July 10, 2003

By Michael Strickland


My creativity has taken a beating lately. I've begun working close to full-time at Sea World this week, and we've been tasked with starting work at 5:00 a.m., well before the crack of dawn—which means the alarm clock rouses me shortly after 4:00 a.m. As physically demanding as the work is, I come home exhausted, yet it still seems just wrong to go to bed at 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening. So each day, I become cumulatively more and more tired. Such a state of fatigue hardly inspires the creative impulse. My muse has been passed out for days.

But today, she met me while I took an afternoon nap, vividly bringing to life the dramatic opening scene of a movie in my dreams. It played out like a classic western or barbarian movie: a gang of thugs ravage a town while the lone hero rides out, ignoring the plight of the townspeople. After the baddies leave, the remorseful hero returns to view the carnage, meets a beautiful woman who survived by hiding out, and vows revenge. A trite idea, certainly, but the characters came to life in my head. I saw the raider chieftain urinate on the body of the dead king (mayor?) after taking over the town. I felt the anger of the mercenary hero as he passed the raiders on his way out of town, knowing full well what they were about to do. My muse even casted the role of the survivor woman for me, bringing Emily Watson to life in my dream.

Story ideas like this come to me from all sources. Sometimes they appear in dreams, as this one did; more often, they materialize in that twilight time between wakefulness and sleep as I go to bed. Other times, the look on the face of a passerby or the specific pattern of a landscape might awaken an idea inside of me. Most of the time, these story "kernels" just end up in a Word file on my hard drive, the electronic equivalent of a dusty old box kept on the top shelf of a closet. But every now and then, like scattered droplets of mercury, enough of them collect to form the beginnings of a true story.

I've been far too distracted by the harsh reality of trying to find a full-time job and pay the bills to do much writing beyond this not-quite-daily column and the writing I get paid for. But my dream today reawakened the urge to get back to dramatic writing. If the dolphins don't tire me out too much, maybe I can finish off one of my short stories—or perhaps even start my next screenplay. (Note the words "maybe" and "perhaps," the staples of all procrastinating writers.)


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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July Columns:

7/21: Hiatus
7/17: Death Ship
7/16: The Da Vinci Code
7/15: Bad Moon Rising
7/14: Adios, Compay
7/13: Ty Odeh
7/10: Muse
7/6: Memories
7/4: On the Road Again
7/3: Onion Valley
7/2: Happy Independence Day
Previous months in The Archive

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