My suspicions have been scientifically proven. The time I spend staring blankly into space, wool gathering, and resting my mind plays an important role in my creative endeavors. Daydreaming, research shows, stimulates the creative juices.
I should be a genius.
A study, according to an article recently posted on MSNBC, also indicated that continuous multi-tasking “makes you stupid.” That’s good news because I can’t manage to perform more than one trick at a time anyway. Just ask my wife.
I’m not making this up, though with my recently heightened creativity (I sat here and gazed aimlessly out the window for about an hour earlier this morning.) I could easily conjure up all sorts of imaginative notions. An assistant professor at the New York University Department of Psychology and Center for Neuroscience has studied people’s brains to see how daydreaming and multi-tasking affects productivity.
Daydreaming helps. Multi-tasking, without a break, causes trouble. Just as I suspected. On days when I’m forced — usually through a lack of planning on my part — to accomplish more than one thing in a short period of time, I get cranky. I also get less productive. Stress is not my friend.
For instance, occasionally on deadline day — the absolute last day I can get an article finished and inserted in my next issue — I find I have left a few too many irons in the fire, a few too many balls juggling in the air, a few too many fish to fry to complete all my tasks with my typical aplomb.
Mistakes happen. Typos find their way into my otherwise near perfect narratives. Facts go unchecked. Spell check remains idle. Things fall apart. Wait, hold that thought.
Okay, I’m back. All those confessions were beginning to stress me out so I had to stare at the wall for a few minutes. I feel better now. So, where was I? Oh yeah, things falling apart. I don’t do particularly well under stress, and work much more efficiently in a relaxed environment. Busy newsrooms would drive me crazy. I can’t imagine working on Wall Street.
I don’t even do well trying to fish with more than one rod in the water at a time. Which one do I watch closer? Which one do I grab first when fish are biting both? On which should I put a green lure and which a blue? Decisions, decisions. Too much multi-tasking causes confusion.
I need time for contemplation. Writing is hard work, requiring an alert mind and a nimble imagination. I can’t get that with multiple stressors banging at my brain.
I bought into this daydreaming phenomenon a long time ago, before research proved it out. I’ve noticed for years that I get some of my best ideas while driving through the west Texas boonies. I’ve written many stories in my head while mindlessly trekking from Denton to Lubbock or San Angelo or Altus, Okla. Little besides mesquite bushes and prickly pear cactus breaks the monotony of miles and miles of flat road and cloudless (most of the time) skies. An occasional roadrunner or coyote might distract me for a minute or two, but I usually see about all the scenery I’m going to see in the first 15 miles.
So I’m left to put my mind in neutral (its most natural state) and let it wander. Amazing what wonderful opening sentences for stories will pop into my head. Sometimes I write entire paragraphs, hoping they’ll stick to some of that gray matter and be available when I sit down with my computer and try to retrieve them. Mostly they do, mostly.
And if they don’t, I can stare mindlessly out the window until something useful appears.
I love science.