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Productive Daydreaming

(Cross-posted from Daydream Believer)

You might have guessed from the title of this blog that I do a lot of daydreaming. Or not–I guess you might have just thought I was a Monkees fan. Or a Neil Diamond fan. Or just a fan of that one song. I do quite like the song, actually. Not only is it probably the most widely-known of the very small handful of songs with my name in them, but I identify even more with it because I do tend to be sleepy quite often, and to need cheering up on occasion. The part about the homecoming queen, however, couldn’t be LESS about me. I mean, I was once crowned the 8th grade Autumn Carnival Queen for selling the most prize drawing chances, but that was more about nerd achievement than popularity. Digression, you are an unwieldy muse.

Back to the topic of day dreaming: I do a lot of it, as already stated. I also tend to feel a lot of guilt about it. This guilt was ingrained early and deeply by well-meaning teachers who thought I was staring out the window due to sheer laziness, wishing I could go outside and play instead of paying attention and doing my schoolwork. They had no idea that I was secretly Making Plans, or telling myself stories. They never did manage to break me of the habit; to this day, if there is a window, I will stare out of it and think, and plan, and make up stories. All they succeeded in doing was giving me a major guilt complex about it.

I’ve been working to shed that complex most of my adult life, ever since I decided that Making Things Up And Writing Them Down was what I wanted to do for a living. I’ve pretty well succeeded at that when it comes to writing. I had to. For a writer, daydreaming is pretty much a job requirement. I’ve been marginally less successful in other creative areas, but I do keep a creative journal and give myself occasional “sanctioned daydreaming” periods in which I write down my ideas.

It never even occurred to me to apply that same principle to my virtual assistant business. Yesterday, I sat here for I don’t know how long, daydreaming about The Task Wrangler and thinking about how I can build and market it. I came up with several ideas, but I didn’t write a single one of them down. Instead, when I was done, I just felt guilty over “wasted time” that could have been spent doing instead of thinking.

I’ve been following this new blog, The Creative Life, where the other day I read this (emphasis mine):

I have a need to barf out stuff that’s on my mind, though, which might lead you to the impression I get a lot done. Mostly I think a lot about getting things done, and about things in general. I’m actually working on allowing myself to recognize all that pondering as productive, but it’s a good week when I get actual things done on more than one project. (Link to the post)

And that is me. Every single word of it, except for the bolded part about allowing myself to recognize thinking as a productive activity. I can do it for the creative parts of my life–why not for the working part?

We pretend to have a lot of regard for Thinkers in our culture, but really, what we respect most are the Doers, the Action People, the ones who Get Stuff Done, and that’s what we all aspire to be. But action without thought tends to be pointless at best, and can be potentially disastrous. Thinking is a necessary precursor to acting. But the problem with thinking is that to an outside observer, it looks just like sitting around and doing a whole lot of nothing. It looks lazy.

I need to get over that. For one thing, I’m no longer sitting in a cubicle where my boss passes by twenty times a day. I’m my own boss, in my own home, and nobody’s around to catch me sitting here thinking and leap to the conclusion that I’m being unproductive. For another, I know that I’m not. I’m actually doing something, and when I’m done it’s okay if I don’t have anything to show for it except a list of ideas and notes on how to implement them. I just need to stop relying on my brain to store that list, take a cue from my creative endeavors, and start writing them down.

From now on, I’m going to keep a third notebook handy. I already have one for writing ideas, and one for home, craft and web design stuff. The new one will be for my business, and when I catch myself daydreaming about that topic, out it will come, and that daydreaming will be a productive, guilt-free action.

Now if my thoughts drift to winning the lottery and spending the rest of my life as a care-free ex-pat sipping fruity cocktails on a Caribbean beach… zuh, what? Oh, right. Sorry. So yes, I recognize that there’s a limit to how much daydreaming is actually useful. But I hereby grant myself permission to stop being afraid to take time out to ponder. And if it helps, dear reader, I hereby grant you the same permission.

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