The Alchemy of Writing – Ideas

The Alchemy of Writing

H.L. Reasby

In many ways, writing is alchemy. At its core, we’re taking the base metals of our ideas and transmuting them into the gold that is our stories and our books.

A common question that writers get is ‘How do you come up with your ideas?’ The truth is that there’s no one answer to this question and what works for me is not always going to work for another person. With regard to my own ideas, I find that most of my best ideas spring from dreams I’ve had.

At a very young age (perhaps around 8 or 10), I realized that I had an ability that many find difficult to achieve: I was a lucid dreamer. Except on rare occasions, I was completely aware that I was dreaming. I also have always had extraordinarily vivid dreams with lots of ‘non-conventional’ events happening in them.

It was in my dreams that I first met NuruSekhmet.

Photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm

The night after our visit, I had a dream of a beautiful, ferocious woman in Egyptian armor, her face mostly hidden behind a mask depicting a snarling lioness. I was utterly enamored of her, but didn’t know how to tell her tale just yet so it remained filed safely away in the back of my mind.When I was around 20, I was in Chicago, and had visited the Field Museum of Natural History for the first time since I was a very little girl. If you’ve ever been to the Field, you know that they have an absolutely marvelous Egypt exhibit. It’s very interactive with mockups of primitive irrigation canals and pumps that you can play with, among other fun things, as well as literally tons of artifacts, all lovingly preserved. If you haven’t visited the Field, I highly recommend it. Not just for the Egyptian exhibit, but for all the other wonderful things they have to offer; the Lions of Tsavo (whose story was told in the movie The Ghost and the Darkness), Sue the T-Rex and the rest of her dinosaur brethren, and tons of Native American exhibits.

Nuru is the first of my dream characters to have her story told, but will not be the last, by any means.

I have an “idea file” where I keep gems that come to me while I sleep so that I don’t forget about them. Many people recommend keeping a notebook right next to your bed to write such things down. I’m fortunate in that I generally remember my dreams long enough to make my way to the computer and add it to my digital idea file.

The bottom line is, when it comes to ideas, there is, and should be, no one source for them. The best thing to do is to keep your eyes open, and make sure you have a collection of ideas that you can draw from, whether it be dream notes, newspaper clippings, notes from people-watching on the bus, what have you.

They’re not gold yet… but they’re a precious commodity even so, so take good care of them!


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