Posted by: Phil Anderson | July 6, 2014

The Ideas in my Head

Earlier today I read a thought-provoking blog post about how difficult it is to take the great ideas in your head and put them into words. The end result is never as elaborate or epic as the original concept promises. It can be frustrating and create a sense of failure as a writer. But is it even a realistic or viable goal?

My subconscious mind is a fickle muse. I don’t generally remember dreams that I’ve dreamt other than a scene or two, or maybe an idea or a feeling. But every once in a while there’s a dream that’s so good you just don’t want to wake up.

For me this happens most often in nine-minute spans. My alarm goes off but I’m not yet ready to face the day. I roll over to press “snooze” and my mind drifts off, in and out of consciousness, plans for the day mixing with snippets of imagination. People and events come together to create what seems like a fascinating, compelling narrative. Then my alarm rings again, interrupting possibly the most enjoyable moment of the day.

In an attempt to lock the story in my memory, I try to describe the experience to my wife. Only then, as I put it into words, do I notice the inconsistencies. What had seemed a completely normal situation is revealed to be illogical or even impossible. An ordered series of events, one thing leading to another, is exposed as an irrational non sequitur.

Of course this all makes sense. Not the dream itself, but the conflict between the dream and reality. The subconscious mind is the realm of dreams and imagination while consciousness requires logic and reason. Dreams are not restricted by the rules of logic, and the unconscious mind does’t analyze thoughts to ensure they make sense; they just feel right.

So it may not be possible to write down the elaborately epic story that I’ve imagined. At least, not in its purest form. It needs to be thought through and analyzed rationally. Fanciful ideas must be sifted through a mesh of sensibleness. It takes a combination of logic and imagination to create a story that is both compelling and inspiring, and that provokes thought and feeling.

How does your favorite writer balance these two sides of storytelling? Does your favorite book tell an imaginative story in a way that makes sense? Share your thoughts and comments below.

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