Sunday, August 7, 2011

What Dreams May Come--Kickstarting You Creative Mind

Okay, so I know I promised a post on why we retell fairy tales, but I've been working on it and finding that it's taking me longer to gather all my thoughts than I originally expected.  So, in order to keep you all marginally interested, I'd like to talk about dreams and how they help with my writing.

If you've been following this blog, you'll know that I've been dealing with intermittent spells of writer's block.  As time has gone on, I've managed to pinpoint factors in my life that deter or aid my creative spirit.  As we're addressed previously, having an adequate muse is one. 

Letting your dreams run rampant is another.

I know I'm not the only writer who writes according to dreams.  Stephanie Meyer supposedly wrote the entire Twilight series because she had a dream about a boy and a girl lying in a field of flowers.  She felt that if she didn't tell their story she'd be doing them a grave injustice. 

When I first read her comments I thought to myself, "Wow, that's just like me."  Nearly everything I have written is based off of dreams.  I often have sequential dreams.  In other words, sometimes my dreams will pick up right where they left off the previous night. 

I know exactly what Ms. Meyer means.  When you are visited by this sort of creative spirit, it seems a crime to ignore it.  I feel compelled to share my dreams with the world.  So, when the dreams first started coming when I was in high school, I started writing them down.  I wrote the entirety of my first three novels (which will one day be re-written) while I was in high school.

Sad to say, as I went to college and my life became more hectic and stressful, the dreams became less.  I still had them from time to time -- that's how I started The Will of the Fallen series -- but not nearly as much.

As time has gone by and I've become more serious as a writer, I've learned what triggers my creativity and what doesn't.  Believe it or not, reading and listening to audio books doesn't do it for me.  This is a tricky fix because a writer should always do a lot of reading in order to study the work of other authors, increase their vocabulary, and broaden their conceptual horizons.  However, while reading other works may help my writer's craft, it doesn't give me dreams and it doesn't give me entertaining plot. 

My theory is this: If I'm feeding my imagination with someone else's story then my brain stops trying to entertain itself with its own stories.  Think about it this way: The Universe is trying to send you a signal, but you've got too much interference going on to receive it. 

So, if I want to receive that signal, I actually have to stop reading for a couple of weeks.  This clears the air waves and gives my brain a rest.  Even then, I might need something to kick start the dreaming.  Sort of my own signal to the Universe letting it know I'm ready for enlightenment.

You want to know what gets my mind cranking out subconscious imagery?  Television.  Yes, sitting on my tush and watching television gets my mind active.  I hate to say it, but reality shows are best -- at least for me.  I think because they lack a fantasy aspect, but provide me with real life characters and situations that my mind can accurately throw into a fantasy situation.  Perhaps television works because I'm a visual writer?  Many of my readers have said that reading my work is like watching a movie.  Guess you now know why.  :)

So, that's how I can clear my brain and getting pumped for story time.

However, even if I watch television before bed, there are other factors that complicate things.  Stress and lack of sleep time are obvious.  If I'm stressed my sleep is restless.  If I don't get enough time to sleep then I don't hit a deep enough sleep to dream or I'll dream but forget what I dreamed because the alarm makes me too alert too quickly.  I need to be in a Zen place in order to have an open enough mind for the Universe to send me some plot juju. 

How does this help you?

If you're having trouble writing, take a look at your life.  Assess what stresses you out and what disturbs your sleep and try your best to remedy it.  I drink herbal teas to help me relax before bed.  Stop overtaxing your brain.  Give yourself some "downtime" by just zoning out and letting your imagination have a break.  Put down the book.  Put down the stress.  Stop pushing yourself.  get in touch with your muse.  Your story will come when you are ready to handle it.