I’ve known all my life about authors who were inspired by alcohol or a drug-induced stupor or a dream: Samuel Coleridge (Kubla Kahn), Edgar Allen Poe (just about everything), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Hunter S. Thompson (just about everything), to name just a famous few.
And of course, we members of the rock ‘n roll generation are all-too-familiar with the concept of drugs and alcohol as fuel for creativity, since too many of our heroes have died as a result of overindulging in one while trying to capture the other.
I think the idea is that a second layer of creative consciousness is released during times when the brain is active, but not really alert and bothering itself about its immediate, high-level daily tasks, like keeping us from stepping into traffic or remembering to eat our spinach.
I don’t think I really believed it until I had the experience myself last week.
Before you decide that an intervention may be needed, let me assure you that neither drugs nor alcohol were involved. But I did wake up in the middle of the night with the idea for a character, a McGuffin and the opening paragraph of a new novel. I don’t remember actually dreaming about it, but it was very much on my mind as I opened my eyes. In the first few minutes of wakefulness, before I was completely awake, I fiddled a little with the details and by the time I was truly awake I had something rather interesting.
Now I’m an Olympic-level heavy sleeper, so it’s unusual for me even to wake in the night, let alone feel inspired to leave my bed. But I’ve learned never to spurn inspiration whenever, and in whatever form, it may strike, so I tottered out of bed to write it down. And damn if it wasn’t pretty good. It was so good that I decided to concentrate on the resulting story for a while to see where it took me.
I’ve been trying to write a humorous novel for some time; it’s actually difficult to write humorously without working really hard and the hard work seems to stifle the humor—just one of the many apparent contradictions we writers face. But over the next few days, while I was writing my dream-inspired book, I found myself chuckling as I wrote, and in a few places actually laughing aloud. I’m not certain the book is actually funny, or if I’m just so delighted at how easily the book is flowing that I’m chortling with glee at how clever I am.
Either way, I’m pleased with it, I’m happy to know that the dreaming thing works, and I’ll keep you posted.
10 thoughts on “Me and Edgar Livin’ the Dream”
McGuffin sounds like an escapee from a Ronald McDonald House. It has potential based on the name alone! And keep a pad and pencil by your bed.
I think Alfred Hitchcock first called it the McGuffin–it’s the “thing” that keeps the plot moving and gives a story its reason for being. The Maltese Falcon was the McGuffin. The transit papers were the McGuffin in Casablanca.
This happens to me all the time. I wake with the knowledge of a dream that I know was important somehow – sometimes I can remember it, sometimes I can’t. I think those night time hours may hold our greatest key to limitless inspiration. Figures we’d be sleeping through it! 🙂
Usually I’m oblivious with the best of ’em, but occasionally (and tonight’s one of those occasions) I find I’m alert at 3 a.m. Of course I’m apparently too alert for anything interesting to get through.
Dylan Thomas and I share a birthday….just sayin’. That said, I prefer to write in a comedy vein, because otherwise I’d have to be honest…
You know how it is, Alex–honesty has a way of sneaking in even when we’re trying to hide . . .
Wonderful Sue. So happy you are inspired and seriously writing. Can’t wait to read it. Hope it is a huge success. You are a good writer so know this is going to be great!!!!!
And you are lovely to say so; thanks for reading (and sending me notes when you do)–it’s still going well. Whether it ends up being great or not is another story 😉
Glad it’s working for you. I get the most wonderful ideas at 3 a.m.I either grab a notebook and write it down – and it is illegible at 10 a.m. Or I grab the laptop and quickly type the idea and at 10 a.m. I am staring at it wondering what f*** I meant! 😉
How did I miss seeing this comment from you much earlier? Thanks, anyway for checking in — the novel I reference here is still going well. Maybe it will be my one and only dreamed inspiration, but I’ll settle for that!