One of the things I love most about life is getting an idea. It can come out of nowhere, hitting me between the eyes like a bolt from the heavens, or (more likely!) it happens like this: something I overhear, or something I see, will strike me as interesting. Maybe I won’t know why at the time, but I always make sure to make a note of it. Later, sometimes, I find that little detail – perhaps a particular combination of words, or a pun, or an interesting nugget of information about a person’s life, will develop and grow into a proper, fully-fleshed idea. Of course, a lot of the time, these little interesting tidbits don’t develop properly in their own right, but it can happen that they get absorbed into other, larger, ideas. It’s great to make an idea out of a patchwork of little fragments of inspiration; sometimes, it can make the idea richer and more real.
Getting ideas is wonderful enough, just by itself. It makes me feel productive and alive, and it makes me feel like I’m on the right track with regard to what I’ve chosen to do with my life. It’s true, of course, that everyone gets ideas – every millisecond of every day, someone is having an idea. Inspiration is percolating through someone’s brain, in some corner of the world, no matter what time of day or night it is. I think the only real difference between writers and non-writers is that writers take note of what their imaginations are saying. Writers are the people who, mid-conversation, will scramble for their notebooks or their mobile phones to make a note of something that’s been said, or something they’ve overheard, or something that’s suddenly struck them, all the while muttering apologies. Writers are terribly rude, it’s true. They probably also have pens and scraps of paper in every pocket, and they nearly always seem to be having conversations with people who aren’t there. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a way to overcome this. If you know or love a writer, you must be a patient soul indeed.
But, even if the ideas I get don’t turn into Ideas, Ideas that are good enough and strong enough to become a Story, I love getting them. Do you want to know the reason why?
It means my brain is working properly. It means my stress levels are being managed more or less correctly. It means my mental health is good. It means I’m balancing my rest time with my active time in the optimum way. Another way I know that things in my life are in the correct balance is if I start noticing and remembering my dreams, or if I feel that I’m dreaming. If I wake up feeling soft around the edges, like my mind is in another place and time, I’m pretty sure I’ve been dreaming, even though I mightn’t remember the details. If I’m under stress, or overworked, or too tired, I won’t dream. Earlier in my life, at a very unhappy time when I felt undervalued, overworked and far too stressed out, I went years without having a dream. I had no ideas, and the little flashes I did manage to get were like straggly wildflowers trying to grow in a desert. They wilted and died, because there was no rich soil to plant them in. My brain was a wasteland, because all the life and goodness in it was being leached away. I was, as you might imagine, a very unhappy person back then. Luckily, though, I managed to get the courage to leave the job I was working in at the time and change my life for the better. Besides one or two small hiccups along the way, ever since that time I’ve seen nothing but an improvement in my dreamscapes and my Ideas. And that’s just the way I like it.
So, I think it’s important to keep an eye on your dreams, and on your ideas, if you’re the kind of person who, like me, finds inspiration in the smallest and most throwaway of things. If you notice your dreams drying up, or if your ideas start to flutter and sputter away without taking root, there may be something out of balance in your life that you need to take care of. And, of course, make sure you always take note of the happy flashes of inspiration that can come at you when you least expect them. You never know how far those flashes will take you.
Have a wonderful and restful weekend!
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