Make Your Story: Dreams and Blocks

25 May

“The Knight’s Dream” by Antonio de Pereda, circa 1655.

I’m writing a lot about embracing dreams in the creative life on Con Gusto lately, so I want to offer up a testimonial about how this practice impacts me.

I blogged about how I met my main character in dreamtime, and in that post I said,

I hope you keep a dream journal or otherwise make time to heed and record your dreaming self’s stories and symbols. If you aren’t, you may be missing out on some of your freest, most wide-ranging creative outbursts.

I had a creative outburst two nights ago after I posted about Synesia of Cylene. That night, I dreamed I was in a big shoot out in a railyard, dodging between rail cars, etc. At about 3 AM I woke up and started writing a story. I don’t remember waking up. In my memory, the dream dissolves into me at the laptop typing. But I remember writing and having that superb feeling of not being able to type fast enough, I was so inspired. It took about an hour to write the 700-word story.  Then I went back to sleep.

If this were an infomercial, this is the part of the testimony where I’d say, “With the Barth Anderson 110$ Guaranteed Dreamtime Method, I wrote a story in my sleep and made A MILLION DOLLARS — and YOU CAN TOO.” But I haven’t done anything with the story yet, don’t know if it’s even publishable, let alone, you know, “good.” Because none of that matters.

What matters is that my imagination fucking rocks right now, at a time when cranking out the words on my novel-in-progress while producing new short stories and keeping completed short stories in circulation is the name of the game for me. I’ve done this by exercising my Imagination well, by keeping a night-book, by directly askingmy dream self fun things to think about, by writing every day, and keeping the muscles used to “imaginate” well limbered. So well, in fact, that I can’t shut off my creative side in the middle of the night.

And part of why this is meaningful to me personally is that I’ve had terrible writer’s block, off and on over the last ten years. Knowing that I can emerge on the other side of that very hard time and circumnavigate the creative block is such a relief that it’s almost cathartic, soul cleansing. I fucking did it, friends.

And you can too.

Dealing with Writers Block
1. Be kind to yourself. No scolding. Turn off the inner editor. This might mean…
2.  Meditation. Learning to kindly turn cruel, scolding thoughts out of your head.
3. Keep a “night book.” Write at least 500 words about every dream you remember. Keep your fingers typing or hand writing. Never pause till the word count is met.
4. Counter depression with good healthy food, great sex, fun exercise, sunlight, vitamins.
5. Keep reading awesome writers in your field. Contact the ones who move you and tell them how great they are, how much you enjoyed their work. Be effusive and grateful.

And do your best to maintain a writing discipline. A little every day, even if it’s not on a work-in-progress. Point #3 above will help you get to the other side, I promise.

Writing Prompt #1 – Try writing 500 words, starting the second you wake up. Don’t make coffee. Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t let the fertile fog of dreamland drift away. Write about something you dreamed, or decide the night before what you’ll write so you don’t have to think about it. Write in bed. Keep your fingers typing, your pen moving. Don’t stop. Not one little bit.

Writing Prompt #2:  Write about the reality-based inspiration for your dreams. Write out the dream, and then write about what may have prompted the dream from your reality, the “seed.” Write about why you think your dream-self focused on that image/moment/event/person? What does the dream say about the seed, if anything? What was the mood or main emotion of the dream? How was your dream inspired by the seed? How did your dream-self run with it, change the scene, go crazy with it? Don’t self-edit or filter. Write 500 words as fast as you can, keep your hand moving and your fingers typing till you hit the word count. Do not stop.

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