# of pages written: none on my blog, but several on a short story
# of days left to write 1st draft: 101
Last night I had a lot of vivid dreams. When I woke up in the morning, there was a fully formed joke just sitting at the top of my brain like sea foam. I scraped it off and hoped it wouldn’t melt away before I could recite it out loud. I hurried into the kitchen. “Nikki,” I said, “my brain made up a joke while I was sleeping.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“What happened to the library when the Kool-Aid factory exploded next door?”
“I don’t know.”
“All the books got red.” I made loud ha-ha noises to encourage Nikki to laugh.
“Did you make that up?” she asked.
“No, but my brain did.”
The brain is an amazing thing. You go to sleep, and it just keeps right on working, sifting through all the little Lego pieces of stored information and memories, combining them in funny, strange, surprising, and frightening formations. It’s sort of like the way I imagine that Beck writes songs.
Today I was at the gym, and several Beck songs came onto my ipod. Let me list some lyrics that stick out in my mind:
“midnight snacks at the mausoleum”
“karaoke weekend at the suicide shack”
“like a paper tiger in the sun”
Sometimes it seems like he’s just picking words out of a hat and putting them next to each other, and yet so many of his lyrics conjure up such incredible images and feelings, it doesn’t seem random. It seems meaningful. I mean, karaoke weekend at the suicide shack – can’t you just picture it? Wouldn’t it be a good writing prompt? Oh man – don’t steal that! I’m going to write a story about karaoke weekend at the suicide shack!
Again, the brain is an amazing thing. Especially when it’s being creative.
So how do we encourage our minds to be more creative? To combine words and ideas and images in new and surprising ways? I’ve heard that the best places to be creative are the three B’s: bed, bath and bus. These are times when you’re not consciously thinking about anything in particular, and so your brain might start doing what it does when you dream: combining different Lego pieces of information in different ways. According to neuroimaging, this happens in the association cortex, which seems to be the place in the brain where creative ideas are born.
So in order to be more creative, get lots of sleep, keep yourself clean, and get into some sort of moving vehicle, whether it be car, bike, train, bus, boat, or motorcycle.
And, I’d like to add another suggestion of my own: go to the gym. Or do some sort of solitary exercise. I think that’s another time when you aren’t consciously thinking of anything and so your brain can relax and start doing the Beck thing, sifting through ideas and sticking random thoughts together to see if they might work.
I know that today I was at the gym, and somewhere between my bicep curls and my sit-ups, an idea for a short story came to me. That’s what I’ve been working on today. I’ll go back to my novel tomorrow.
In closing, here is a Beck song that is one of my favorites for its lyrics. I just think it’s beautiful and moving and creative. As good as any poem. In fact, I think Beck might be my favorite poet.
Think I’m stranded but I don’t know where
I got this diamond that don’t know how to shine
In the sun where these dark winds wail
And these children leave their rulers behind
As we cross ten leagues from a Rubicon
With matchsticks for my bones
If we could learn how to freeze ourselves alive
We could learn to leave these burdens to burn
Cast out these creatures of woe
Who shattered themselves
Fighting a fire with your bare hands
Now my journey takes me further south
I want to hear what the blind men sing
With their fossils and their gypsy bones
I’ll stand beside myself so I’m not alone
And how can I new again
What rusts every time it rains?
And the rain it comes and floods our lungs
We’re just orphans in a tidal wave’s wake
If I wake up and see my maker coming
With all of his crimson and his iron desire
We’ll drag the streets with the baggage of longing
To be loved or destroyed
From a void to a grain of sand in your hand