The Tales We Tell Ourselves

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I’m a chronic daydreamer.

Most of us probably are—especially you fellow writers who are reading this. What is plotting, after all, but daydreaming with direction? And you non-writers, ever sing at the Grammies in the car or compete on Iron Chef while you’re cooking dinner?

If you said yes, you’re probably a daydreamer. That, or you’re far more busy-and-important than I realized, and congrats to you.

So, should you see me at the gym, huffing as a trot around the track, know that I’m winning the Boston Marathon or fleeing demons with Sam and Dean Winchester.

I’ll break up the fight, boys! … if I can just get around this bend in the track fast enough!

But the funny thing about all these imaginary lives we paint for ourselves is that, done with intent, is called visualization, a sports, creative, or general self-help practice that, “seek[s] to affect the outer world by changing one’s thoughts and expectations.” (Incidentally, this definition sounds uncannily like Aleister Crowley‘s definition of magic, which he defines as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” Don’t ask me how I know these things.)

Our daydreams arguably have the power to change our lives.

That’s pretty intense, so here’s some LOLcat positive thinking:

Keep dreaming, kitty.

While you probably can’t imagine yourself into singing at the Grammies, especially if, like me, you can barely warble along in tune. But you can visualize yourself learning to sing stronger, taking voice lessons (preferably with a deaf kindergarten teacher), and singing proudly (or just loudly) in church. Or you visualize yourself learning to chop onions with gusto rather than that tentative mushing-gesture so many of us make with our dull knives.

For me, it’s the dream of writing a strong query letter and getting my book sold. I’ve been visualizing this image so hard it’s a wonder it’s not projected on my living room wall.

Last night, though, the image of a stack of replies from agents that just have “HAHA NO” written on them in red crayon and yet another trunk manuscript. Followed rapidly by full-time work at some corporate store and a life of waiting to get home so I can watch more of Sam and Dean Winchester and then go to the gym to imagine myself chasing demons with them.

I have a pretty vivid imagination.

It seems that if positive thinking can help us reach our goals, negative thinking can stop us from dreaming at all. So how do we stop our daydreaming from turning into pipe dreams? How do we stop the negative visualization once it starts?

I have to stop obsessing about the negative immediately, or I get sucked into a whirlpool of depression and blame that’s as ugly as it is unpleasant. (It usually looks like tears and the binge-eating of M&Ms. Crying while eating: not a happy combination.) I have to distract myself, and this typcally involves picking up a book to distract myself or even picking up my own book to remind me that it’s not that bad.

After all, the best possible outcome (international bestseller à la  J. K. Rowling) is just as likely as the worst possible outcome (living in a ditch with a possum who spurns my love). And I might as well dream for the best.

“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part IS glorious as long as it lasts. . . it’s like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.” Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

How about you, readers? How do you stop yourself from imagining the worst? What’s your happiest daydream? How do you get there?

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6 thoughts on “The Tales We Tell Ourselves

  1. I haven’t imagined myself living in a ditch with a possum who spurns my love (love that line!), but I have imagined other terrible stuff. Human nature, I guess. But keep on imagining…it’s good for you. Grandma says.

  2. I have a quote (from a tea bag tag) taped to the inside of my reading glasses case that says “Always bear in mind that your resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” –Abraham Lincoln When I get discouraged, I look to the people who’ve succeeded at what I want to accomplish. I listen to them and learn their stories, and invariably I discover that they started at the same place and worked through similar difficulties. It helps me believe that since they did it, so can I.

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