Can’t Write? Daydream Instead

If you’re anything like me, you try to set aside a certain amount of time each day to smash out words.  You set goals, allocate the time, and hope when the appointed hour comes you deliver.   With that being said, there have been plenty of times I sit down to start writing and suddenly feel detached from the story.  No ideas come.  I can’t even picture how my protagonist would talk.  The dialogue becomes generic.  The descriptions comical.  The heart of the story is falling apart in front of me.

It’s painful,  and I think we’ve all been there.  Maybe you are there right now. Here’s an idea.  Stop writing, and start daydreaming.


I never put much stock into the idea of visualization until I was trained to use it myself. One of the most stressful training evolution’s I ever experienced was something called drown-proofing.  In a pool, with supervision, you are pushed into 14-foot water with your wrists velcro strapped behind your back and your feet velcro strapped together.  The feel of constraint and the need for air become priority.  Humans aren’t meant to be tied up and tossed into water.  Panic sets in.  Panic causes you start consuming the oxygen bottled up in your lungs even faster.  Now you are choking.  Struggling to get to the surface.  You are going to drown.

Drown Proofing.jpgIf you do what you are trained to do, you simply blow the air out of your lungs causing yourself to become less buoyant.  You then begin gliding down to the bottom of the pool.  Your feet touch the bottom and you squat down.  With all of your strength you explode from the bottom of the pool upward.  If you do it right, you head peeks out of the water gently, you take a breath, and you start descending back down.  It becomes rhythmic, almost trance like.  Big breath of air.  Slowly blow it out as you comfortably sink.  Explode upwards.  Take a breath.  Start blowing it out as you sink.  Over and over.

The first time I did this I failed.  Into the water I went.  Panic ensued.  I was too scared to blow out my precious air so I bobbed awkwardly until I started becoming neutrally buoyant (floating about four feet below the surface) with no means of propulsion.  I would rip the velcro straps and flee to the surface.

The second time I did it, I failed.

drowning.jpgBefore the third attempt an instructor took me aside and talked to me about visualization. He asked me why I couldn’t do this while the other people could.  Why was I failing?  I told him it was mostly because I was panicking.  I just wasn’t getting enough pool time to get comfortable. That’s when he said I should train more in my head. He said something along the lines of, “You can take your brain anywhere to train.”

That night while laying in my bed, I visualized myself on the edge of the pool.  The coolness of the air, the burning scent of the chlorine, the texture of the straps around my wrists and ankles.  I stepped into the pool.  I imagined myself being calm.  Blowing out all the air in my lungs as bubbles floated to the surface.  I watched myself sink lower and lower.  I felt my feet touch the bottom.  I exploded up.  I glided straight back up to the surface.  I felt my head breaking the water.  I sucked in big breath as momentum stopped and then began sinking back down.  I thought about it until I fell asleep.

The next day I went to drown-proofing, stepped into the water, and completed the drill with no issues.

daydreaming gentleman.jpgHere’s the takeaway.  When it came time to execute,  I failed every time.  My mental reality controlled my physical success.  But when I went into dreamland and visualized success, my mental reality shifted.  This produced the desired results.

This can be used when you write.  Often times what’s blocking the words is your mental wall.  Or, put another way, your mental reality is preventing the physical manifestation of your craft – words on paper.  This can be from a lot of physical things (i.e. not enough sleep, lack of nutrition, wrong writing environment) but it can also be a disconnect between the whirlpool of mental creation and your fingers.

Visualization and daydreaming can help you reconnect that bridge.  If you haven’t thought through the story well enough and the ideas are forming as you write, this can cause you to stumble.  The analytic act of writing (i.e. grammar, sentence structure, punctuation) can compete with the act of creation.

Instead of taking your laptop and skipping it into a lake like a rock, take moment to daydream.  Don’t just think about the story – disappear into it.  Experience it as your characters do.  See what they see and feel.  Move forward with them.  Once the path seems clearer, return to the monotony of typing or writing.

results.jpgSo many writers are totally result oriented.  I know I am to a certain degree.  “If I don’t write X number of words I will have to go to the temple and beg the writing gods for forgiveness.”  We are scared to spend our limited writing time, not writing.  If you have to spend one writing session just sitting around thinking – that’s not the end of the world.  Especially if the result is you being able to crush it during the next session because you’ve hacked a path through the mental jungle with a machete.

Still think the idea is garbage?  Search information about the daydreamers Albert Einstein, Issac Newton, and Nikola Tesla.  The list of daydreamers is long and distinguished.  Add yourself to the list!

That’s it for today.  Are you a daydreamer?  Do you have a certain method of visualization you employ?  I’d love to hear about – drop me a line in the comment box.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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24 responses

    • Sounds like it’s your way of keeping a strong connection with your creative side. I’m very similar. As always, thanks for reading and posting.


    • It’s something that works for me at the very least. Hopefully you find some success with it as well. If we aren’t writing we can at least dedicate time to thinking about it. Best of luck to you! Thanks for reading and the kind words.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Great post! There is also the “gratitude challenge,” (I thought I could linky, but here it is instead: where you stop obsessing over HOW you will get to your goals and, instead, focus on how you will FEEL when you’ve achieved them. Clearing out the mental clutter that comes with anxiety and the blinking light stuck on “fail-fail-fail” goes a long way toward “hacking a path through the mental jungle with a machete!” Again, thanks for the great post. Vivid and empowering imagery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing this Meghan. I will check it out for sure. I always love getting now tools to play with. As always, thanks for reading.


  2. Hehe When I get stuck and my mind starts to feel heavy (and if I have time), I take a short ‘nap’, because I swear as soon as I lay down my mind starts pinging like crazy, and there, just solved my problem!
    Daydreaming really does work wonders : )


    Liked by 1 person

    • Taking a nap, love it. It’s funny how many of life’s problems are solved by a quick snooze. Thanks for reading and for the comment.


  3. Great post! Yes I’m a daydreamer, but that doesn’t really help me unless you call what happens when I try to go to sleep daydreaming, lol. I get all my best ideas then, however, I don’t write them down because I don’t want to wake up my husband, come morning time, *poof* they all usually have disappeared and I can’t recall them. I’m not a novelist, just an aspiring freelancer who blogs and writes the occasional short story, poem or article-still you have to have new ideas. Someday I hope to start getting paid for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I keep a little notebook next to my bed and a little tiny flashlight alongside it. When I wake up after a dream worth remembering I jot them down through blurry eyes. I pull the blanket over my head and make a little bed tent to do it (so I don’t wake up me wife). Makes me feel like a little kid sneaking late night comics when I’m supposed to be sleeping. Keep writing about what makes you passionate and eventually you will find success (even if that success is just the personal satisfaction of creating something and the joy you get from those you care about reading it). Best of luck and thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a different sort of day dreamer. I was big into role playing when I was younger. I still love it now, but I don’t do it. What I tend to do is put myself in my world. I don’t wonder what Sal would do. I AM Sal, and I react the way he reacts. When my world isn’t available on the mental satellite, no fear, I tune into one of my other worlds. Just today it was Naruto. Sometimes it’s Wheel of Time. The more I work to participate in those worlds through my imagination, the more my mind seems willing to let me play in the worlds I make up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. That’s a really interesting way of doing it. I would absolutely agree with what you are saying about building those creative imagination station muscles. The more you flex them the stronger they get. Speaking of your character Sal, good luck with your edits of Caught! You should share that up-coming book on your blog page – I know I’m looking forward to seeing it in print and adding it to my shelves. Happy editing (don’t go TOO crazy).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m definitely a daydreamer and it’s always getting me into trouble outside of writing. But find it gives me tons for writing! Thank you for sharing this. I never thought about it to get over my writing blocks. Very helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really liked this post. I am usually the kind of person that thinks, “I better finish this or else that random giant spider with a lion’s head and bear arms on its back will come for me.”

    I usually think and imagine things better when i’m walking around in my room. I also tend to kind of role play, as if i’m in that world, or i’m that character right now. Sometimes, i do just come up with ideas on the spot. At other times, they come to me after someone said a certain line, or i’ve seen/read/heard of a certain moment either in real live, or in something fictional.

    I do think that taking your time to just imagine things is a good thing.
    But i would also say, that a little bit of pressure can work for me, it gives me a slight push to begin with something i find kind of hard to imagine or put what i imagine into words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny how you talk about deadlines driving you. I tend to work this way as well. If I try to do my daily blog post the day before, I end up researching and debating on how to write it. If I do it the day of, I just pound the thing out and send it off into the cyber void.

      On a side note, you should procrastinate so that giant spider with a lion’s head and bear arms comes for you. You must tame this beast, fit it for a saddle, and use it to impose your will on this world. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.


  7. “Visualization” need not be literally visual. I know the conventional wisdom is, “If you can’t form a picture of it in your mind, you can’t write about it,” but I know an author who has a condition called aphantasia: he literally CANNOT form pictures in his mind. This has never stopped him from being able to write both fiction and nonfiction, visual descriptions included. As Aunt Beast said in A Wrinkle in Time, you don’t need to know what something LOOKS like to know what it IS like.

    I spend a lot of time, some days, running through various scenes in stories I’m working on. Most of this is dialogue, and aside from gestures and facial expressions of the characters involved, visualization plays no part.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is really amazing to read about. I’ve never heard of this condition before. Your writer friend should pen a book on the methods he uses to develop stories. It would be very interesting to read and understand how someone who is unable to visualize develops ideas and creates stories. So many books on writing focus specifically on visualization, it would tremendous to see the steps this writer takes. There is a probably a whole subset of tools there waiting to be gathered up.

      “Beyond Visualization: How to write what you can’t imagine.” That’s the book title right there! Seriously though, thanks for sharing this and for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This writer friend is my identical twin. He’s had trouble visualizing most of his life (due to a head injury when he was twelve), but we only found out there’s a name for his condition earlier this year — and actually, I don’t think it HAD a name until recently. He’s an artist, too, and he sometimes draws pictures of things he has “imagined” so he can see what they look like. I tell people about my twin’s inability to visualize because I don’t want anyone to be discouraged from writing (or any other creative activity) simply because they can’t make mind-pictures and think that’s a prerequisite.

        As for Paul writing a book about being a writer with aphantasia… It’s a good idea, but I don’t know if he’d have time for it, between novels and archaeology.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Novels and archeology, what an interesting combination. My mind is going to Indiana Jones, whether real archeology is anything like that or not. I took some Geographic Information Systems (GIS) remote sensing classes in college for my Intelligence Studies certification. Those classes were packed with archeologists who were using the satellite imagery (and random wavelengths of reflected energy) to cut through dense jungle and look for hidden dig sites. Apparently the technology has really opened some door for those intrepid explorers. Of course in homeland security we would just use it to intrude into people’s lives. That’s the extent of my archeology knowledge (outside of fictional nonsense of course). Maybe Paul will find a relic of great power that allows writers to become best sellers….

        Liked by 1 person

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