Joyce Carol Oates once said, “Ideas have come from strange places. In 1976 I remember I had this kind of dream or image of a walled garden and there was a baby in a cradle, and it was something like a legend or a fairy tale. I was haunted by that image of the walled garden, something that just evoked memory, and a feeling of nostalgia. I have a thing about walled gardens, they just teem bery beautiful, and so I just kept thinking about this and eventually that turned into my novel Bellefleur. Where it came from I have no idea. It’s just the unconscious, I guess, or a dream.”
We’ve all had dreams that become pieces of art in our lives, and somehow they always seem to address something deeper than they seem on the surface. I had that once with a story that I wrote in college, which I illustrated as a final project for my teaching degree. I never tried to sell that story, or show it to anyone outside of my family. It was so private, even though it’s a story for children. My mother has been trying to get me to submit it forever. Nearly 20 years. I can’t do it.
But not everyone is as reluctant as I am, fortunately. Oates’ book is an example of that, as is Twilight, think what you will of it, it was originally a dream that Meyer had one night. Clearly, it speaks to millions of people.
If only all of our dreams were like that: stories that we can mine for gold.