Raven talked to you last week about some of his sources of inspiration and this week I want to highlight the strongest source of mine: dreaming.
The kind of dreams you have at night, while you sleep. Some say that dreams are a way for your brain to process what happened that day. Sometimes that’s true for me. Other times I feel my dreams are more than just a way to process.
Dreaming the night/day away
I dream of stories, ideas, games, feelings, theme parks. They’re vivid dreams. I see the details, hear the conversations, know the feelings of the characters. I love those kinds of dreams. What I don’t like is waking up from them. Sometimes the stories stick and I can write them down. Sometimes all I can remember are a few details, but those details can be enough to spark my imagination to create a story.
Daydreaming is another kind of dreaming that I do like to do as well. It’s a strong method that you can force. Let your mind wander. Let it connect things that others wouldn’t think of, like sharks and tornadoes. Or a cooking rat. My favourite author’s advice to aspiring writers is “get bored”, get lost, wonder.
I always try to write down the story dreams that I’ve had. It only has to be a short summary, half a page. That’s more than enough to let me recall the dream even years later if I have to. Other times I have to do something more than just writing it down. It’s like writing down the melody of a song with the lyrics, or creating the house I saw in my dreams, down to drawing the plan for it. .
Your mind is a powerful tool. Don’t doubt its abilities, but let it work for you. Trust it and let it guide you when you’re looking for inspiration. This part of creating art doesn’t have to rely on rationality or logical thinking.
Even without dreams, I’m used to getting a lot of ideas from random sources, which I try to save and make a note of. Occasionally I get an idea that I don’t think is worth writing down (often I don’t think it’s good enough) and yet it keeps coming back at weird moments. When an idea sticks, even when you’ve disregarded it, it might be a better one than you think. Write it down, who knows what will happen?
Not all ideas are good ones and not every story is interesting enough to write or to sell. But you should write them down. Then you’ll know which ideas you’ve had, scrapped, or improved. Maybe you can one day use one of them as a subplot for a current project, or that short story contest that you read about. A bad idea can become a good one, if you change perspective, the setting, or the medium of your storytelling.
I once had a dream where, after every scene, I would wake up in a different room, in a different time, with different people, but I knew they were all related. In a dream it made sense, written down, not so much. Then I tried to approach the idea as a visual novel, a short illustrated game where you can pick different routes to see different endings. This worked for that story, because every scene was a different route. It’s still on my to-do lists for all the projects that I want to do, but just reading what I wrote will help me remember everything I dreamed.
Train your memory to remember those kinds of dreams, those stories, your daydreams. It’s an invaluable source of inspiration. Write all of your ideas down, even if it’s just one sentence. At the end of the day, the idea is just your starting point. It’s the beginning. After this it’s all hard work to finish your story, but this part of the process shouldn’t rely on inspiration. Don’t wait for the muse to come. Show up and write, and keep writing. After all, writing a book is 90% hard work.