July 21, 2011


Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the great English poet, is said to have awakened from an opium dream to begin scribbling his classic, “Kubla Kahn” (1797). He wrote from memory and with the frenetic speed of one receiving dictation from on high.   Unfortunately, he was interrupted by a knock at his door and when he returned to the task, the lines in his head had vanished. The poem was left unfinished. While some discredit his account of the work’s origin, I believe him. 

My children’s story, “Under the Bridge and Beneath the Moon” (“Children’s Digest” 12/1988) was written in the same state of frenzy though minus the drug induced dream. At the time, I was sitting at my typewriter, working on a project, when a piece began to occupy my thoughts. I don’t mean the idea for a story. I mean the actual words kept marching through my head. The more I attempted to thrust them aside, the louder they became until I understood I could do nothing unless I wrote them down. With my hands on the keys, I was no more than a puppet, lending myself to the spirit within. I finished the tale in under an hour and when I was done, I needed to edit not a single word.

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To say the experience was strange is an understatement. I can’t account for it nor was it ever repeated. There are times when ideas come more freely than others, but they never come with the compulsion of that day when the children’s tale forced its way into my consciousness.

Like Coleridge, I have experienced vivid dreams that later forged themselves into the bones of a plot. The current novel I’m writing, “The Necromancer of Zentralfriedhoff,” is one of these. But dream stories are more tolerant than those which dictate. They drift around in my head like phantoms, nudging, teasing, and toying with my thoughts until I understand enough to give them life.

The mind is a strange entity and capable of feats that can astound us once they manifest. The more we open ourselves to its gifts, the more these gifts appear…  shy sometimes, dictatorial at others, but always, always wondrous like an elevator that reaches the sky.