Accidental Daydreaming: Listening to Write

By Milli Thornton

4/25/12 – It’s the 10K Day today and I just learned a fun trick about listening to write.

I had my writing plans for the day, which included some journaling, a little fiction, several blog posts and some lessons for a new online writing course (Ace Your 10K Day!).

Quite a ways down the list was an inspirational article I was intending to write for my grad students over in the Fear of Writing Online Course. I’d given some thought to this article the day before and made mental plans for how I wanted to write it.

But my day so far had turned out to be all about journaling. Which was fine because I was digging down to some important stuff—some wisdom I needed to learn from inside of me.

The journaling was starting to give me brain-drain from writing so intensely, so I decided to take a break. I knew I needed to do something to refresh my brain cells, so I drank some water, took a shower and then carried a beach towel into the backyard. Even though I’m landlocked in Ohio, I pretended I was going to the beach to get a spring suntan.

As I walked outside I remember thinking, “I wish I was better at daydreaming. Instead of worrying or always planning ahead.”

I read a little from a good novel and then stretched out to soak up the sun. My mind did do its usual busywork for a few minutes . . . but the sun lulled me into a connection with nature and I gave myself up to it.

I started noticing all the noises reaching me on my imaginary beach: the birds singing and the dogs barking, the lawnmower in the distance and the hammering and power tools on a home renovation project a few doors down. The usual sounds that combine to form the “neighborhood noise” (usually kept on the edge of my awareness) disassembled into distinct units of sounds.

I’m not a birder so I usually can’t identify which bird is singing, but I started noticing the different kinds of birdsong. This became a lazy game and I was eager to pick out as many as I could. But eager in a relaxed sort of way. Much like watching drifting clouds to pick out the animal shapes.

Suddenly the game of birdsong was forgotten. I realized I was mind-writing the opening lines for the article for my grad students. And it wasn’t how I’d planned it the day before. It was better.

I raced into the house and started writing. 1,070 words later I hardly knew what hit me. It just flowed out of me with barely a beat of hesitation.

I realized I’d been daydreaming. All the yada-yada-yada went away while I focused softly on listening to the sounds in my environment. And that’s how my subconscious mind got an opportunity to write something that must have been simmering just below the surface.

Listening to the sounds in my environment to invoke daydreaming. Yeah, I can do that.

I love it when a good writing secret is so simple and doable.


SPECIAL THANKS TO Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) for coining the term “mind-writing” in her guest post at Fear of Writing (Facing My Fear of Writing Through Pain) and then for letting me steal it for this one. Thanks, Annie! :~)

Milli Thornton, Fear of Writing Blog | Fear of Writing Online Course

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of Unleash Your Writing! and the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli also blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers at Writer’s Muse.

8 Responses to Accidental Daydreaming: Listening to Write
  1. Lois
    May 8, 2012 | 11:40 AM

    I love daydreaming, and it’s not always about my stories. But it’s certainly refreshing. 🙂


  2. Carole
    Twitter: cjtreggett
    May 8, 2012 | 4:40 PM

    This is yet another inspiring post, Milli.

    I don’t know why I don’t allow myself more daydreaming time; I mean, I completely believe in its merits. Each and every time I travel by car, inevitably my mind relaxes goes on a trip too, and that’s when many, many useful and exciting ideas come to me.

    Why don’t I go outside every day and allow myself some daydreaming time? Or sit beside our orange tabby, Cinnamon as he sits like a hen on the arm of the sofa, follow his excellent example of just gazing out the window for a bit of contemplation time?

    I love it when you share and remind us of a good writing secret that’s so simple and doable! Thanks 🙂

  3. Melissa Crytzer Fry
    May 9, 2012 | 12:19 AM

    I LOVED this post, Milli – for many reasons (one, because I’ve lived in those Ohio neighborhoods), but because of the connection your creative mind was able to make with your subconscious as a result of being in NATURE. I had a similar moment last week (which will eventually make it into a blog post) when I took my Jeep to a remote area in the desert near a natural spring. The ideas started to flow in harmony. It was lovely!

  4. Estrella Azul
    May 9, 2012 | 8:16 AM

    I love when this happens, Milli. Right before reading this, I was relaxing finishing up a flash fiction collection a friend of mine wrote. It got me so relaxed, I’m now going to start on a letter I’ve been carrying around for over a year. It’s a bit scary to pour everything out, but I’m more confident now.

  5. […] of reading she had once had. Milli Thornton had lost her ability to daydream—until she learned to listen in order to free her subconscious. Rita Shulte finds that in many people, the drive to succeed steals their joy of writing. […]

  6. j
    May 10, 2012 | 2:02 PM

    Lovely. I think the only way that’s simple is when you truly let go with your conscious mind… and that’s the tricky part. Beautifully done!

  7. Annie Neugebauer
    Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
    May 18, 2012 | 12:19 PM

    Oh, I love this Milli! You’ve used “mind-writing” to its best potential. =D I believe this deeply, that sitting quietly instead of working can be more productive in the end. Whenever I get stuck, I try to close my eyes and just sit instead of getting online or starting something else. It’s amazing how often just being (which really amounts to meditation) can bring the answers to the surface. Lovely post.

  8. Crystal Chameleo (@CrystalChameleo)
    May 23, 2012 | 4:16 PM

    Most of my daydreaming occurs while driving so I’ve had to use technology to remember the ideas popping in my head. Thanks to my microphone on my iphone, I record my thoughts and then do what I can when I can to write about those moments before they are lost forever to the recesses of my mind. It’s a challenge.
    However, I have noticed a consistent pattern that I usually listen to music and it stirs the story buried behind the busy junk I have going on at that particular time. What I found helps is playing that song repeatedly when I get home and write what has to be written in a mad dump of words like you describe. That voice recorder of random thoughts while driving has made up nearly half of what I’ve written I bet.
    Daydreaming is what I believe can take us to a deeper sense of our characters and the story they wish to tell. Otherwise, we get blocked with our own daily chores which distracts us from writing beyond what we could normally imagine. That’s me though. I’m the one daydreaming and not outlining which I find causes another set of challenges!

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