One of the most common questions Mom and I get at book functions is: where do you get your ideas
The answer to that question is just about as easy to find as the answer to another question we ask each other frequently: where the heck did that dream come from? Mom and I both have vivid imaginations that create wild dreams. Last week, for example, I dreamed my sister Monya lived in a mansion so huge she had one, double-gymnasium-sized room where she held a yoga class with 40 of her closest women friends. It isn’t that the concept was so far out; if she had a house that large she might indeed set aside a room just for her friends and exercise. The dream was amazing because of the detail my brain created. I still see the green fronds of plants everywhere, gold archways decorated with Roman-themed crown moulding, the wheat-colored weaved mat I exercised upon. I can hear the gently falling sound of water that filled that room, and I feel my envy that so many of the women looked toned and relaxed in the white robed gym outfits my mind created.
I went over and over details of the day before that dream and could find no hints where the gym or white robes came from.
I will say, however, that my dreams are even more vivid since I started writing frequently, which tells me something about the nature of creativity and how it feeds upon itself. For me personally, I believe my ideas spring from mental agility that comes with practice. The more I sit down and write, the easier ideas come. In a way, it’s like a yoga class for the brain—by practicing, I’m flexing my thinking and the next time I get on the mat, the ideas move more smoothly.
But ideas also come from stimulation, and you have to recognize and acknowledge what’s happening to you to be stimulated by it. When you walk, do you stare at the pavement in front of you? Or do you look around and see? Our world is made of millions of microcosms and if you raise your head you’ll spot them. My dog Laney has given me lessons in this wonder. We’ll be walking along a path and suddenly, she’ll stop dead in her tracks. If I didn’t see her nose twitching, I’d think she’d turned to stone, she’s so still. While Laney is a hound-mix, she’s a site-hound, not a scent hound. Whatever she’s smelling is only backup to what she’s seeing. I thought the first few times it happened she was nuts. Then one time, I stopped walking and just waited. And waited and waited some more, not making a sound, just telling myself I was nuts right alongside her. After what seemed like five minutes, a young adolescent deer stepped right out in front of us. We were in a field and the deer had been on a hill below us, eating its way upward. I guess it couldn’t smell us because of the direction of the wind. There it was in all its male teenage glory, small antlers beginning to show, not yet old enough that the site of us brought instant fear. The deer stared at us and we stared back for several more minutes. The deer didn’t move until Laney’s dog-ness took over, and she couldn’t contain her excitement. She made a move towards the deer, and it turned and white-tailed it out of there.
For a brief few minutes, our microcosms intertwined, but only because Laney and I stopped our world long enough to let the deer walk into it. And none of us―Laney, the young deer or I―would have had the experience if we’d kept our noses to the ground.
Genilee Swope Parente