I’m not one to pooh-pooh an idea on getting ideas. I mean, a good idea can spark anything from an insightful quip to series of novels. The trick is in sorting the pearls from the gravel.
Like so many others, I’ve tried my fair share of motivators _ methods that would ignite the imagination as efficiently as flint striking steel. A recently televised interview with author Delia Owens (Where the Crawdads Sing; PenguinRandomHouse) convinced me I should again try keeping a notepad and pen at the ready bedside, in case inspiration strikes in the middle of the night. Owens noted that a number of her bestseller’s most memorable lines were collected this way.
I’ve tried this before, with little to show for it. But maybe it was time to try again. Maybe, I thought, if I were to jot down some notes before going to bed, it would steer my subconscious self into a more creative dream state.
And, lo and behold, it worked.
Within a couple of days of jotting down ideas in bed, and keeping the same notebook and pen on my bedside table as I slept, lighting struck.
I don’t remember many details of the dream, but I recall that I was in the back of a Suburban with a couple of old friends. A character in the dream, and old college buddy, was recounting some serious event when she uttered something so profound, I paused the conversation in my dream to jot it down. I mean, told everyone in my dream, “Hold on. I need to write this down.” It was that golden.
It was enough to rouse me out of deep sleep, fumble for the pen and notepad and scribbled the gem down.
The next morning, I awoke like a kid on Christmas morning _ all giddy and pumped to see what the Idea Fairy had left for me in the magic nighttime notebook.
I fumbled for my readers and held up the pad, as the memory of the dream and its fruit had already left me. “And that,” I thought, “is why we write it down in the moment.” What had I written? What accolades, I wondered, would this literary pearl garner me?
Written on the pad was: “It was like coming in out of the cold.”
That was the quip so deeply sagacious that I woke to write it down? Sigh.
It was disappointing. Some might consider it a bust. Not me. It’s true: I’ve yet to glean anything useful from my dreams. But I’ve gathered plenty from my bedtime ritual of jotting down thoughts before going to sleep.
Which might go to show that the best way to spark creativity is still the old-fashioned way: Practice, practice, practice. Read what inspires you. Write, even when your muse is on break _ but especially when she’s on fire. Don’t rely on your dreams to motivate you. Motivation is begat by doing.
Keep writing, friends. Not every trick works for every writer. But writers who write will find what works best for them. You’ll get there.