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the creative potential of migraines and dreams

I’m prone to headaches. Too much tension? Headache. Not enough fresh air? Headache. Sudden change in the weather? Headache. Perfume section in department stores? Headache. Sometimes, the headaches evolve to migraines. Luckily not that often, but when they do it’s sudden and brutal and I need to lie down immediately either in a dark room or with a scarf or similar wrapped around my head.

Yesterday I woke up with a headache and because I procrastinated on the medication, the pain suddenly skipped up the scales, whistling merrily as it went and trying to explode my head, which was my cue to lie down again and pull the blankets over my head. My youngest sister was kind enough to drop the blinds and bring me an extra blanket. (I don’t know why headaches always make me feel cold – something to do with the draining of energy? hm…)

And as I lay there, drifting somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, not thinking and not dreaming, trying to relax, words formed in my head and without any conscious effort at all, my brain dictated the whole text of the introduction to the (academic) project I’m working on at the moment to me. It’s not like I had started writing it already, or even thought about how to phrase my ideas. I’m still very much in the research phase. I have made a few mental notes on things that need to be made clear from the beginning, the emphasis on the approach I’m taking and so on. But I hadn’t written a single word of the intro, not on paper and not in my head. And yet, there it was. And it was good. It was clear, it was structured and it was to the point – but it also held passion and conveyed the importance of the issue and drew the reader right in.

Unfortunately, my brain chose to compose that text while I was prostrated and in no condition to emerge from under the blankets, so I couldn’t capture it. The same goes for dreams, by the way. I don’t always remember my dreams, but when I do, they are always long, involved, detailed, colourful and usually follow a loose storyline. I’ve dreamed the most amazing adventure stories and mysteries. I usually don’t remember them past the first two minutes after waking up though, and even while I try to write them down, they slip away so that I usually end up with mad scribblings, half of which are illegible and the other half doesn’t make sense anymore.

This morning, I tried to recapture the introduction my mind presented to me yesterday. I can’t. I use similar phrases, I try to use the same structure but it sounds forced and boring and pedantic. I’m sure I can improve it a lot, but my question is this: Why is my subconscious so much more brilliant than my conscious mind? And can somebody please remind me to take a dictaphone to bed when I have the next migraine?

Do you have amazing ideas in dreams and in a half-conscious state as well? How do you hang on to them? And do you think it’s possible to access that effortless creativity when awake?


can you write when you’re sad?

I’m sad today. I’ve been upset about happenings in the UK – the eviction of a Traveller’s site inhabited mainly by women and children through riot police and with what seems to have been an excessive amount of force – information by The Telegraph, BBC, The Guardian. Background information from the Human Rights Clinic of the University of Essex.

That’s not what I want to talk about though. After ranting, railing and crying all over my family’s house the whole afternoon, I calmed down again and settled down to do some writing. And I couldn’t. It’s not like my mind is running constantly on the unfairness that took place today. It’s not. It’s active somewhere in the back of my mind, but I’m not totally consumed by it (not anymore).

The problem is that I’m sad. I have this murky grey fog drifting around in my head and my soul, shrouding circumstances and feelings and leaving the cold, stark knowledge that the world is not a good place. It does not leave me freedom to write. I cannot create when I feel like this.

A question to all the writers – am I indulging my laziness and just find a cool sounding excuse? Is it possible to write even when you’re sad? Or angry? Or feel disappointed? Do you have to be happy and content to write? I need your opinions. Please comment.