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Dream Crazy

The scariest place to be is inside the mind of a writer.

When I was much younger, I used to wonder what real writers "thought" about. I'd hear people say things like "What kind of twisted mind comes up with this stuff?"--usually referring to some bizarre horror story.

I never thought these writers were really twisted. I just figured they went about their daily business as usual; then, when it was time to write, they sat down at their typewriters and zoomed off into their "crazy" zones and wrote...well, novels like "Carrie" and "Lord of the Flies."

Now I know better: The fragments of insanity are with us 24/7.

"How do you come up with your ideas?" is a question frequently asked of writers. Well, we don't "come up" with ideas any more than the average person seeks out the flu virus. Most of us don't sit around drumming our fingers, wondering, Hmm, what can I write about now?

The fact is, ideas find us. Characters, too. They actively seek us out, stalk us even. Every news story on TV is potential fodder. Every eavesdropped conversation. We take the most mundane daily activities and, without even trying, twist them about in our minds into an unimaginable what if? We can't drive down the street or stand in a checkout line without nabbing a character to add to our stable. It's these same characters who follow us home and interrupt the conversations we're trying to have with our families--

Family: "Did you hear what I said?"

Writer: "Um..."

--and make bank tellers and clerks have to repeat themselves--

(Because we just came up with the greatest lines of dialogue EVER and we're mentally carrying on a lively conversation, hopefully without moving our lips)

--and speak to us at night when we're trying to sleep.

Ah, sleep. Do any of us really sleep?

Some of us do, some of us don't. When we do, we dream crazy. We either dream long, fantastical sagas--potential novels themselves--or endless, random bits of pure ridiculousness; both leave us not only exhausted upon awakening, but frozen with wonder: What the hell was THAT about?

We have nightmares, too, possible more than the average person. I'm not sure what that means, but I can guess: All those stories, all those characters, trapped in the confines of our mind, the vast majority with no hope of ever seeing the light if day... Well, that energy has to be released somehow, doesn't it?

How many of us are comfortable enough in our own minds to simply lie down at night, close our eyes, and go to sleep? There are times when we use this dark, quiet period to review what we've written that day, to maybe work out a plot hole, a conversation, or a future scene.

There are other times, though--far more frequent--when we have to turn on the TV or grab the earbuds; those are the nights we know for a fact we'll never be able to fall asleep without background noise. Without CNN or Big Bang on in the background, or our favorite playlist or late-night radio show, all we'll be stuck with is our own racing thoughts. Whether the thoughts are good or bad makes no difference. You want to sleep. Sleep! Why can't I just go to sleep?

Writers don't always choose "what" to write. They might decide to write romance, YA, fantasy, etc., simply because it's a genre they love, or one they feel they have a knack for, or one they hope will garner a publishing deal. If the genre's a bad fit for the author, generally they figure that out fairly quickly. The ones who don't have a serious problem; none of their writing, regardless of their passion, will ever ring true, not even to themselves.

Once we find our fit, though...we dream crazy.

We find ourselves slipping in that dark zone sleep and wakefulness even during the day, and rapidly covering it up. We go through the motions of our daily routine, and all we can think about is getting back to that computer to allow the words to spill onto the screen. It's all-consuming. Agonizing at times.

As for "twisted minds"? Sometimes what we write is exactly who we are. Sometime what we write has nothing to do with us. It's a creative process unlike anything else. Even the most simplistic of stories compel the author to reach deep into the recesses of her soul. To touch on haunting memories that, often for good reason, have long been buried. To examine personal relationships and long-held beliefs. To confront fears, to question values.

To feel unbearable pain and unconditional love. To experience terror, hatred, and tremendous loss.

All of this is reflected in our words. It's exhausting, and painful, and positively exhilarating.

Our stories are not "us"--yet are stories are us. We can have it both ways. Let our readers wonder.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 27th, 2014 05:14 pm (UTC)
Ahhhh to sleep... ahhhh...who needs it anyway?
Thank you for putting in words what we live with and embrace every day (and night) of our lives.

I have a select few people...okay other writers and a couple of my kids...to whom I can actually say things like "Khyr and I were talking last night..." and they don't threaten to lock me up.

And think of all the fun you and I have had terrorizing iHop customers as we discussed your latest dream of murdering someone :D

On the other hand, the kids are pretty sure I am going deaf based on how frequently I respond to a question with "huh?" and they assure me they will never know if I get senile because I do such odd things all the time anyway.

The only one I don't participate in is your falling asleep in front of the tv. Those things only compound the "I can't sleep" issue for me. My white noise of choice would be rain, particularly a good thunderstorm. Second place is the ceiling fan on high. In the summer the treefrogs and katydids do a fine job as well. If there is going to be talking when I am asleep, it had better be one of my characters giving me something that is then going to keep me distracted all the next day.

A lovely, if vicious, circle, isn't it?
Jan. 27th, 2014 06:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Ahhhh to sleep... ahhhh...who needs it anyway?
""Khyr and I were talking last night..."

I can picture this. :)

White noise only works for me if I am completely exhausted. I like my fan. Otherwise, it's the news or "Mystery Detectives" (which I just figured out is the same show as "Forensic Files" lol)
Jan. 27th, 2014 08:55 pm (UTC)
Good to know I'm not alone in this.
Jan. 28th, 2014 10:31 am (UTC)
Absolutely not! :)

PS Good to see you again!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Jeannine Garsee

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