The Importance of Day Dreaming

When I was a kid, I used to hate doing chores. (I mean, what kid doesn’t, honestly?) It was all so tedious and boring, and all that time spent cleaning my room or watering the plants could have been spent reading or biking or something else more interesting.

I never did grow out of my disdain for busywork, but as an adult, I’ve discovered that doing chores—while being a necessary evil—is also one of the few times I have left to daydream and imagine.

So much of adulthood is doing this, doing that, making sure the dog is properly exercised, making sure I remember to register my car and mail in the title to the insurance companies, repairing the faulty water main to our laundry machine, etc. The minutiae of existing takes up a lot of mental real estate. There isn’t a lot of time to daydream, not anymore, or at least, not the way I used to as a child.

I was an only kid for the first ten years of my life, having been mostly raised by my maternal grandmother while both my parents worked their 9 to 5 jobs in finance. My earliest memories are of playing pretend with my stuffed animals in the top floor of our townhouse while my Halmeoni watched her Korean dramas in the living room. (I liked to pretend it was an attic. Growing up in Los Angeles, I mostly lived in houses with crawlspaces instead of attics or basements.) I spent a lot of time alone, making up stories and talking to myself; you have to, as an only kid.

My grandmother had always been good at keeping me mentally engaged; we played a lot Chinese checkers* and solved 3000-piece jigsaw puzzles, but what I always looked forward to was the times when she sat outside and watched me bike round and round our little complex.

There’s something about mindless physical activity that lends itself well to daydreaming. I was a restless child; I fidgeted a lot, and if I weren’t let outside to go biking and rollerskating, then I most often ended up tossing a ball up and down while pacing through each room in the house. I wasn’t particularly hyper or energetic, but there was something about movement that freed my mind to wander through the fantastic stories and scenarios I created. I had a lot of free time to mindlessly pace then; no errands to run, no real responsibilities.

Daydreaming is, I think, essential to the character of the writer. Always following the what ifs, always wondering, always imagining. Daydreaming is where all our stories begin and it’s also the place where we work through them. As adults, it’s hard to find that time to indulge in daydreaming: the kids need to be fed, the dry cleaning picked up, the this, and the that. So much of Life requires our full, undivided attention, but I find myself stealing that time in whatever mindless activity I can now. Washing dishes. Driving to work. Sweeping the floors. Keep my hands busy, and I set my mind free.

But that still doesn’t mean I like doing my chores.

*It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realized she let 5-year-old JJ win most games. I made the mistake of challenging my Halmeoni to a game when I was an adult; she thoroughly trounced me every round.


8 Responses to The Importance of Day Dreaming

  1. Morgyn May 5 2014 at 8:58 am #

    JJ, a great share that brought to the forebrain something I’ve mildly wondered about, but explored. Hands (or body) doing one thing, head somewhere else entirely. I spend an easy hour a day on a treadmill. On the outside, looks like exercise. On the inside, in my current WIP plays. Moving does amazing things to freeing the mind to envision. And showers aren’t too shabby for the same “unlocking mechanism.”

    • JJ May 5 2014 at 9:17 am #

      Yes! I also do a lot of daydreaming and writing on the elliptical machines at the gym too.

  2. Holly May 5 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Running, driving, vacuuming, while in the shower – those are where I do most of my daydreaming and work through my stories. When I was a kid, I never told anyone I made up stories in my head while riding my bike, or doing chores and when I found out later I wasn’t the only one who did this, it made me feel like I was a member of a secret society of imaginative people!

  3. K May 5 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    I tend to do my daydreaming when people are talking and I don’t want to listen or when I’m in boring classes or when I’m doing dishes and I’m listening to music during it. Even when I have to do something important, I would rather daydream about my stories which is a great way of getting past writer’s block.

  4. Evelyn Krieger May 6 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    A life of chronic insomnia has given me plenty of time to “daydream”. As a kid, when I couldn’t fall asleep, that’s when I wrote stories in my head.

  5. Alexa S. May 11 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    I absolutely love that you’ve said that daydreaming is essential to writers. I think so too! It’s always fun to peace out of real life and into a daydream where absolutely anything can happen. I’ve done it often enough on the subway, and it seriously gets me going when it comes to writing!

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