I was hunkered down by the little garden area around my mailbox, planting bulbs and carrying on a lively conversation with the people in my head—out loud—when I looked up to realize my neighbor was standing behind me. I replayed the last few minutes in my mind, but was forced to admit that I had indeed been reciting both sides of a lively argument complete with hand gestures such as waving my little shovel to emphasize the more important points.
So I just smiled and pretended nothing unusual was going on.
Surely such a scenario is familiar to my fellow writers, many of whom admit that they have people in their heads doing all sorts of interesting things. And many of whom are surprised to learn that not everyone enjoys the same experience.
I recently saw a story on the news about a phenomenon called “maladaptive daydreaming,” and I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for my fellow authors.
It seems that the habit of getting lost in the stories in one’s head, of constructing elaborate scenarios and forgetting one’s surroundings is considered a disorder.
I’ve read a bit of research by clinical psychology professor Eli Somer, who first identified this syndrome and named it. Some of the signs are excessive (who decides what’s excessive?) daydreaming that often begins in childhood, and daydreaming that is detailed and elaborate. Daydreamers may talk, laugh, cry, make gestures and lie in bed for hours daydreaming, either in the morning of instead of going to sleep. They may even forget to eat or shower. They may become emotionally attached to the characters they imagine, even though they know the characters aren’t real.
I talked this over with some of the people who live in my head and they assured me it’s all right to continue my maladaptive lifestyle—at least if I wanted to continue my writing. Let’s just hope nobody comes along and tries to cure our favorite authors.