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How to make a daydream

Daydreaming is my favourite hobby and my default state. I’ve always done it. What better, when the real world insists on being stupid, than to pop somewhere else?

If you’re wondering what’s in a daydream, based only on my experience, it’ll be a really cool version of you in a made-up or re-imagined scenario, with fictional or redrafted other people/ animals/ aliens/ ghosts/ talking tech. You do whatever cool-you would do in that situation, possibly backing up and trying again if that doesn’t work out so well.

It feels like a good habit, one that limbers up my creativity. Apparently, by which I mean, Mr Google says, The Science backs me up on this, it also says daydreaming:

  • Beefs up my problem solving.

  • Buffs up my memory.

  • Helps me explore other possible perspectives.

  • Makes me a black belt at filtering out distractions.

  • Gives me access to my subconscious (THE LAND WHERE THE STORIES COME FROM).

  • Reduces stress and blood pressure.

It seems we should all daydream more. It might make the real world less stupid.

Stuff we‘ll need to get out of the way first: immediate occupations, imminent deadlines, people interacting with us, the internet. Oh, and responsibility for dangerous machinery.

What we’ll need to get started: a fact, idea, observation, sensation or memory.

For example, I’m walking somewhere. Something I see or hear or recall will start bouncing around in my brain, provoking associations and imaginings. Unless interrupted, my attention skips away after them. The next thing I know, I’ve arrived at my real-world destination, unsure how I really got there, but with the sense of having completed some grand adventure of my own devising.

Any kind of travel is a great place to daydream in. It doesn’t have to be far. There are impressions to process and time to waste. It is the best thing about travelling on trains: the anonymity, the carriage swaying and rhythmic clatter provide the perfect conditions.

There is a downside to daydreaming in public: popping back out with a comic facial expression, or laughing, or speaking. Not everybody understands what’s going on, poor things.

If, for this reason, you’d rather do your dreaming at home, I recommend taking a shower. The enclosed space, warmth, soft percussion, the extractor fan’s hum, for me they make dreaming inevitable. My husband listens for the silence, checks for the swaying shadow behind the curtain, rescues me before I dissolve entirely.

Still stuck? Then let’s put ourselves inside a film or a book, into one of the moments that intrigues us, see what we'd do. Or go inside a piece of music. Long orchestral pieces make for epics. Modern stuff works too, usually it’s a lyric that starts things off, but the next song might blink you out: beware shuffle. I find that songs in languages I don’t understand but imagine I do work splendidly. Some favourite daydream tunes include:

  • Lemon Jelly, Lost Horizons (for the absurd, or sci-fi).

  • The Goldberg Variations (because deep calm).

  • Sidney Bechet, Rose Room (noir daydreams).

  • Beethoven’s 9th (victory fantasies).

  • Orchestra Boabab, Pirates Choice (tropical jaunts).

  • Machito and his Afro Cuban Orchestra (retro-styled capers).

Stuff to avoid when daydreaming (IMHO): forcing it, directing it, determining a purpose for it. I also advise against telling anyone where you just went and what you just did. Unless, of course, it's the basis for your next book.

Bon voyage, my lovelies.

Thanks to Tony Gaitskell for the pic, and for not minding that I'm often having two adventures at once.

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