A Certain Lack of Focus

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dreaming of fiction

neilNeil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers. I've read interviews with him and one of the things I find interesting is how much his writing philosophy differs from mine. Specifically how he looks at inspiration.

Someone asked him if he got inspiration from his dreams, and I was surprised that he said never. He claims that dreams are too fragmented, too anti-story to make a story out of.

I get what he's saying. I'll wake up from a dream and think: this would make the best story ever, and sometimes I'll write it down. Then I'll look at it later and think, huh? But even though it doesn't come in pre-packaged story format, dreams have provided me some of my best story ideas. And when I've already got a story going, I'll wake up in the middle of a particularly screwed up dream and suddenly have the missing element. What I wonder is if Gaiman is just reluctant to talk about dreams because inspiration is such a tricky subject.

Authors are always asked where they get their ideas. It's one of the most common questions because people think, if I could just get ideas like that, I could be there. But inspiration is hard for writers to talk about because I think mostly we don't KNOW where we get our ideas. They're just there and then we're turning them into stories. So authors make up bullshit answers or sidestep the question. I think I know the answer though, and it's that ideas come from freaking everywhere. The reason it's so hard to define the where is because there's no particular where, ideas are as common as air. The only difficult part of getting an idea is holding on to it. I think most people don't recognize good ideas. Or bad ideas for that matter. Any time you think "what if this..." that's an idea, but most people let the thought go before it can develop. I think that's where ideas come from. It's not the ideas that's difficult, it's the execution.

*Image linked to IMDB.

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