Sunday, March 1, 2009

To sleep, perchance to dream

I attended a talk by Irish writer Cathy Kelly in which she was asked what question she hears most often. Her answer: where do you get your ideas from?

Since then, as I've 'come out of the closet' as a writer, I've been asked the same thing a few times. Every time it amazes me, because I cannot believe that other people don't feel it the way I do. For me, coming up with story ideas is like breathing. There are stories everywhere, too many to write unless I get blessed with a lifetime of a few hundred years or Nora Roberts' prolificness.

The majority of my stories start as dreams. Not day dreams, but real dreams, so absorbing and so vivid that I just have to write them down as soon as I wake up. Often, the dream gives me the characters, the setting and even the basic plot. I am nothing more than the story's scribe.

As I've begun to hone my storytelling skills, I've begun to find new stories everywhere: in the newspapers, in overheard conversations, even in songs. The difficult part is having to sit down and write them.

I wonder how other writers come up with their stories. Is it easy or difficult? Where do you get your inspiration? And do you have vivid dreams?

On a completely separate note, I haven't remembered many dreams lately. Maybe because a night of uninterrupted sleep is rare, and most nights I'm sleeping with my nose jammed up against the empty cot beside my bed, while the 'baby', who is already 18 months old and big enough to take up half our bed, jabs me in the back with her feet.

Now I'm off to bed and looking forward sweet dreams.


  1. You're very lucky to have such useful dreams. My dreams are all very vivid and entirely odd and unsettling - if I tried to use any in a story I think I'd drive myself mad.

    Enjoy your baby - I'm sure you've heard it all before, but time goes so fast. It's only the blink of an eye since my 12-year-old was that age.

  2. I don't find ideas in dreams, but like you, I do find them everywhere else. Newspaper articles, songs, poems, conversations, everywhere. All it takes is just one little thing to set me off. My problem is that I've got so many ideas that I have trouble finising the d*mn stories!

  3. Bless your baby sleeping with you. Says I, squashed up on a tiny bit of sofa with my sleeping son next to me.

    My current WIP came about after I saw a news story about draughts in Australia and the problems it may cause for some of the smaller vineyards. I have tons of ideas written down I will probably never get to.

  4. I sometimes get ideas while in that not quite asleep, not quite awake stage. I remember reading that the author of Twilight got the whole story from a (very profitable!) dream.

  5. Hi Romy,
    I'm never short of ideas, but finding good ideas is much, much harder. I tend to keep a file of intriguing clippings from newspapers and magazines and go for the one that most interests me whenever I'm ready to begin a new story. But that only gives me the first spark. The rest takes time to grow.