The Quiet Mind

Many aspiring novelists say that they always wanted to write. I can’t say that, but sometimes I wish I could.

It just sounds more romantic, doesn’t it? The budding young writer, filling pages of notebook paper with sloppily-scrawled stories for their parents to hang on the fridge. I may have done a bit of that, but my storytelling was done mostly in my head.  I had the vivid imagination of a writer, but little desire to tell those stories, or even to write them down for myself.

I wrote my first scrap of focused fiction in the 7th grade, and I didn’t do it because I wanted to be a writer. I hoped that if I committed a persistent daydream to paper, it might disappear. It so happened that my teachers liked it, and encouraged me to do more. I soon starting posting stories on message boards, and I got positive feedback. I’ll never forget the first comment. “You’re good at this. You should do more,”, it said. Eight little words that lit a fire in me.

Writing happened by accident, you see. It was my chosen means to tame my wild daydreaming. It spun itself into a greater passion, but the acts of daydreaming and writing are naturally intertwined. And my daydreaming never slowed down. Even today, I’m likely to start daydreaming the moment my mind becomes quiet.

That’s a part of myself that I sometimes struggle to explain. I cannot bear mental idleness. Daydreaming isn’t reserved for boredom or inspiration. For me, and many others like me, it’s a reflex. Even mild pauses in conversation may be enough time for me to slip away.

Much of my daydreaming revolves around fictional stories. Imagining new plotlines or constructing new characters. But I still daydream about the mundane, just as I did as a child. I’ll look at a gravestone and wonder about the life of the person buried beneath it, or I’ll look around and unfamiliar town and try to envision it through the eyes of someone local. It’s given me a close eye for detail, and a mind which seeks beauty everywhere it looks.

Not all were pleasant. Morbid thoughts rattle around in my skull as well, always threatening to flavor my daydreaming with a little bit of nightmare. I think about tossing myself from bridges or imagine sinister figures lurking in windows, watching as I pass.  I know those are just the ghosts that have always lived in my head, coming out for a little stretch. These so-called daydreams were abrupt and unconscious, and frequently  violent. I was an adult before I learned to call these ghosts by name: intrusive thoughts.

In the past, these daydreams would repeat themselves in near-endless loops, reappearing again and again, as if somehow unsatisfied. They were once upsetting, but now, I love writing them down. At first, I wrote them in journals, but now I prefer to weave them into stories or use them as starting points for essays, much as I’ve done now.  I’ve embraced my daydreaming ways, because I recognize that they’re part of me. I love them, because otherwise, I’m all alone in my own head.

The quiet mind, I feel, is hollow. Maybe not for you, but certainly for me. For me, quietness is madness.

 

-H.L.

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