When I was a teenager I found a book in a library book sale: Imagination and Fancy by Leigh Hunt. I’m holding it now, a perfect shape for hand and pocket. Hunt’s 1844 anthology was laced with excerpts from the ‘great’ poets. One of his ideas has always intrigued me, namely, that poetry is imaginative passion.
Whoa there! High falutin’ Romanticism, you might say. Personally, I’m not sure he isn’t being a mite workaday. After all, our every breath is a kind of passion: a defiance against our littleness in a vast universe.
Besides, writing almost anything is inherently imaginative, from the baldest diary to the boldest burst of fancy. A writer’s bravery is his imaginative passion.
Then again, how do you define imagination? Tricksy word, that. The best words always are. I define it as the human capacity for visualising, empathising, forming neural shape-patterns and narratives beyond our direct, immediate sensual perceptions. It is nothing and everything. Imagination is memory. Memory is imagination. And most commonly, daydreaming is imagination.
I love to daydream, always have. Rocked by the vibrations of a train, my mind has often roamed so far off track I felt no desire for a destination. Likewise, during long, circular ambles through twilit streets.
If I can’t sleep I daydream (nightdreams are for sleep itself!), propped up on pillows, watching dawn brighten rectangles of window and curtain. The subsequent bags under my eyes are stuffed with Mercutio’s airy ramblings – and I, too, love to roam.
Anyway, my question was: are you a daydream writer? Put another way, is daydreaming a kind of writing?
Well, palpably not. There is no apparent end product, no draft you can pick over or preserve. Just layers of lost dreams in your subconscious, apparently unreclaimable.
Leigh Hunt argues that imagination ‘illustrates’ its ideas by ‘fancy’, meaning ‘a lighter play that laughs with what it loves’. Is daydreaming like that? I love to think so. It casts bright shadows through our minds, preparatory to the act of writing. It might even be true there can be no writing without daydreaming. That’s where your material forms a swirling cloud you’ll conjure into structure.
Here’s a few daydreaming tips from a firm believer in the power of fancy:
– Close your eyes when listening to music that stirs you. Imagine the film trailer for your story: character expressions, exclamations, places . . . It can get exciting!
– Exhausted by work? Writing seems a lottery win away? Loll on the sofa and visualise your characters’ voices and faces in favourite settings.
– Planning a chapter? Daydream its shape over several pages. Imagining turning them with fancy’s fingers. When you come to scribble down your plan, ghostly lines may linger . . .
– Baths are legendary daydream zones. Let vapours rise!
– View imagination and fancy as muscles you exercise through daydreaming. Award yourself daily workouts. Anywhere and anytime is your gym!
Leigh Hunt deserves the last word: There are different kinds and degrees of imagination, some of them necessary to the formation of every true poet [a.k.a. writer], and all of them possessed by the greatest.
If you’ve any thoughts about daydreaming and writing, why not let me know . . .