When I was young, and I suspect it is still true for many kids today, I was frequently scolded for not paying attention in school. Often that happened when my mind wandered which it seemed to frequently do. But is daydreaming really so bad for us?
In my fictional “Quiet Little Town” story the character named Patrick often falls into daydreaming. When he is young he crawls between the racks of clothes in the department store where his parents shop, losing himself in his own private make-believe world. When he is older there are many scenes in the book where the boy falls into daydreaming to escape the stresses in his life.
The character Patrick in the story is very different from my own son who also happens to be named Patrick. I created the character in the book from my imagination based on real incidents I observed happening to my son as he was growing up, as well as incidents that happened to myself as I was growing up.
The Patrick in the story is an imagined character that struggles with self-confidence especially when faced with stressful situations. In the story, and in real life, daydreaming is a mechanism used to momentarily escape the stresses of daily living. Unfortunately, daydreaming is not viewed positively in many companies today. But there are some exceptions.
Take, for example, Amazon.com. In a recent interview Jeff Bezos, the CEO, said that he can’t take credit for the day-to-day success at Amazon because he spends most of his time daydreaming about what the company will look like years into the future. To further support this positive perspective on daydreaming, according to research published in the Creativity Research Journal daydreaming has been associated with greater creativity in people.
So, this leads to a question:
Is there a way to determine when daydreaming is good for us and when it isn’t?
David B. Feldman, PHD, tells us in an article entitled “Why daydreaming is good for us” appearing in Psychology Today, that one key could be the amount of realism in the daydream.
“Fantasy-based daydreams can lead to disappointment, emphasizing how we wish our lives would be, but aren’t. Realistic daydreams, on the other hand, show us what might actually be possible for our lives. They give us mental practice pursuing important goals before we have to invest any real time or effort.”
When I read this article it struck home with me. My motivation for taking up science fiction writing wasn’t to create stories that are unrealistic. But rather to create stories that are on the edge of being possible in the very near future.
In the story when Patrick’s father, Fred, tells his son,
“You can think of your life as a practice run. A chance to try life out before you go for real,” it isn’t just a fantasy. As the story unfolds it becomes evident this is the realization of Fred’s lifetime dream.
For me, writing science fiction is a natural extension of my own daydreaming that has been part of my life as long as I can remember. It is not a way to escape, but a way to envision, and hopefully influence, the world we will all find ourselves living in tomorrow.