One of my favourite films of all time is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
It’s my favourite, not only because of the beautiful shots of Iceland, Ben Stiller, and an evil Adam Scott, but ironically enough, Walter’s daydreams. Walter Mitty is a daydreamer and he daydreams constantly, causing him to miss trains and other pieces of important information. The whole premise of the movie is that because Walter Mitty dreams so much of what his life could be, he misses out on living it fully.
He spends the beginning of the film mostly reacting, and most of his reactions are in his head. Walter learns to react actively in real life, instead of reacting passively in his head, and he develops as a character. So much so that in the end of the film, when his friend asks him if he’s still day-dreaming, Walter replies with “less now”. He has to let go of his daydreams in order to move on and live his life.
As much as I love this film, I don’t agree entirely with the conclusion that daydreams themselves are pulling Walter away from living his life. I would argue that we need to daydream, to have a vision, to know what we would like life to be like so we can live it fully. Day-dreaming can be planner of sorts, a way to see a vision of an ideal future. As you have probably have guessed now, why yes I am a daydreamer. What a coincidence.
This is how I operate and plan. Especially when it comes to writing, because as much as I need words, I also need visuals and I do this all in my head. I need at least a vague vision before I can write it down. In fact, for this blog post, I spent an entire day daydreaming off and on in-between revision for exams and CV writing of how I wanted to write this. I had to visualise my thoughts before I could write it down on paper and then on computer. Day-dreaming can be a creative process.
Of course, I get the main premise of the movie; don’t daydream your life away. The fantasies in your head are not real and you shouldn’t trust them. We shouldn’t undermine the importance of being present in your life and actually listening to people. We are not meant to ignore reality.
Sometimes, I confess, I do a Walter Mitty and daydream in the middle of a conversation. That isn’t good. Still some periods of time are made for daydreams. When you are on public transport, washing dishes, those liminal spaces between transitions, those are places where imagination can start running. What we shouldn’t do is let our daydreams be an excuse to hide from reality. That was Walter Mitty’s problem. That is not living your life to the fullest. There is a time to be present and there is a time to dream.
So, go on and dream away (as foolish as they are), but don’t let our daydreams be only daydreams. Go and live some of them out in the reality of now.