Invoking the Muse: How to Get Inspiration You Can Use II (Dreams and Visions)

In the last post on this topic we talked about the Hoodoo vs. Hard Work continuum.  This time we’ll talk about catching your dreams and visions.

But wait! you cry.  This is supposed to be about practical tips!  How are dreams and visions practical?

Well, they’re not, not exactly.  But they are a key source of inspiration and creativity for artists of all stripes.  Writers throughout the ages have gotten their start from some particularly vivid dream or vision.  Pushkin famously described the inspiration for his classic, groundbreaking novel Eugene Onegin as the appearance of his muse (read: a vision) in the form of a young country girl with a book in her hand.  More recently, very successful authors such as J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Stephenie Meyer, Jacqueline Carey, and E.L. James have all described the initial intense dream or vision that started them down the path of writing what would become their bestsellers: J.K. Rowling had a vision of Harry Potter as she was sitting on the train; George R.R. Martin had a vision of the first chapter of A Game of Thrones, Stephenie Meyer had a vivid dream that would eventually become Chapter 13 of TwilightJacqueline Carey had a dream that morphed into her award-winning, bestselling Kushiel series, and E.L. James describes reading the Twilight saga and falling into an intense fantasy of falling in love with a Dominant and what that would actually entail.

Some of these authors are likely to appeal to you more than others, but the point is that they all got their first spark of inspiration for their successful books straight from the subconscious, and it can be felt in the liveliness and passion of their writing, and the way it has connected with so many readers.  The subconscious is often your best source for inspiration and will tie your personal experiences with the wider world, but you have to learn how to listen to it.  You also have to figure out how to turn your dreams and visions (read: subconscious messages) into something writable.

Most people suffer from one of two basic problems in this realm: too many ideas, or too few.  Terry Pratchett’s eccentric genius character Leonard da Quirm had a belief that tiny particles of inspiration were constantly sleeting through the universe and one had to catch them.

Leonard da Quirm

Leonard da Quirm

Some people, in his view, were just much more adept at catching them than others (he himself built a kind of tin foil hat to try and catch more inspirons, as he called them).  If you have a hard time catching your visions, the problem is obvious: you won’t have anything good to write about.  But you can also have the opposite problem, and have so many great ideas (or ideas that seem great) that you can spend all your time galloping from one to another, without ever sticking around long enough to bring it to completion.  It isn’t enough to conceive your creative children; you have to gestate, birth, and raise them as well.

There’s also the issue that many ideas that seem fabulous in the splendid solitude of your mind may not be so great when you try to bring them out into the world, or at least not in their original form.  I personally have always struggled with this: I’ll have a fabulous (it seems to me) dream or vision about something that of course would make a wonderful book, but when I actually go to put it on the page, either it falls flat, or it becomes almost unrecognizable in its final form.  The original vision is just a seed, and like a seed, it may transform completely as it grows.  What is important about it may not be what you first think.  That germ of an idea may contain the necessary creative DNA, but it will be nothing more than DNA.  The finished product will still be based on it, but must be allowed to grow in its own direction, not forced into your preconceived notion of how it’s supposed to realize what you think your vision is.

And with that happy thought, I’ll wrap it up for today! Thanks for reading, folks, and see  you again soon!

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