I woke up yesterday with a rather clear memory of a dream. Usually when I remember dreams its because they were actually nightmares. I think terror and adrenaline improve my memory (stupid adrenaline).
But this dream was different. It was rich and exiting and full of things I never wanted to forget. It was a like the Universe giving me a gift, because the more I thought about the dream the more I realized that it wasn’t just a random set of images, it was a story. As soon as I realized the images were a story, I got up and ran to my computer (I totally type faster than I can write long-hand) and wrote out the scenes I saw. Then continued to write out the plot they suggested. I was filled with an urgent need to get the images and ideas out of my brain and onto paper before they got lost in that hazy half-knowledge that my dreams often turn into, and I’m so happy I made the effort.
I now have a rough outline for the plot of a fantasy novel, that hinges on the very ideas that occurred to me in the dream. My working title is Believe, and the plot is based on a man about to enter the priesthood in my fantasy world. But at the last moment he fails a test and is rejected. It’s a story about searching for yourself, and meaning, at odds with and supported by faith, and all twisted together with a bit of magic and sacrifice and love. Now I just have to decide where on my list of “ideas to be written” this one should fall.
I wonder how many more stories I dream each night without knowing it. Tonight I’m going to sleep with a journal next to my bed.
Sometimes when I’m stuck for writing inspiration, what I really need is a kick-start; something to get my brain working and open it up to the creative process. When that happens one of the tricks I use to get myself going is to borrow an image from a book, a television show or a song, and then write about that image out of context. For me, a random image dosn’t hold the intimidation of a project or a deadline hanging over your head, its just there to suggest ideas. Most of the time when I have finished working through that image the log-jam of intimidation and fear blocking my other ideas bursts and I am free to write about the project I need to complete.
Choose an image. It could be something from a favorite pop culture reference, or even a dream. Then describe the image to yourself and your audience. Ask yourself questions, and answer them on the page. Your work doesn’t have to be inspired, the goal is simply to get your mind thinking and your fingers writing. Spend ten minutes exploring the image, and if inspiration hits allow your writing to flow into a project you’ve been blocked with.
NB. If you’re having trouble coming up with an image feel free to borrow my dream image. I woke up to the image of a man looking through an iron grating into a cement cell. Someone was asking if he really wanted it. The character I saw was anguished, reached down into a cold fireplace, picked up a handful of ash that a breeze blew away, then he choked out the word “yes” and a pillar of light shot out of his chest.