Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Slippery Slope of the Writer's Mind

On the cusp of awakening thought, where reality faces off with the complete absorption of our senses in dreams, lies a barrier for the writer. Sometimes ideas for future stories slip through the porous wall, leaving traces of a lush setting or an unforgettable character. Sometimes, the shadow or heat on the other side of the barrier is strong, but our conscious mind can't put a shape to it. Can't recall anything but the craving carried around all day to retrieve what we know to have been the perfection of an idea for a story. Human nature is to want back what we can no longer have.

But is it really gone? A thought is never wasted. In ways science can't begin to measure or explain, our brain is storing those ideas, cataloging them for future searches of our conscious mind. The impression of the dream, no more than a shadowy mood the writer is dumbfounded to tie to words, will resurface again. In five weeks, when the thread of a subplot is in danger of breaking off in the broken wind of a plot twist. In seven years when an editor wants a series idea to follow up a bestseller.

Then, as it was in the writer's dream, the idea will come back, not as something fresh, in danger of sliding out of the slippery slope of the mind, but as an old friend. Warm. Completely right because it's been waiting for the dreamer to embrace it. Not as a nebulous shape, but in a form the writer was meant to see it all along.

The shadow whose return I'm awaiting:: a woman on a staircase. a photograph during the Civil War.

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