Friday, 21 November 2008
Daydreaming Legitimized - Yes, It's Official! (Joan Lennon)
I love reading the New Scientist. It makes me feel as if I understand all sorts of fascinating things. A while back, for example, I really thought I'd figured out String Theory, based on one of its articles. It was a heady five minutes. If only I hadn't tried to then explain it to someone else (who actually did sort of understand it) I could have held on to the feeling even longer. (I wonder if I will remember that another time? Probably not.)
And then, sometimes, the magazine carries articles that tell me things I positively, absolutely, no doubts, not one, know already. For example, that daydreaming is not a waste of time. I know that. When asked "Where do you get the ideas for your books?" I always answer that I get them by staring out of windows. I do good work while in a dwam. So I greeted the article by Douglas Fox titled "Private Life of the Brain" (New Scientist 8 Nov. 2008) like an old friend. It says (among other things) that when we are not actively focusing on a specific task, our brains are nevertheless extremely busy. Researchers called the areas of the brain involved "the default network."
"The brain areas in the network ... chattered non-stop to one another when the person was unoccupied but quietened down as soon as a task requiring focused attention came along. Measurements of metabolic activity showed that some parts of this network devoured 30 percent more calories, gram for gram, than nearly any other area of the brain."
We have things like the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate and the lateral parietal cortex (why do body bits get all the great names?) up and running whenever we let our brains slide into neutral. Because this is science, there are as many answers to what the bits are busy doing as there are scientists, but daydreaming is right up there with memory organising and "inner rehearsal" for what the future might hold. (And if you look at it just right, that's pretty much fiction writing to a T.) Thank you, New Scientist, for saying what I always thought to be true - daydreaming is work, a legitimate writerly activity!
At least, that's what I think it's saying ...