I have long espoused the notion of being prepared to record every idea that pops into my mind. Ideas can come to you any time of the day or night and might have very little to do with what you are actively doing or thinking in that moment. What I don’t always remember to mention is that your dreams can be a powerful source for fresh ideas.
I have always had interesting dreams. Sometimes I remember every detail vividly, other times I retain only parts. Often the details slip away quite quickly as I wake up so I have to be ready to capture those ideas while I can still recall them. Not every dream is interesting, of course, but enough are that it is well worth paying attention.
What I am finding interesting, though, is just as I began this blog my dreams began to align themselves at times in interesting ways with my daily comic strip. Very often I find myself awake after having a vivid dream that is just packed with ideas for stories that I had not thought of previously. Further… I believe I am learning how to intentionally fuel my dreams.
In pursuit of the next idea, I browse the Web and peruse other people’s blogs. I look to Web sites of interest to me and research various things as they pop into my head to consider as source material. I also have lots of personal stories that come into play when I dip into my real life from time to time.
The concept in play here is to fill my mind with as many varied things as I can on any particular day when I am not actively developing a specific story idea. I want to put as many things into my head as I can, and I want to think about various sources of possible inspiration without trying to put anything together in a particular way. I’m just looking to stuff a bunch of semi-random information into my head.
It doesn’t happen that same night… sometimes not even for a couple of nights… but at some point during the week, I find that I am dreaming of people and places and things that I had been thinking about and when I wake up, I try to capture as much of it as I can before it slips away. Some of my best ideas recently have literally come to me in a dream.
Sometimes I feel like I am cheating. I might spend days trying to actively develop a story, working and re-working everything until I’m satisfied. Then, one night I have a vivid dream of a far better idea and in hours the next day have a stronger new story than the one I had worked many times as hard to complete.
As a result, I am recommending everyone do what I have started to do to fuel my creativity. Find some time everyday to devote to random thought. Think of people, places, characters, and things that interest you. Don’t try to consciously connect the dots and put anyone or anything into any particular order. Just let your mind wander to anything and everything of interest to you and let your subconscious do the heavy lifting for you later. I suspect you might be amazed within a week of the new ideas that come to you in your dreams.
Creating a daily strip is a lot different than reading one. Each day I post a new part of an ongoing story, and you see it for the first time. Generally speaking, each story takes place now as of the time of posting whether it reflects a current event, the current season, or just seems to be an event that takes place in non-specific time.
That’s how you see them… but it’s not how I create them.
Many of the stories you see are created out of order. Sometimes even the parts of a story were created out of order or as segments intended for an entirely different plot. I never know when an idea will hit me or what time of year that idea might best take place, so I take notes and make scribbles and build story arcs as they come to me. You don’t want to lose a good idea just because it comes to you at the wrong time of year!
So… I’m building stories out of order, constantly reshuffling the publishing hierarchy, and creating story arcs several months in advance. That takes me to the subject of this post, Halloween in July. As I looked over my completed stories today I realized the timeline of currently complete stories takes me into October. It made me realize that I need to start planning now for holiday-themed posts before I write myself into a corner.
Why is that, you ask?
Well, I’m not going to stop writing today (I hope)… and I know that over the next couple of months I will come up with new ideas that will push other ideas to a different publishing schedule. If I don’t pay attention to the future, I could find myself a few months from now in the middle of an uninterruptible story arc that doesn’t allow a timely Halloween-themed story to be published.
That means today, on the last day of July, I found myself drawing a jack o’lantern and candy canes and holly. You will see none of this for several months, and when you do it will seem timely and appropriate… but maybe you’ll also remember that for me Halloween started in July this year.