This is What Happens When I am Inspired

Artist and glassblower Chihuly, as shown at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Artist and glassblower Chihuly, as shown at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

I try to surround myself with inspiring things, people, conversation. I try to also surround myself with moments of conflict and moments of peace. When it’s in balance, I find an overwhelming love of existing, of simply walking through this world in balance. I find few things more rewarding. I have a need to live a fulfilling life (as we all do).

If not for my dreaming, I’d be a completely different person. My imagination isn’t so great, while waking. It’s corny, cheesy, lame. I must work really, really hard to create. It has a penchant for the ridiculous. But while sleeping? It’s as if I developed a whole other person that sometimes orchestrates whole novels in a single night.

I dreamed last night. Like I used to, so long ago, I dreamed a great big vast dream that laid out several passive questions I’ve been asking myself, and answered them. But before I talk about the dream, I must talk about what inspired it.

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Nanowrimo Mistake. Short Story Instead.

Haha so. Here’s what NaNoWriMo did to me. It inspired me to write on something not WriMo material.

(I know. I can write on whatever I want as long as it’s writing)

So I had this dream. I woke up, spent all day thinking about it. Percolating like an old coffee machine. It started with a few paragraphs from the main character (me, in the story, but obviously not me).

            My dad used to collect, what’d he call them? Gutter coins. Sewer pennies. One of those, you know, psychological things. Leftover from his childhood. He’d show me his collection—which, after a lifetime of collecting, was quite ridiculous. He didn’t look proud or anything like that—this wasn’t a measure of success for him. It was a curiosity, I think, the only curiosity he ever allowed himself his whole life. Holding down three jobs for so long tends to beat curiosity out of you.

            Also, being physically beaten does that.
            It’s not like he lived through the Great Depression or anything, but he might as well have. Poor as a blind goat most of his damned life. Not like he’d fought in any war overseas and didn’t like to tell anyone, and grappled onto the things as some kind of survival mechanism. The war he fought was in America, then. On the streets.
            Shit, this wasn’t supposed to be about him.
            A gutter coin is a flat chunk of metal that used to be a penny. Or a quarter. Or whatever. And because it got caught in the sewers, or some riverbed, or fell in a garbage disposal, or whatever—whatever reason—everything got gouged up and cut off, or worn down. It wasn’t a penny anymore. It wasn’t anything but a discarded “piece of history,” he’d say. Just some damn piece of metal that you recognized at first glance, I mean you knew what it was, but you couldn’t spend it on a menthol or a bottle of Dos Ex. My father sometimes talked like that.

Clearly I never had that memory. Clearly my father wasn’t so impoverished to live on the streets. And when I first woke up, this whole intro had no connection to the story. It was a creepy, new-house-falling-apart dream where I investigated a domestic complaint of “dumping water” on the road into the neighborhood. So happens after going there, the ground falls out of their basement, I find an old dug-out mine, ancient, and a body laying there. Just a mound of clothes, boots, hat, and whatever remains lay underneath.

Dreams like these are what make me write, give me experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was a bleak dream, unsettling, but not frightening. The body had been there a long time. It’s the whole gutter-penny opening that throws me: as in, how my character, somehow, knew the ending–the body is the gutter-penny, directly connecting the MC to his father’s not-so-distant death–while I remained in the dark even after I woke up. All day long, I thought about it, until I wrote it down and, lo and behold, the meaning came clear.

Like reading a short story for the first time from an author I don’t know. It was even a little gothic in its telling.

So call me crazy when I say I feel people speak to me in dreams. This whole thing is in a vein of writing I’ve adored, but not (until now) in my ability to write. It’s complex because I feel it isn’t mine, and I’m giddy to write it because it’s like some master writer gave me all the visuals–and even the introduction–to make this thing brilliant.

Yet I remain unpublished, so who knows. I might just spend my life walking the paths of a writer, where all my secrets are ignored by the larger audience. I think, for the chance to share these things, it is worth writing.

Dream Relationships

Before I was engaged, I knew a girl. This girl was intense, complicated, and extremely self-serving. We had communicated for nearly seven years–since I was in high school–and we had shared crushes with each other in some capacity or another. We finally met in 2009. I wanted to date her. She wanted to have fun, and not with me.

Long story short, the relationship, and the friendship, went sour before it began. Seeing someone face-to-face is miles away from typing letters. She wasn’t into me, I wasn’t into her, moving on.

But for some stupid reason my subconscious isn’t. She’s been out of my life entirely for the past three and a half years. Sparse communication–she sent a letter or two–and that was the extent of our interaction. I never replied (out of respect for my then-girlfriend).

Of all the people I’ve known my whole life, of every face-to-face relationship or not, she has appeared the most in my dreams. I do not long for her, have no hidden candle for rekindling anything, do not secretly pine or hope. She has much to offer the world, I guess, but nothing I deem valuable. I have no lust or love for her. Yet for the past three nights I have woken from a deep sleep and a chance encounter with her. Usually she’s in groups, in a crowd, shaking my hand and moving on. Once I was being given a tour of a church and she was in the same tour group. I felt no flush of interest, no vibrant excitement. She was there, trying to get my attention, and for the most part, I ignored her.

In my writing mind (perhaps separate from my living mind), I have had an entire, new, friendship with a facsimile of her in my head. Since we cut off communication, I’ve had nearly twenty memorable dreams about her. Any kind of spiritual person would say, “Ah. I know exactly what this is.” Perhaps this is the side of her she wanted me to know. Perhaps, somehow, she’s projecting herself toward me.

Regardless, the premise of such an environment would make a pretty incredible book. If only my thoughts were different, I guess. If only I gave a damn.  I don’t know why it’s happening, but I believe it’s an integral part of human relationships and interactions. I believe we, as people, do this far more often than we care to say.

To the writers, don’t discount this as unimportant, if this happens to you. To everyone else, embrace it. I guess.


I had a powerful dream last night, where I hung by one hand off a bridge seven miles high. I spent the whole dream remembering my life–a life I never lived–and making my peace with all the wrongs I did. At the end, when I gave up holding on, I fell the opposite direction, into space.

That’s the short end of it. I woke vitalized, and much as my peaceful emotional state in my dream, I did not wake mourning, but meditative.

After waking from every in-depth dream, I am motivated to write. I study the world differently. I absorb again, much as I did when I was a child chasing lightning bugs at twilight. Everything shows me its potential. For the day, at least, I am a different person–the person from the dream given fresh life, a second chance, a new opportunity.

An imagined person being given life through my eyes is a complicated thought, and one that requires more than a little thought to understand. My dreams have always been the backbone of my writing because they’re so defined, and when I wake, I truly feel changed. Perhaps it’s my propensity for the chameleonic (No. Not a word), or perhaps it’s because I’ve spent so much time putting myself in others’ shoes, but I find no better place, or time, to write than after one of those dreams.

I am not the norm. I don’t believe more than 10% of writers write the way I do. In fact, with historical exceptions here and there, I’ve found none (Bradbury was one. Lovecraft, of course. Poe, possibly. The makers of the game Myst and subsequent publications. Tad Williams. Possibly).

So I ruminate, percolate, delve and dream. I spend my day working, but working through his eyes. (Some days, it’s her eyes.) I freely admit it’s an off-putting thing to talk about, or even consider. I promise you if you met me in real life you wouldn’t think a thing. I believe we all do this, to some extent or another, giving voice to the quiet whispers, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, empathizing, and even projecting. I believe it takes a chameleon’s mind to study it on a fundamental level, to glean the personality from the thing.

If I were a salesman, or a businessman, I’d use this. If I were a police officer, or social worker, I’d use this. It’s not only a writing thing, yet I’ve found ways to use it as efficiently as a pencil, a scalpel, or a pair of shoes.

The dream also effectively answered a question I asked the night before: should I continue banging my head against It Gave Me a Name or should I change gears to Mr. Roadkill (currently titled Red Wing Black)? The answer was, unequivocally, for change.

This is when I make note my work on IGMAN is at a stopping point (because I say so, per the signs) and the Hanged Man (yes. Delicious symbolism) has put me in the shoes of my other MC, and yes, he will hang.


I Dreamed Hard-Boiled

(Apologies for the constant Blog name-change. I’m looking for my voice, a little)

75% of the inspiration for my writing comes from my dreams. This is 98% why I write fantasy. Since I was 2 years old I’ve had vivid dreams and vivid nightmares, and I remember most of it. You can understand my confusion toward labeling my work fantasy vs something else simply because, in a way, I’ve lived it.

Movies are great. Books are great. I don’t write based off books (except for Dresden and an Animorph fanfic when I was a kid) or movies unless I’ve dreamed about them (which has happened).

Last night I dreamed I read (in the dream) a hard-boiled, gritty detective novel and, simultaneously, lived it through flashes of “real” characterization of the novel. Talk about esoteric; I dreamed that I dreamed about a book I never read.

I’ve always wanted to write hard-boiled (Dresden as example). I’ve always wanted a dark, brooding, antagonist main character in a world of absolute truths shrouded in layers of the socio-psychological and an animalistic need for survival. To try and find inspiration, I read historical fiction like Angel of Darkness and detective-heavy Sherlock Holmes and, even, Lovecraft’s dedication to the scientific method in his Meta sequence. Yet I’ve never succeeded in writing it. I chalked it up to not ever meeting, or knowing, a lover of detective fiction that could bounce ideas around with me, and tell me where I’m screwing up (if I even am! I might be writing it perfect, but getting all the negative feedback to convince me otherwise).

The dream was complicated, but as my subconscious often does, put me in an entirely different mindset than what I’ve been used to: it showed me what “it/I” liked while showing me a detailed writing style I’ve never had. Or, I’ve only had in my subconscious? In fact I had a conversation with the MC. Looking back on it now, it seems silly, but we were on a boat in the Hudson River (setting: Noir York?) after dumping a body and I asked him what he’d do next: pursue prosecution through the police or fighting through to the truth?

He looked at me, square jaw and four-day growth of stubble on his face, and said, “I’m not some emotional pussycat that fumbles around with personal motive and what I’m eating for dinner. I don’t stare into the bottom of my coffee cup and whine to myself how unjust this world is. I chew on the coffee grounds, I smoke cigarettes, and I sacrifice my body and hone my mind. You don’t reach this state without systematically removing all motivation, and motive, from your own life. My life is a mirror of my job; it has to be. Otherwise I’d be the body on the bottom of the river.”

Terrifying realization, this, because I had spent my writing life dedicated to busting the mystery’s balls instead of the character. It’s twisted, and possibly sick, but I have to work my MC to the bone before I can work my mystery to the bone. In fact, the mystery will write itself if the MC is carved away enough before the story starts.

I’ve never thought this way.

The reason I’m writing this post is because, in the past, I spent so much time trying to explain to people how I’ve come to the insights I have through sleep, and they laugh and say it’s impossible. Yes, I’ve read a few detective novels. Yes, I played Max Payne. But my thoughts wouldn’t have clicked the way they did without the vivid dream.

I know it’s unconventional. How do you work through your uncertainties?