On the path to creativity, it's not only okay to stop and smell the roses, it's encouraged.
My approach to inspiration is not to chase it; I tend to walk around in a place or idly browse others’ works until the desire to create something strikes. Still, it's nice to have a “toolbox” of tricks to get you past those creative lulls in life. According to psychologist Jonathan Schooler (no, really, that's his actual name), daydreaming is one possible answer.
Well, if you know you're doing it, that is.
From Boston.com (Jonah Lehrer):
“If your mind didn't wander, then you'd be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded.”
And who wouldn't want to time travel? The key, though, is self-awareness of your wandering mind. The study concluded that people who were able to recognize when they were daydreaming demonstrated more of a predilection to creativity than those who were only able to identify their daydreams after they happened.
When I read this story I began thinking about my own daydreaming habits. I think I can say with certainty that I absolutely know when I'm daydreaming… Because I love it. There's nothing like taking a little break from reality now and then!
Despite photography's firm basis in reality—capturing real light reflecting off of real objects—it is in so many ways an escape from reality, and an art form that can benefit from your daydreams just as much as any other.
So the next time you find yourself staring off into the distance and traveling mentally through time and space, don't pull yourself back down to Earth so quickly.