In Your Dreams

4 Dec

Lately, I’ve been having the strangest dreams.

I should start by saying that I very rarely dream. While I am not the best sleeper in the world (I’ve had frequent bouts with insomnia, for example), I don’t usually wake up with any memory of my dreams. I know that they say we all dream at certain points in our sleep cycle, and that remembering dreams can be based pretty heavily on the point in the sleep cycle where you wake up. That is about as much as I remember from my high school psych lesson on dreaming, and I’m sure I’ve screwed something up in there.

Anyway, to put it shortly, I don’t usually dream. Lately, though, I’ve been having these vivid, weird dreams. I can’t quite call them nightmares, because I don’t wake from them in some kind of panic or fearing for my life, but they are definitely not the kind of dream that I enjoy having. Almost all of them have involved the end of the world.

I picked up the premise of my book from a dream I had about four months ago, and it was amazing how quickly things came together once I started actually writing it. Like it was all waiting for me right there in my subconscious. I can’t help but wonder if these new dreams are kernels of stories that I should be paying attention to. I’ve considered keeping a dream journal, but honestly, when I wake up I am usually so disoriented and confused that by the time I could organize my thoughts enough to write down my dream, I’ve forgotten most of the details.

I wonder if this is akin to the problem solving method that my mother always recommends: sleep on it. You’ll know what to do in the morning. Inevitably, if I go to sleep thinking about my problem, I will wake up the next morning having solved the issue in my sleep, or at the very least, with new ideas on how to approach the problem. While it isn’t a sure-fire way to solve all problems, and while it certainly has some unfortunate timing requirements, it has worked too many times for me to discount the power of my sleeping mind.

How about you? Do you pluck ideas from your subconscious?


Waiting for Frightful Weather

30 Nov

I live in Minnesota, and so this time of year is always a bit of a contradiction in emotion for me. Like any good midwestern girl, I love the snow and the cold. As one Californian once jokingly told me as I walked around in 30 degree weather wearing only a light sweatshirt over my tshirt, “You must have ice in your veins.”

On the other hand, as my far more hardcore Minnesotan boyfriend will tell you, I am kind of a pansy when it comes to winter weather. When compared against my fellow Midwesterners, I fall far short. The extended months of winter snow and ice make me stir crazy, and I dream of 60 degree days and warm breezes.

While early predictions for the winter have been rather extreme (colder and snowier than ever, await the snowpocalypse!) we haven’t seen more than one day of the white stuff so far, and that melted after just a couple of days. My feelings are mixed. It is almost December. I feel like a Christmas season without snow is sacrilegious. But I know that as soon as the snow starts coming, it will never stop, and I’ll be left here buried in flurries and shoveling and ice and all sorts of unpleasantness until April.

When I was in third grade, my hometown experienced a snowstorm that was so bad it knocked out the power in church on Sunday. It was May 1st.

I guess I’m looking forward to the snow we’re supposed to pick up overnight, though I know it is probably the beginning of the end. How about you? Do you love the white stuff, or would you rather escape to warmer climes?

Who Needs Sleep?

21 Nov

I mentioned in the previous post that inspiration often strikes me late at night. It hits like a mania, buzzing in my veins and keeping me awake when I know very well that alarm clock will still chime at the same time it always does. There’s not much I can do about it except appease it or try to ignore it. A similar sort of buzzing begins when I get over-anxious or just feel burdened down with too many thoughts. Just like the positive creativity, I have to either let this negative energy either apply itself or burn itself out.

Last night, as I was laying in bed trying to sleep, that familiar worrisome buzz returned. My heart literally started pounding, and my legs started twitching. I couldn’t get comfortable. My pillows were too soft. My comforter was too comfortable. I couldn’t just stay there, cuddled underneath  my covers. The whole city was falling asleep around me, and my brain just wouldn’t stop.

In a previous life, I was an avid journaler. My cloth-covered journal would sit in a prominent place next to my bed, ready to have my thoughts dumped into it. This kind of constant writing actually helped me sleep, once upon a time. It allowed me to get rid of all the noise in my head and transfer it onto the page, purging my brain in the same way I imagine J.K. Rowling’s pensieve works. When I turned to my trusty journal last night, I realized that I have written exactly twice in the last two years, each entry about a year apart, and each entry reciting the exact same troubles and worries and thoughts. It’s nice to know that some things don’t change, I guess.

The unintended result of these manic episodes of activity late at night, regardless of how long they last (I was awake until about 1:30 last night, cutting two hours of sleep from my usual night’s rest), is that the next day, I find myself still amped up.

I love the first day of sleeplessness. While I complain like crazy when I have to go on less than eight hours, I do notice that day one after a restless night is often characterized by a boost in my energy, and a frantic need to just get things DONE. It isn’t until day two and three of sleeplessness that the panic and exhaustion hit home. Let’s just say you don’t want to see me on day four. It isn’t pretty.

I digress.

Last night, after writing four pages in my nearly empty and neglected journal, I did the first round of edits on my first draft. It felt SO good, and this morning, I’m still savoring that boost of positivity that I managed to wring from my anxiety-fueled sleeplessness. Today, I can’t wait to get back to my draft and start in on more edits.  The words are bubbling up again, and my mind is half focused on my work and half focused on the writing that will have to wait until I get home this evening. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m not usually the type to find the silver lining, but last night I made a connection.

It seems to me that these bouts of energy, whatever fuels them, are a gift. Like anything else, they can be used for positive actions of creativity, or negative acts of dwelling on things that make me anxious and afraid. Today, I choose positivity.


Inspiration: A renewable resource?

17 Nov

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about finishing the first book in a series, which I did about a week ago (yay!). I’ve moved from drafting at top speed to the much more sedate process of editing and critical review. It’s a shift, but a welcome one, because let me tell you, after all that writing at top speed, I am exhausted.

The conversation turned to the second book in the series, and just the thought of starting a new project right away left me feeling tired and intimidated. I’m not sure why – I absolutely love the way the first came out, and I have had ideas and plans for the second floating around in my head for several weeks now. The best way I can explain it is that I feel as though my creativity is almost like a kind of currency. I have to save it up before I can go on a spending spree of words and plot. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this or not.

It has always been that way for me. Even when I was a little girl, scribbling one act plays and doodling bad comic strips, I felt like the need to create was this thing that kind of welled up inside of me, desperate for attention. It usually happened late at night, a pattern which still persists in my adulthood. Once I got it out, however that happened, it was gone, and I had to wait until the next surge.

Some things have changed. My “bursts” are much longer now, so instead of having a single night of inspiration, I’m able to extend it over weeks of productivity. I feel like I have a better grasp on how to harness the energy that comes with inspiration. I can put something down at night knowing that, the next afternoon when I have time to pick it up again, I will be able to focus on the same ideas and continue the work. I’m sure a lot of this change in focus has to do with getting older, because my attention span is, thankfully, much longer than it was when I was seven.

On the other hand, I still feel that need for a recharge, like my creativity has been utterly spent. I know many authors and artists are constantly working, moving from one piece to another. Spending creativity seems to earn them that creative inspiration back, with interest. Thinking about this made me curious about how other people handle the gap between projects. I’m not necessarily talking about traditional writer’s block, although I think that may factor in here as well. What are your experiences with this? Do you need to recharge, or is your muse on duty 24/7?

But…I don’t have a wrench!

14 Nov

It should first be noted that I am not exactly a newbie when it comes to furniture construction. I started building original pieces when I was twelve. I can even use power tools! But when I drop money at IKEA, I really do expect that the most I’ll have to wrestle with is an allen wrench. No hammers. No screwdrivers. Just a good, honest, reliable allen wrench. And that’s if I can’t get it together with my bare hands.

I recently moved, which was a complete ordeal in and of itself. My apartment is the second floor of a duplex, and all the stairs are treacherous in the same way I imagine the endless stairs into Morder are. Yes, I just made that reference. So after nearly two weeks of hauling furniture and shuffling things around, I finally had time to make my trip to IKEA to grab those missing elements.

Happily, there’s an IKEA right in my metro. It’s just across the street from the monstrosity that is the Mall of America. (Sorry if that offended anyone out there, but I consider MoA to be the tenth ring of Hell. Dante missed it, understandably. They didn’t have malls back then.) So after spending a good chunk of my Sunday wandering through display after display, knocking into people with my cart and trying to avoid running down toddlers (who lets their toddler loose in IKEA?), not to mention pleading with my boyfriend not to ride the dolly through the warehouse, I was ready to come back and deal with something easy.

Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered that all of the furniture I purchased required additional tools. I need a hammer for my coffee table. A wrench for the bar stools and the floor lamps. A screwdriver for the desk! Now, I do have a toolbox, and it contains all of those tools. Where is the toolbox? Your guess is as good as mine. I haven’t managed to unearth it yet, and there’s a good chance it ended up in a box that got sent home with my mother after the last move.

So here I sit, surrounded by boxes full of furniture I cannot assemble, having totally given up on productivity for the evening. I’ll try again, once I’ve salvaged the necessary tools from my sister and rebuilt a little bit of the determination I had earlier today. Unpacking is miserable, but there is nothing better than looking around and knowing you’re settled in, down to the last box.