I have a rich fantasy life. I always think it developed in my childhood. I remember the Time-Life series on the Ages of History: one of those 20 book sets you bought one at a time. The one that always captivated me was the the Age of Exploration. The part on Africa always gave me nightmares, though. It had pictures of the strange men that the Europeans of that time believed lived in Africa: men with one leg, or men with no head and a face on their chest. When I had nightmares my parents told me to think about something else, so I started fantasizing things before bed. That grew into fantasizing all the time, perhaps in response to other things going on in my family.
These days it doesn’t help so much. One big part of my current fantasy life revolves around conversations I have in my head. I imagine conversations I will have with other people. They are rarely fun. Either they are people attacking my beliefs/actions, arguments with ex-girlfriends over how badly they treated me, or conversations where people say things that are just totally asinine, things they would never say in real life.
So why do I have these conversations in my head if all they do is upset me? Because they reinforce my ego, my sense of self. The affirm that my beliefs are right, I was the one wronged in the relationship, and everyone else is a jerk. Your self doesn’t really exist, in the sense that it is some essential part of the mind. But it does exist in the sense of a delusion you have about your mind, a delusion that can be awfully useful at times. And it doesn’t want to go away. It tricks you into believing it, and into reinforcing that belief in it.
Back in December I had a conversation with Clean Collar, one of the other statisticians in my division. We were talking about what we are going to do in our retirement, specifically how we are going to continue to make money to support ourselves. Clean Collar’s idea was to invent something everyone needed, which he admitted was easier said than done. I said that I was finally going to get around to writing the novels I keep thinking about. And right then I realized how I would do it. I know from my time writing papers in college that if I have an outline of what I want to say I can pound out about 1,000 words an hour. The trick is having that outline.
Well, if I’m going to write the novels 25 years from now, that means I have 25 years to figure out what I am going to say. So I’ve thought up ideas for several series of fantasy novels, and I wrote up notes on each one. I keep thinking about them in the back of my head. Whenever I have an idea for one of them, I write it down in the folder with all my notes. The idea is to slowly flesh out each novel before I retire, and then I can just pound them out at 1,000 words an hour. At that rate I should be able to write a draft of an 80,000 word novel in about a month, working only part time.
The Simple Method of habit formation that I have been using to change my life has a plan for bad habits. You figure out what the triggers are that prompt you to engage in the bad habit. Then for each trigger you develop a counter habit, and whenever that trigger occurs you do the counter habit instead of the bad habit. The thought of replacing my other fantasizing with fantasizing about the story lines for my future novels has been percolating in my head for a while. It’s only been recently that I’ve thought about the ego reinforcing nature of much of my fantasy life, and how it might be good to change that. Using the Simple Method works perfectly with the idea of replacing one fantasy with another.