One of the ways I've gotten through just about any extended boring or difficult experience is by silently telling stories to myself.
The first (and only) time I went to sleep-away camp, I dealt with homesickness by creating an absolutely vivid soap opera in my head featuring several of the camp counselors. It was intense.
On long runs in high school and college, I constructed a very long-lived scenario in which I lived in L.A. and shared a house with an aspiring rock guitarist. I was an up-and-coming cartoonist. The guitarist and I never got together in a romantic sense, but we threw really good parties and jam sessions that were attended by old farts like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, who envied our youth. That story-line went on until my first year of graduate school when it seemed I had finally exhausted every possible plot line that could be wrung from an admittedly thin scenario.
Then there were the Russian spy years, which were really unwritten X-Files fanfiction featuring Alex Krycek and Marita Covarubius. During commutes to and from work, I'd sit in the car and idly spin stories about those two. I created so much backstory for them. It was kind of awesome (and simultaneously very lame). But again, the story grew stale and I moved on to the next.
This one was much more original, but no less absurd, featuring hockey playing women who were beautiful enough to be models/ice girls, and hockey players that suspiciously looked a lot like Alex Semin (see above). The Semin character really wanted to dance in the Bolshoi ballet, but he was just too darn good at hockey. He and the hockey playing model were roommates in Russia (I have no idea why that's been a reoccurring theme in my stories). She learned the language, and became a translator for the team. She was fun, maybe a little casual about life goals and drugs, but world-traveled, and above all obsessed with hockey. Eventually she worked her way up into the management of the hockey team and others, etc. etc. etc.
It just went on and on. It was a really excellent story...to tell myself . I doubt it would translate to an external audience, particularly those who may not be familiar with the dark and zany charms of Alex Semin. That story-line only stopped fairly recently when I started writing more stories down (completely different from these ones I've listed) and the exhaustion from trying to work on so many projects helped me sleep just fine without these silly epics to lull me.
A friend of mine recently mentioned that she got to sleep each night by telling herself stories, and I was surprised. It's not just me that does this? Does everyone do this? Telling yourself goofy stories is not a topic that comes up a lot in conversation, so I just assumed I was weird.
I don't know what I'd think about if I wasn't thinking about stories in one form or another, ridiculous and cheesy as they are. I think my brain would be much quieter, which is one of the reasons I've always been a little suspicious of meditation. I mean, are you aiming to make the brain shut up and the stories go away? That sounds terrible.
Do you tell yourself stories?
p.s. I've never even remotely considered writing any of these silly (bad) stories down, because they all break a very important rule: never include yourself in the story. Not even tangentially. The reader can tell right away when the author is masquerading as one of the beautiful, talented characters. It's fun to imagine yourself that way sometimes, or to inhabit a character in your imagination, but no one wants to hear about it. Trust me, I slush read, and it ain't pretty when it happens.