I am perhaps a very selfish being, because I cannot wait until this saga of home repair is done with and my house is my own again. Now that I’ve had a taste of life with solitude when I require it, it’s difficult to go back. I remember writing in the living room of the old place, cross-legged in my papasan, while two toddlers and the cats all wanted my attention at the same time. The intense work of that stage of child-rearing paid off in prime when I needed to write through heartbreak and stress, but it wasn’t comfortable. I’ve found I much prefer my current environment.
I don’t often talk about the flipside of “ass in chair, hands on keyboard.” Allowing oneself time to think, to dream, to fill the well so you have that something to draw upon, a raw material to spin into stories, is also critical. I am a champion of stealing moments to turn inward. Now that I can do so without having to steal, the pleasure is just as unalloyed. It still feels secretly shameful to realize I’ve been putting things together inside my head, staring out a window, brain tuned to that low hum of expectancy.
An interesting thing–I came across this article about “maladaptive daydreaming”. It’s well worth a read. For me, there was an a-ha! moment buried deeply in the last third.
A few clicks later, I came across Somer’s research in The Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy. The paper examined six subjects who daydreamed excessively. Unlike me, they were victims of abuse and were unable to function well socially or in the workplace. But I had struggled with coordination difficulties and a painful constellation of autoimmune conditions, all of which went undiagnosed for years, so my poor health—like other people’s abusive circumstances—may have made fantasy more compelling than real life. I was especially intrigued that most of Somer’s subjects moved in idiosyncratic ways when they daydreamed, just as I had. “When I daydream,” one subject reported, “I often hold an object in my hand, say, an eraser or a marble. I toss [it] in the air. This repetitive monotone movement helps me concentrate on the fantasy.” (The Atlantic)
Like the author, I have little difficulty functioning well in the workplace. (Socially, well, that may be another story.) I remember escaping into other, vivid, sensory places during particularly brutal bits of my childhood. The type of daydreaming the author describes sounds exceedingly familiar to me. It was my refuge, and probably why I choose to tell stories today. Translating my worlds–I contain legions, I want to say in a creepy undertone–into fiction is like breathing. I’ve done it for so long I don’t know if I could stop, even if I wanted to. I could go into them and never come back, and there are times when I’ve wanted to. I don’t know why I didn’t, especially during a few not-so-nice events.
No, I don’t want to stop. My inner worlds are private, they are mine, and the ones I share slices of are still mine. Learning the skills to put them on paper seemed natural. Often, I forget I’m writing, my hands intimate with the keyboard as I record the sensory impressions, describing what I see, taste, sense. There’s a fine balance in feeding your head enough that it will allow the act.
Creation’s a funny thing. I am extremely glad it didn’t become what the author calls maladaptive.
I felt a great deal of relief as I read the Atlantic article. I used to think I was an alien, since I could call up all these visions and walk among them. When I was older, I thought I was insane, but in a socially acceptable way that could be harnessed. Now, I’m relieved to find out I simply stumbled upon a cognitive event, so to speak, and practiced until it was burned into my neurons.
Beware what you practice, for so you shall become.
Now, I have a fresh cuppa and the contractors are out collecting other supplies. I have a little space to breathe, and so I will write something to please myself.
Over and out.