Why "Being Present" Is Just as Important As Daydreaming

Hey guys! It's been a while since I've given any writing advice/written an informative post, so today I wanted to discuss a topic that's been on my mind a lot lately.
All the time I'll see posts and articles that talk about how great writers are at daydreaming, and how daydreaming can be really useful for brainstorming, plotting, and writing. Daydreaming can help writers enter their story world in a new, fresh way as it allows the writer to look at things through their own eyes rather than their characters eyes. Daydreaming is also a great way to come up with new dialogue and plot twists.

But what about the opposite of daydreaming? What if instead of drifting off into la la land during boring car rides or while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, we were to be present?

Being present is basically defined as having your thoughts, feelings, and attention all fixed on the task at hand. In other words, being completely aware of what is going on around you rather than letting your mind wander and daydream.

As potentially boring and un-fun as that may sound, it's actually really useful for writing and just as important as daydreaming.

1. It enables your senses

Being present and focused on what is going on around you is a perfect way to gather sensory information for your story, which will make your writing more realistic and saturated with life. For example, the other day I was at the hospital with my sister while she was getting some tests done. While I began to daydream and brainstorm for my writing like I usually do, some nurses talking in the hallway pulled me out of my thoughts. I was then aware of how many new things I was experiencing--the sights, the sounds, the smells. I quickly began taking mental notes and watching things carefully, knowing that they might be good to incorporate into my stories. Wherever you may be, be aware of what's around you! What are the sights? The smells? the sounds? The tastes? Take notes and pay attention rather than daydream when you can, and you might not have to Google so much (like I do!)

2. It lets you pick up on authentic dialogue

Authentic dialogue is an important topic all on its own, so being present and listening to others is especially useful for writing! Whenever you're somewhere relevant to your writing (I.E. the place of a scene in your story) start listening! How do people around you speak? What is the noise level like? Do people all talk at once? Do you need to speak loudly in order to be heard?
Gathering this information is a great way to make your book more realistic as well as keep you from making silly mistakes (such as having your characters go to a loud concert yet be able to speak to each other in normal voices and still be heard.) Being present and listening is also a good way to pick up on slang and other local terms you might need to know and put in your story.

3. It allows you to notice small details

When you take the time to be present rather than daydream, it's amazing what small details you can notice. When I was at the hospital, I noticed the smallest things--from the different buttons and levers on the walls to the way things were organized on shelves. It was cool to see a place I thought I knew the general look of in a smaller, more detailed light.
And while it's not always necessary to include tiny details in your book, it's still good information to have as the writer.

As writers, daydreaming is often the go-to in boring or uninteresting situations. But next time you're waiting at the doctor's office or playing on your phone in the Starbucks line, take a few minutes to be present and really focus on what's going on around you. Not only will it better your mind as a person, but as a writer, as well.