Most of my big ideas come from dreams. The central ideas for both the Greenland book and the time book came from lengthy, specific dreams that I wrote down and fleshed out. Other dreams have been used either as a starting point for something that wandered far afield from its source material, or as filler for a central idea that I attained elsewhere.
Dreams are bizarre; everyone knows that. I write them down, and then look at them a week later and go whaaaat? Dreams that are insanely engaging as I experience them might turn out to be useless either from a story perspective or a symbolic, figuring-out-my-life perspective. But the notion that a dream by which I am still fascinated months later is too bizarre to shape into a story...I finally decided this week that I can't truck with that. Some of the stuff I'm proudest of writing in the past year has seemed too odd for public consumption at the outset, and I've written it anyway, winding up with the opposite of regret.
I keep returning to Jim Henson at moments like this. (I feel like I've written about this before, but I can't find it on a blog search, so at the risk of repeating myself...) The idea of a prime-time variety show for adults starring felt puppets must have been, to understate the case, extremely hard to sell. But he worked really fucking hard, and he did it. And he created something unforgettable. It inspires me that he did this (and it especially inspires me that his success didn't really get going until he was 40), because his ideas were just weird, but it turned out that a lot of people loved them anyway.
Yesterday I wrote the first draft of a story about a boy who lives on a garbage scow. In the big picture, the story is supposed to be about the cruel limits of charity, but ever since I had the dream that inspired the story, I've shied away from developing or writing it. I kept rereading that set of notes and thinking "boy who lives on garbage scow...nah, too weird, no one will believe it" and turning the page. Yet I'm growing tired of doing throwaway work I'm not especially proud of, and I decided to try writing it anyway. Maybe I can frame it as a fairy tale, I thought, and make it more of a genre story.
It didn't come out that way. It came out in a first-person roughneck pidgin, set vaguely in the Victorian era, veering into a narrative structure which I think I'll have to pitch and rewrite. But it felt good in the doing. It didn't feel like a waste of time. It felt like something new, something weird but inspired. We'll see, after it's done resting, if it goes in the drawer or out into the world.
I also wrote a poem yesterday. I virtually never write poetry, because I don't understand it well and I doubt I've grown at all as a poet since I wrote angsty teenage junk. But I feel quite good about this one - good enough to seek feedback and maybe even publication, once it's been redrafted a couple of times. I was inspired by reading three issues of The Sun nearly back to back over the past two weeks; the magazine publishes poetry that agrees with me in small doses. Although I find it pretty unfair and unrealistic, there's something to magazines' insistence that you read a few issues before you submit work to them. I only just feel like I have an idea of The Sun's mood and intention now that I've held a subscription for six months.
On Tuesday, I sent a query package for KUFC to an agent. Please cross your fingers for me.