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February 26, 2024

Why I Write

By Dan Mulhollen

We are all daydreamers. Our sensibilities set the framework and our imaginations take it from there. In this world, we can exist at any time, be in any place, do whatever we want. We are not limited to one life either, for we can exist in a multiverse of running fantasies, adding to each of our personal sagas whenever we see fit.

Society discourages this practice. "What are you doing," an adult will scold, "off daydreaming?" A daydream neither pays the bills or makes us healthier. And even the most ardent daydreamer has to admit that getting too caught up in ourselves can have a negative effect on our well-being. So we are conditioned to feel that daydreaming is a childish activity; something adults do not engage in. But try as we might, it is a part of being human that we will never outgrow.

But what if we could do something useful with our daydreams, might that make them more honorable? What if we were to sit down at our computers, and write out one of our daydreams, changing a few "personal" details, perhaps doing a little research to make it all appear plausible.

Isn't this pretty much how fiction is created?

Of course, a story and a fantasy are not quite the same thing. A fantasy can only exist within our own mind, something only its creator can truly know. To recreate this in tangible form, it has to go through an elaborate, yet almost subconscious, process. A lifetime of learned communicative skills is used to put our thoughts in a form others can understand.

To some degree all fiction is autobiographical, a fact both useful overall and daunting to many. Our ideas seem to appear out of thin air, but they are actually a product of our psyche.

As we write, an internal censor monitors our progress. If an idea hits too close to home, making us uneasy, that censor will find some way changing things around. This is both a good and a bad thing. A young, egotistical writers (which most young writers are) often ignore this censor, thinking every thought in his or her head is worthy of appearing in print. Conversely, some writers become almost paralyzed by self-censorship, worrying what Aunt Martha would think if she were to ever read their fiction.

The inner-censor works best when it moderates, but does not inhibit. When it allows the daydreams to retain their intimacy, but keeps the writer honest. The art of communication can be seen as something magical. A good writer can make totally imaginary people and places seem entirely real. They can make experiences that never happened seem as real as those that happened to us this morning. We feel the joy and sorrow the characters feel. And in the best fiction, we find inspiration to better ourselves.

All this from a daydream. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

-- Dan Mulhollen

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-20
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