A year or two ago, a friend mentioned that she was studying the book From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler in her MFA program. She said it was an interesting take on writing and thought I might like to check it out.
So I bought a copy and started reading it. It was an interesting take on writing, certainly different from anything I’d read before, focusing more on the creative aspect than on structure and plotting and the like. I found myself mulling over things he said and thinking about how to implement them into my own writing.
I didn’t have time to finish the book before life intervened, including a cross-country move. My copy of the book ended up in storage (I’m trying to unearth it, but apparently I own a lot of books), but several things have stuck with me from it. Foremost among those is the idea that we need to access the creative side of our brains for our writing, that it needs to be in a relaxed state—the state where we dream.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to have very vivid dreams. Some of them are intense and exciting, some of them stressful and dramatic, and some of them are just plain odd. (I never have figured out why I once dreamed about going over to an old boyfriend’s sister’s house where they kept clothes hangers in the dishwasher.) But even in the craziest dreams, event flow together and my brain is able to make sense of things that normally don’t go together.
Anyway, I recently ran into a couple complications in the revision I’m working on. Things weren’t working out and I didn’t know how to solve the problems I’d created. Mr. Butler’s advice came to mind and I decided to try it out. I curled up the couch with a warm blanket and allowed my mind to drift through the problems in the story. I tried it again every time a new problem cropped up. Sometimes I fell asleep, sometimes my daydreams got me excited to get up and write, but I always—even when I slept—came up with a solution for what needed to happen next in the story. Not the entire story from start to finish, but the next few steps and then, once I’d written all I knew, I’d let myself daydream again.
Writing is a very creative process, sometimes invigorating and therapeutic and sometimes it’s draining. Sometimes we need to give our minds a break. Sometimes we need to let our minds play with ideas without the stress of actually putting those words on a page. And sometimes we just need a nap.
This process of relaxed daydreaming worked really well for me, a recovering pantser, and I found it much more freeing than a strict outline (my characters never follow those anyway). I know of people who prefer to take baths to get into this relaxed state. Others prefer to go for walks or drives or do yard work. The important thing is to find out what works for you.
In any case, I now can take naps and totally claim that I was working, which is a win in my book!
But what about you? What have you found that boosts your creative process? Do you have any tips or other suggestions for me?
And for those of you NaNoWriMo-ers, best of luck to you! May your typing be swift, your characters cooperative, and your naptimes productive, whatever you’re using them for. _________________________________________
Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.