Dreaming VS. Doing

Will Wilkinson:

I am prone to near constant free associative reverie and find it very difficult to do anything else. What I need is to identify my best ideas, pull myself out of the infinite pool of combinatorial possibility, dry myself off, take a seat and buckle down on embodying my best ideas in some medium intelligble to someone other than me. Which is why I would be screwed without stimulants. Or blogs. If uppers keep me from going off on creative tangents while I’m trying to work, that’s a feature, not a bug, because then I might possibly get something done.

When I was a teenager, I had a fanstasy that I could get paid or famous simply from having interesting ideas. It turns out people won’t pay you for interesting ideas unless you show up at a certain place and at a certain time to express them verbally in an entertaining format, or unless you write them down. It’s hard for me and not at all as nice as doing the backstroke through Platonic heaven.

I relate to this a great deal. I drink roughly a pot and a half of coffee each day; without it, not only do I get severe headaches, but I have difficulty accomplishing even the simplest tasks (before I started drinking the stuff as a teenager, I got basically nothing done save for reading books). And as a youngster, I entertained similar fantasies about profiting from idea generation. Turns out, as Will notes, it’s not quite that easy. But I think it’s important to recognize — as I know Will does — that those of us who get to think and write for a living in most any fashion are incredibly privileged to do so. It may not be the free-associative Platonic heaven of our teenage dreams, but it’s pretty damn good.

And personally, I actually find the writing part fairly enjoyable — it’s what gives all that thought structure and meaning and permanence. Yes, it’s nice just to sit and think for a while, but, to me at least, what’s even nicer is organizing those thoughts on the page and seeing them published, read, and responded to. It’s the difference between dreaming about Mars and building a rocket ship; making something real is always more powerful and pleasurable (if far more difficult) than simply dreaming it up.