Daydream Believer

I’m currently reading ‘Imagine: How Creativity Works‘ by Jonah Lehrer.  His interview on NPR, peaked my interest.  Jonah Lehrer doesn’t seek to destroy the myth of the creative type. Instead, he shows that creativity is everywhere and it’s our job to find it and apply it.

On particular point he makes is about daydreaming.  On more than one occasion in school, I told to focus and stop daydreaming.  In ‘Imagine: How Creativity Works’, Lehrer references the findings of Marcus Raichle, a neurologist and radiologist at Washington University. He ran an experiment where his subjects focused on a particular task, then did nothing for 30 seconds.  He expected the test results to show intense brain activity during the task, then a drop of results when they were having a ‘blank’ mind.  Instead their minds were ‘overflowing with thoughts and their cortices lit up like a skyscraper at night.’

When you don’t use a muscle, that muscle isn’t doing much,” Raichle says. “But when your brain is supposedly doing nothing, it’s really doing a tremendous amount.

(See Mrs. P? I was focusing-in a round about way)

Lehrer talks about how the right and left hemispheres of the brain are essential to the creative process.  Each hemisphere sees things differently, gathering information and categorizing it.  In essence, two programs running in the background of our mental operating system.

Daydreaming is a blending together of the concepts store in our brains.  That blending puts together the relationships between hidden ideas and thoughts, giving us a burst of creativity.

Productive daydreaming is the ability to have a modicum of awareness in the daydream process. Jonathan Schooler, one of the pioneers in the study of insight, is referenced as saying:

Letting your mind drift off is the eay part. the hard part is maintaining enough awareness so that even when you start to daydream you can interrupt yourself and notice a creative thought.

Writing is a lot like daydreaming.  The ideas and thoughts come to us, then we have to capture the moments.  The creative ‘a-ha’ moments come from our brain processing all the information we gather during the course of our lives.

So far, my take aways for ‘Imagine: How Creativity Works’ have been:

  • Creativity is the result of living.
  • Pay Attention
  • The brain is never really quiet.
  • Daydreaming is really productive time (check out the story of the Post-it guy).
  • Creativity and insight is not confined to the ‘arts’, it is a global concept.


  • Whew, maybe my brain is okay, after all. I’ll hold off on calling in a gumby surgeon…. 🙂

    • We creative types are awesome! (and maybe a touch crazy in a good way)

  • I’ve always been a wanderer and I’ve never seen that as a bad thing. Daydreaming is something we all need to do, if for nothing else than to practice our creative skills. 🙂

    • Daydreaming is an irreplaceable process in our writing and lives! 🙂

  • Wow thanks for sharing such info! It’s true that I sometimes find myself very tired – even getting a headache – when I think but do nothing. Then I just want to sleep. haha!

    • I understand the tired thing. That moment between dozing and sleep, the best ideas surface.

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