When Your Imagination Springs to Life

Barbara Vey -- May 18th, 2012

For some reason I’ve been having a lot of nightmares lately.  You know, the kind where when you wake up you don’t know what’s real and what’s not.  Like that poor guy in the television show Awake.  There’s a car accident and his wife dies and his son lives, but when he goes to sleep and wakes up, his wife is alive and his son is dead.  I wonder if this is how Stephen King comes up with some of his ideas, through his nightmares?


I remember interviewing  Sharon Sala years ago and she told me that when she gets stuck on a plot line and can’t figure out what to do, she goes to sleep.  When she wakes up, she has the answer.  I wonder how many writers out there solve their plot problems that way?


I’ve had authors tell me they get their best ideas in the shower, while driving a car, going for a walk, listening to music and swimming.  It seems like sometimes the mind needs to be needlessly engaged for something creative to leak out.


So, authors, tell me, are there any tricks you use when you’re stuck?  Readers, what helps you solve a seemingly unsolvable problem?  What’s worked in the past?


Bottom Line:  Maybe a warm glass of milk before bed will stop my nightmares…or a shot of booze.

24 thoughts on “When Your Imagination Springs to Life

  1. Dianna Love

    I constantly have ideas for books, more than i’ll ever be able to write. I can’t stand to sleep during the day so that wouldnt’ work for me (but I wish I could b/c I’d get the answer and some rest!), but I do find if I’m trying to work through some issue in the story that walking away to do something completely unrelated to work (away from any computer) frees my mind from churning on it and the answer just pops up.

    Kelly L. Stone published a book called Thinking Write that explains how we have all the answers we need and how our conscious, pre-conscious and sub-conscious works. It’s a fascinating book that explains exactly how to do what Sharon does to come up with those answers.

  2. heathermac

    Thankfully, I don’t have nightmares too often, but I do have the restless nights. I guess you can’t really have nightmares if you can’t sleep. Hopefully you’re nightmares go away soon!

    I tend to keep my troubles to myself, so when a problem really stats to bug me, I put it in my journal, which helps me sort it out. As I write it out, I get a chance to really think about it and shift my perspective. This leaves me with a notebook full of stuff that I have dealt with. It’s a nice reminder of what i’ve survived, but if anyone ever reads it, they’ll probably think I’m nuts. Good thing I don’t write in it too often…HAHA!

    Good Luck with nightmares

  3. Katy Lee

    I do the notebook thing, too when I am trying to work out a problem, but more often than not I never go back read what I wrote in the notebook. Once the problem is solved I jumo right back into writing.

    As for sleeping…I don’t usually wake up with the answer magically coming to me. It’s actually when I can’t sleep that problems seem to right themselves. It’s like my mind knows I have something that needs to be worked on. So if I wake up at 3AM, I just let the thoughts jumble around for awhile until something clicks, then I can go back to sleep.

  4. CL Parks

    I actually take a nap when I get stuck. I will either dream about what “should” happen next, or my mind will be refreshed, therefore, I can go back and with a clear mind.

    I’m also one of those people who have some of the best ideas when I have nothing near me to record the idea, scene, etc. FRUSTRATING!

  5. Anne Norup

    Oh Barbara, good luck with those nightmares. A glass or two of wine before bed might do the trick. If I awaken in the middle of the night, I read. There’s always something an author has written that inspires me. But when I’m deep into my own novel? Nothing like a long shower. The water is a metaphor for ideas flooding into my heart and soul. And they do. Thankful to have a large hot water tank too!

  6. C.H. Admirand

    Hey Barbara…I can’t remember ever NOT having nightmares and sympathize. I think they started when my kids were babies, from stress of worrying about them. Once they started driving the nightmares got worse and now that I shouldn’t have to worry about them (my youngest will be 24 soon) I worry even more! LOL!

    I find that if I’m stuck, I’ve probably sat for too long without moving. I get up and throw in a load of wash, or do the dishes…even though I hate this particular chore…just getting my hands in the hot soapy water must be a signal to my creative side to get moving. LOL!

    Playing in the dirt helps, too. Sometimes I get great ideas while driving, so I keep my voice-activated tape recorder handy for those times…but I have to pull over to use it…it’s not “hands free.”

  7. Kelly L Stone

    Hey Barbara,

    Sorry to hear abt your nightmares.

    Where ideas come from is one of my favorite topics. I get a lot of ideas from sleep, especially when I ask my subconscious to provide me solutions to something before I go to bed. I will sometimes write down a question and then ask my subconscious to give me ideas when I wake up. As someone else mentioned taking a nap when I get stuck also helps. Gives the sc time to percolate.

    Thanks for the post.


  8. Alyssa Linn Palmer

    Oh, how I wish AWAKE hadn’t been cancelled! Such a fantastic show.

    I often will nap when I get stuck on a scene, but I find it’s not the actual napping that helps, but rather that in-between drowsy period, where my mind can wander.

  9. Susan Carlisle

    I’m a water person. When I’m stuck I go to the pool or take a shower. I step out with the answer. No, I don’t do drowning scenes. There is just something about water that lets my mind rest enough to let the plot issue clear.

  10. Joel Haas

    You should look at nightterrors.org

    Night terrors in adults are quite different from night terrors children have. Adult night terrors are not generally thought to be psychology based–they don’t take place during REM sleep. I seriously doubt you’ll get any ideas from night terrors. One of my friends has them and when she wakes, it is with screaming that would do Hitchcock films justice. She does not know me or where she is and many people with night terrors hurt themselves badly jumping out of windows, etc to escape “monsters” or “evil person.” Typically, once the person has been gently waked, they go right back to normal sleep in 3 or 3 minutes and do not remember a thing or just the vaguest shreds. Their partner will be up three hours while adrenaline clears out of their system. Brain trauma or even the brain damage caused by years of migraine headaches may cause them.

    Hmm..parasomnias–wonder how they could be worked into a plot…

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