How Much Daydreaming is too Much?

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As a child in school, I spent hours wool-gathering during classes. Many teachers despaired for my academic future, and I would get comments on my report cards such as, “Dreams too much.” That one is actually a verbatim comment.

How much daydreaming is too much?

To be sure, daydreaming hampered my ability to understand algebra and trigonometry, but in hindsight, I feel that even had I paid attention I would not have understood these subjects. The part of the brain that understands mathematic formulas and figures dropped out of school before it even began, at the kindergarten level. Instead, its cousin, the part of the brain that could read well and make pictures in my head went into overdrive. If there was an academic award for imagination, I would have aced it.

My English teachers loved me. I wrote essays, short stories and compositions, that were read out loud to the rest of the class. It did not make me popular, but my reputation was always redeemed again during arithmetic and math classes. But this was where I earned the scorn and fury of teachers. We did not have great teachers, obviously (unless they taught English). It was the 1950’s and ‘60’s, and corporal punishment was encouraged. I had been whacked with rulers and hit by flying erasers or chalk too many times to count. None of it helped me understand math. My parents weren’t sympathetic. (But that is another blog for later–about the ’50’s: “What was it really like?“)

I didn’t like science much. Too many facts and figures, not to mention the gross smells. Science class turned into a mad scientist’s lab, and I conjured up visions of monsters being created. Maybe this is where Mary Shelley got her inspiration from for her novel, Frankenstein. It’s probably where I got my monsters from for my fantasy novels.

My math teachers were monsters with claws and big teeth. I was always the heroine who rescued my fellow-students from the hideous creature that drooled and roared up at the chalk-board.

Daydreaming was my escape. There is a saying, one man’s day dream is another man’s novel. Since I knew I’d never grow up to be a scientist or engineer, or even an astronaut, I felt it wasn’t a waste of my time to daydream during class. It has paid off. Unfortunately, not in money. If money is your thing, aim for the astronaut or engineer, or even the burger flipper at the local fast food joint. With the latter, you might still make more money than the average author.

But if it is your dream to write books, and I mean books of fiction, then there is no need to feel inferior to your fact-based friends. I must just caution you, be smarter than I was about your daydreaming. Teachers no longer physically assault students, but they can still write sarcastic comments in your report card. Pay attention. Try to understand the incomprehensible, and work around it. Find a time to daydream where it will not cause problems for you.

Academia is important to all of us, especially writers. We want to be able to understand the incomprehensible just as much as anyone because you never know when you may need it in a novel you are writing. Being smart makes you a better writer! One can have the most amazing inspiration for an excellent story, but being unable to translate that into something someone wants to read requires work. It requires a basic or better understanding of language, syntax, grammar and spelling. Don’t let yourself down on these subjects.