Dream A Story, Write A Book: Where Writing Ideas Come From

'The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of' John Anster Fitzgerald, 1858, public domain

‘The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of’ John Anster Fitzgerald, 1858, public domain

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Do you ever wonder where great story ideas come from?

Some writers say they get ideas from their everyday life. Some rely on their ‘muse’ to inspire them. Others have had their writing ideas bubbling around in their grey matter for years.

Then there are our dreams.

The playground of our subconscious, dreams can be a fertile ground for writing ideas.

Some now-famous books that had their genesis in dreams include:

  • The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Misery by Stephen King, who dreamed the basis of the story while asleep on a plane

This month I had the pleasure of meeting novelist and screenwriter Delia Ephron. She spoke at a literary event here in Tulsa, then signed books afterwards. She was charming and insightful, and after telling her at the book table I was a yet-to-be published writer, enthusiastically supportive.

She shared in her talk how her latest novel The Lion Is In came about. Delia dreamed the story, even details of its setting in North Carolina, having never been there. Later, after her book was published, she went to North Carolina, and found certain spots she wrote about that appeared EXACTLY as she had pictured them in her dream. Eerie coincidence, or a gift of writing ‘sparks’ from the universe?

A statement Delia made in her talk resonated with me.

“If you’re a writer, all you really have is process, the rest is out of your control.” – Delia Ephron 

Sometimes I think as writers we worry about all those things that are out of our control (publishing, agents, rejections, sales, etc.) to the detriment of our creativity.

We need to keep the fear monsters at bay and stay open to those writing ‘sparks’, wherever they might appear. Be open to the process.

Writers are natural observers. We stand outside the circle, photographing life in our minds, attempting to make sense of it, turning it over and over in our hands like a smooth rock discovered in a stream. Be present in all the forms process may take. That includes our dreams.

How can we make sure we don’t miss a ‘spark’ that comes floating through our dream world?

  1. Be intentional about remembering your dreams. Think about the fact you want to remember your dreams, and even speak the words out loud: “I will remember any dreams I have tonight.” Sounds silly but saying to ourselves what we want to accomplish is a strong motivator for any goal we might have.
  2. Wake up slowly whenever possible. Take time for the dream world to penetrate into our consciousness.
  3. Keep a notebook bedside to capture any imagery or dream ‘stories’ that come to mind when waking.

Keep your mind and heart open to writing ‘sparks’ in your dreams.

I’ve only had one dream that I wrote about thus far. It was story-worthy because when I was twelve years old I dreamed that my best friend in the sixth grade was murdered, and woke the next day to find that she indeed had been murdered that weekend.

Talk about eerie.

Have you ever had a ‘story-worthy’ dream? Do you keep track of your dreams? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Write Anywhere #42

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

What do you do when you can’t shake the clouds? Not the clouds in the sky, but the clouds that sometimes gather in your heart. Maybe there’s a reason, maybe there’s no real reason. You just feel gray, tired, unproductive. That’s the time to head for the sun.

Write Anywhere #42: Splash Pad

image courtesy Creative Commons

I had one of those blah days this week so I took myself to a nearby splash pad at the local park. The sun shone intermittently that day, but what I was really looking for were some sunny hearts.

I found a crowd of them in children playing at the splash pad. All sizes, colors, and shapes, but one thing they had in common: beautiful sunny smiles. Some stomped the puddles gathering on the pad, others raced back and forth through the fountains. The brave ones yanked the rope and doused themselves with a bucket of cool water from above.

I didn’t write but I made some doodles and erased my cloudy heart. I’d like to share some photos with you of the fun, but I didn’t take any. I didn’t want to worry any of the parents. I wanted their day to be sunny, too; reveling in the child-like joy of cold water on a hot day.

Happy Thought
The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should be as happy as kings.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

Where did you write this week?

Question: Do you have a go-to place for getting rid of a blue funk?

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Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: The Golden Rule For Bloggers

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you receive but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanks so much for all the feedback for our blogging habits series featured this month. I hope we are all giving little tweaks to our blogging vision to make what we do with our blogs the best ever for 2012. If this is your first time popping in, here’s the series line-up so you can get on the same page:

Part 1 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

Part 2 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys To Blogging On A Consistent Basis

Part 3 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 14 Actions To Take To Amplify Your Blog’s Voice

There’s a local health foods store I frequent to buy my vitamins. It’s a little mom-pop operation. Actually a mom-daughter-niece operation where ‘everybody knows your name’. One day I noticed a blurb in their newspaper ad about the store’s blog. I checked it out. It was a ‘just-beginning-to-bud-and-dying-from-the-frost-of-being-unread’ blog. Only one post made a couple months earlier with no comments on it. The post was well-written and happened to mention a new natural face soap the store had begun carrying. It’s a wonderful goat’s milk soap made locally that up until that time had only been sold during the farmer’s market season.

Excited to be able to get my beloved soap in the winter, I ran by the health foods store to snatch up all the bars I could. When I paid for my purchase, I shared my excitement with the owner and thanked her for posting about it in her blog. Her mouth kind of fell open, then she smiled and said, “I didn’t know anyone was reading it. I guess I’m going to have to put some more things on there.” She didn’t think anyone was reading or getting value out of her blog until someone told her.

Blog Habit #4: Encourage Other Bloggers

Whether you call it sowing seeds, karma, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, or good vibrations, when you take the time to encourage others it will pay big dividends in your personal attitude as well as your blogging mojo.

Sometimes we’re so caught up in building our own blog, we forget it really does ‘take a village’ to create a strong blog presence. Readers are the lifeblood of a blog, and a large portion of readers are fellow bloggers. If you happen to have a niche blog, bloggers in that niche are even more important to help you gain a readership by spreading the news about your blog in that niche community.

Interaction in social media usually comes in the form of participating in the community conversation in some way. Sounds simple enough, right? So why aren’t readers naturally interacting on blogs? Why do we have to ‘work’ for their involvement?

A 2006 study by Jakob Nielsen cites that 90% of online community users are lurkers who never contribute or interact, 9% contribute a little and only 1% are vocally active. This is a fact of life that many ministries and non-profit groups have always dealt with. The 20/80 rule, as in, 20% of the same volunteers do 80% of the volunteer work. While we’re not going to make a major societal impact, we can put a tiny dent in whether people stand on the sidelines of our blog or become more interactive by modeling interactive encouragement to others.

How can you be an encouragement to other bloggers without draining your already precious social media time? Here are a few simple ways:

  • Make a comment on someone else’s blog.

Did you enjoy a post you read? Learn something? Completely disagree? Stumbled on the post during a search? Take the time to make a comment to let the blogger know. You don’t have to write a dissertation, but you can also do better than ‘Great post!’ One sentence can make the difference to a writer who’s feeling like their words are floating into the internet ether without notice.

  • Click a social media sharing button.

Are you skimming blogs while on your coffee break or between toddler duties at home? Don’t have time to think about and write out a comment? It only takes a second to click a ‘like’ button on WordPress blogs and about the same amount of time to click a Google 1+, Facebook, Twitter, or social bookmarking button like StumbleUpon or Reddit and you’ve done double duty by letting the blogger know their post has not only been read but shared with others.

  • Tweet or retweet blog links on Twitter.

Become known for showcasing valuable information by taking the time to tweet and retweet post links on Twitter. Folks will appreciate it and be more likely to check out your blog posts when you tweet your own links.

  • Make a Pinterest board for your favorite blog posts.

Once you are on Pinterest, it’s easy to add a photo from one of your favorite blog posts with a simple click of the  ‘Pin it!’ button. The ‘pin’ will link back to the blog to help get more traffic to your fellow bloggers’ sites.

  • Have a blog round-up or showcase.

Some people enjoy writing a post highlighting a weekly round-up of quality blog post links. This has the double benefit of helping others while you get readers who show up just for your great lists!  It doesn’t have to be a long list. Here are some examples:

Read The 12 Best Blogs You May (Almost) Have Never Heard Of

Read Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing’s ‘This Week For Writers

  • Ask someone to write a guest post for your blog.

Be discriminating about this, but if you see a quality blogger who hasn’t built a large readership yet and may need encouragement, nothing helps like a request for their writing skills! You have the mutual benefit of being exposed to the other blogger’s readership.

  • Stay positive in your online interaction.

If something someone says on their blog rubs you the wrong way, think twice before you rattle off that rant that accuses them of being a no-talent hack. Some people support getting as controversial as you can to stir up buzz so people will come check out your blog.

That’s also what they do with reality shows, Jerry Springer and 24/7 news channels. Think about it.

When you are posting something negative, ask yourself these questions: Is this negativity really necessary? Can I make my point without tearing another person down? Of course, life is not a box of fuzzy kittens (if only!) and stuff happens and we like to talk about it. It’s fine to disagree, but be cautious about being disagreeable and attacking others’ personally. It’s bad karma and may come back to haunt you.

  • Answer the question posed in a blog post.

If the specific post asks a question, try to answer it. If you go on and on about your mother’s cat or some other rabbit trail, the blog writer may be frustrated thinking their post/question was poorly written or unclear. That can be discouraging. Answer the question, even if it’s “I don’t know” then tell everyone about your mother’s cat.

If you read a lot of blogs  it’s usually not possible to devote time to commenting on every one. However, you can give yourself a goal. For example: ‘I’ll comment on 3 blogs per day’, or’ I’ll ‘like’ 5 blogs today’, or ‘I’ll write one thoughtful comment per week’. Again, don’t overload yourself with added pressures. But you need to look at encouraging others as an investment. Interacting and sharing in the blogging community not only gives out good vibes, it teaches you to step out of yourself. When you do that, the seeds you plant will come back as a good harvest.

Question: What makes you want to take the time to comment on a blog post?