A week ago I started watching ‘Stranger Things’ and have now
reached the end of what’s currently available on Netflix. I resisted the show for
what seemed like forever, but then the urge to indulge overtook me. I needed to
see what all the fuss was about, but it wasn’t just that. My thirteen year old
daughter drew a picture of Eleven (a focal character) when the first series
came out, and the drawing has haunted me ever since. I’ve never understood why
it drew me in, but it did, despite my reticence, and even before I’d watched a
single episode of the show.
That’s how it is with ideas. They drift into your mind
unseen and unexpected. Some anchor themselves and refuse to let go. Others leave
a trace of something amazing, like the morningtime memories of the most vivid
dreams. Sadly, those ideas fade unless you’re able to record them in a way that
makes sense to you – write them down, paint them, or turn them into dots on the
musical staves. Whatever you do the best.
I believe in writing about dreams. I’m a fan of them, good
and bad. Why wouldn’t it be appropriate to utilise the most abstract and
genuine experiences that most of us will ever encounter? They emerge from
flickering memories, or out of the depths of deep-seated anxieties.
Some of my best ideas have been borne of my worst dreams,
and I’m sure the same is true for other writers. Some of those most terrible
nightmares have remained with me over the decades, in times of both light and
dark. Is that why I don’t always sleep?
Many creative souls have trouble sleeping at night. This
isn’t due to the cries of conscience, it’s our brains overanalysing every part
of life, and pushing far too many ideas into our consciousness.
We are overrun with them. Overwhelmed with their
undisciplined persistence. Their influx may not herald creative genius, but, no
matter what, they keep coming in their millions. Creatives can’t always use or
understand their ideas, but for most of us they are always there.
But then come those times when we have the opposite problem.
When ideas don’t appear when we need them. This isn’t the most extreme writer’s
block, when the words won’t come and the motivation is low. This is an
enthusiasm for writing, a keenness to progress, and perhaps even a deadline to
meet. But the tiny little spark that will set light to the amazing creation is
just not there.
Aside from following tips to help you out with writer’s
block – and they may well help – what else can you do? Dream. Take notes. And
take ideas from wherever you can find them. There are plenty of idea generation
sites on the internet. This is one at the top of Google’s current search – https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/.
On it you can find those spark-ideas for scripts, opening lines, blurbs, and so
much more. OK, so things like this can’t replace the flames of genuine personal
inspiration, but what they can do is provide the flint. Two stones striking.
As a little example, I provided a few keywords for the Haiku
Generator. I basically asked it to write me a haiku about bedtime. I wasn’t
expecting to love the resulting poem, but I did!
Taken up bedtime
A single, smooth candle sleeps
enjoying the book.
I know that candles don’t sleep. I also know that candles
don’t enjoy books. But I love it all the same.
That’s how words work sometimes. And that’s how ideas work.
Unexpectedly. Randomly. And like the sleep of a single, sparkless candle.