Is writing down your daydreams helpful?

I have a story in my head. A detailed, intricate, compelling, exciting story. If I had the skills to write it down exactly the way I see it in my mind, it would make a great novel. But I will never share it with the world. I don’t have the writing skills to do it justice. And it would feel far too personal. But are there any benefits to writing down your daydreams, even if you never show anyone?

Why you shouldn’t write it down

Before we get into the benefits of writing down your daydreams, I want to say one thing. Do NOT write down your daydreams if it will make you feel bad about yourself. That’s never going to be helpful.

If I were to try to write down my daydream, I would get intensely frustrated that I can’t make my characters come alive on the page in the way they do so naturally in my imagination. I’d start wondering why this end-of-the-world scenario that I’ve been playing with for 20 years is so captivating. And I’d quickly spiral into being very judgmental and self-critical about my daydreaming.

If you think your daydreams would be rubbish as a novel, that’s perfectly OK. We’re not all novelists-in-waiting. What you daydream about is your business. It doesn’t have to be a captivating story. It doesn’t even have to make sense. And if writing it down will mean you start judging it through the eyes of a hypothetical reader, it’s probably best not to.

So, when should you consider writing down your daydreams?

To move on when you get stuck

One reason I don’t want to write down my daydream is that I don’t want to create one final “right” version. I like experimenting. I like to tweak little details of the plot and see how the new version plays out. But sometimes you might not want that. If you have one scene that’s taken over your daydreams to the exclusion of all else, you might want to unstick it so you can move on. Writing it down might help you do that. It’s similar to journalling or doing a brain dump. Once you’ve allowed your mind to express whatever it needs to express, it might just let you choose the direction of your daydreams again.

To analyse themes

I have a sci-fi paracosm, so my daydreams are not a representation of how I’d like my life to be. Even if my daydreams were physically possible, I don’t think I’d want the life I give my daydream self. There’s way too much drama in it, because, after all, that’s what makes a good story. But that doesn’t mean that the content of my daydreams is completely irrelevant to my real life.

Our daydreams can be a window into our subconscious mind. They’re one way our subconscious sends us messages. But those messages rarely, if ever, come through as a literal depiction of what we need to know. They come through as emotions and metaphors. It usually takes a bit of work to understand what our daydreams are telling us. And sometimes, writing down what you daydream about might make the message easier to see. If you notice the same themes coming up again and again, you might choose to reflect on whether those themes are relevant to something you need to work on in reality.

To create something tangible

Spending several hours lost in a daydream can feel like time wasted. Society puts a lot of pressure on us to be productive all the time. It’s one of the reasons daydreaming is so stigmatised. But if you write down your daydreams, you might feel you’re being productive. You’re using your creativity to produce a tangible result. So you’re no longer wasting time; you’re writing.

If you write because you want to share your daydreams with the world – even if it’s fanfiction or you only intend to show a few friends – then this argument makes a lot of sense. But if you’re like me and you don’t want anyone else to know what you daydream about, ever, then writing it down isn’t being productive. It’s just daydreaming in a different form.

To enjoy it

But writing down your daydreams doesn’t have to serve some deeper purpose. You might decide to write it down because you enjoy it. Maybe there’s something deeply fulfilling about seeing your words on the page. Maybe your characters feel more alive when you read back what you’ve written. Perhaps you’d be incredibly proud of yourself if you wrote the entire story and had tens of thousands of words saved on your computer. Maybe you could see it as a project, and celebrate when you see it through to the end.

I’ve never written down what I daydream about, but many daydreamers do. It’s a personal decision. If it’s something you want to experiment with, there are many potential benefits. And you have nothing to lose. If you don’t like what you’ve written, you can always burn the paper or delete the file. Your daydream world will still be there, safe and sound, in your imagination.

2 thoughts on “Is writing down your daydreams helpful?”

  1. I should look at this webpage, as my brother advised, and he was entirely right. You have no idea how much time I spent looking for this information, but this post made my day.

    1. I’m so pleased, not only that you found the post helpful, but that your brother advised you to look for information. So many daydreamers never discuss their daydreaming with anyone, but you clearly have someone in your life that understands, or is trying to understand. And that’s so valuable!

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