy and pro-con lists and all this brain power you’re using up just trying to make it through the day.

I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s not what you want to hear – but maybe instead of always worrying about what you’re supposed to be writing, and complaining about how you’re spending hours upon hours doing something other than writing, you should just stop. No TV, internet, phone – just stop. Just exist. Face your thoughts. Be open to new ideas. Be honest with yourself.

If you really want this to work out, it’s going to take some serious balancing of effort and brain stimulation-only time. Can you do that? The better question is – will you try?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.