Two days ago I woke at 3:30 a.m. with the plot of a short-story in my head. People often ask me where I get the idea for some of the more obscure things I write, and I tell them I literally dream them up. They think I am kidding, but it’s true. Some of my best stories have arrived in the middle of the night–the real trick is to get up, go to the computer and write it down.
After all these years I have learned to do just that.
My husband is used to me getting out of bed and going to work at all hours of the night. How do you sleep when your head is a television? My imagination is killing me, and since I have my main bursts of energy during the strangest times of night, I get a lot done before noon. Anything after that could be a wash-out as I might be napping in an upright position, a corpse at the keyboard.
If I had any names in the idea I woke up with, I write them down, otherwise I give them temporary names. I give the environment it’s name and write down the feelings I had of the dream environment.
Then I note every thing else I can remember about it–sounds, tastes, smells–anything that might make the story more real.
This is not to say that all my dreams are worth writing about–that is absolutely not the case, although they are often hilarious and sometimes confusing.
Some of my dreams are frightening, and make me go “hmmm….”
The point is, inspiration comes to us from the most random of places. Unfortunately, some of the best story ideas have come to me while driving, and that is a real stinker–there I am on the interstate, and the best plot idea I’ve ever had is fighting for my attention, demanding to be written down–which is definitely not an option at that point!
I am no longer allowed to drive with my laptop propped on the steering wheel, go figure. I have gotten off the highway and sat in a gas-station parking lot, jotting down the idea, on whatever is available. Once it is written down, I can go on my way, and concentrate on driving with no distractions.
Unfortunately, I seldom use my handwriting skills any more–the ease of communicating via the keyboard has eroded that all-important penmanship I once received high grades for. Four months later, when cleaning out the car, I will perhaps find a napkin covered in indecipherable chicken-scratches.
If I don’t toss it with the rest of the litter, which is the smart option, I will take it to my office (the infamous Room of Shame) and go over it with a magnifying glass, like Jean-François Champollion trying to decipher the Rosetta Stone.
Nine time out of ten I give up, frustrated; one more glorious idea gone forever, shot to hell in the world of the ephemeral.
Why is there never a translator of obscure texts around when you need one?