The Humming of Your Brain

Hi friends.

Daydreaming is a thing we got discouraged from as children, but I never let it go, did you?

I’m in the midst of revisions right now, having received some notes from my editor. I’m working explicitly on the first third of the book, re-arranging some information, problem-solving, moving parts around in my head like chess pieces, staring out in the distance, daydreaming a lot. The daydreaming part of writing is so hard to define or explain, but it’s as important as anything else we do. And it’s also one of the most pleasurable parts.

I acknowledge I am writing about the importance of letting your mind wander from the position of a person who has the benefit of space. I live alone, which allows me to call on solitude whenever I please. It is a small house (not quite tiny, but certainly small), a single shotgun, and it is on a noisy, busy street. But there is a back room, an office, where I can close the door, and keep out most of the noise, and I can stare out at trees and sky and general greenery. An excellent view for a daydream. I value all this deep in my soul. I cannot even tell you what it means to me to have it.

But I think you can find ways to claim your daydream space no matter what your living or working situation. What does it require truly but some quiet? What do we need but a door to close? Even if it’s metaphorically so: just to be alone with yourself, not to be required to speak to anyone else. It can be in public, on a park bench, or a chair on a street corner outside a cafe, looking at nothing particular at all. In the midst of noise, too, it can happen. All the daydreams I had on a subway ride through Brooklyn in my life, on the way to work in the morning.

And I will say this till death, but: no computer, no phone, no distractions. Technology is not your brain, not this kind of brain. This is you summoning your truest, most creative part. It cannot be captured by anyone else, so you must capture it yourself.

I love the idea of a plant that can bring you good luck. I will take luck wherever I can get it.

And what can grasping this daydream time get you? The humming of your brain. The operation of a pristine engine. That’s what it feels like to me when I sit, dazed, nearly trance-like, and think about whatever I’m working on. My brain feels warm, my chest feels warm. Things are in motion. If I’m writing fiction, sometimes to get things started, I close my eyes and try to picture myself in the same room as my characters. When I’m writing non-fiction, I think about someone else listening to the story I’m trying to tell them. But usually I am thinking about nothing at all and then suddenly find myself arriving at a point.

And again, there is that feeling of moving words and sentences and paragraphs and ideas around in my head. It is soothing, to think about my work in this manner. All the possibilities, all the surprises, that can surface when you just let your mind wander.

If you can do it today, or tomorrow, or soon, walk away from the noise and the obligation, even if only for a little bit. Let your brain sing. No pen or paper necessary. Just the warm and tender feeling of letting your mind wander to wherever it needs to go.


You are reading Craft Talk, a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans. Last week I donated to Families and Friends of the Incarcerated.