Writing Advice From My Dream Brain

I don’t dream about writing. I don’t dream about my books, my career, about storytelling.

I dream about stories but not storytelling, I guess you’d say — frequently really weird stories, to boot. My wife has those awkward-but-normal dreams that express anxiety or excitement over mundane life (“I was at the bank and someone said something about me and…”) whereas my dreams are like David Lynch-directed video games (“And then I jumped out of the helicopter and the helicopter was also a god? And then I took the ham sandwich and…”).

This was last night’s dream, though:

I was walking. New York City street. Manhattan. Very busy. Bright. Summer.

(Summer? Wishful thinking, I guess.)

I was going from — well, I don’t know where. I had intention. Walking from one building, going to another across town. I was walking with some purpose as one does in the city and as I passed by a doorway, Amy Sherman-Palladino stepped out. Black dress. Dark sunglasses.

She is the creator of Gilmore Girls and Bunheads.

(Have you seriously not watched Gilmore Girls? You are dead to me. One of my top ten favorite shows. Smart, snappy, sweet. Like Buffy but without all the vampire-slaying. Like Veronica Mars without all the… detecting? Whatever, shut up, just go watch it.)

I have not thought of Amy Sherman-Palladino in a long time and I do not know what possessed me to dream of her, but there she was, looking like herself but taller, and occasionally transforming into Lauren Graham. She was hurrying somewhere.

I hurried after, hoping to catch up.

(It was like that scene in The Matrix where Neo and Morpheus walk against the crowd.)

I finally caught up and said, “Can I ask you some writing questions?”

And she said, “I walk fast so you’ll have to talk fast.”

I said, “Do you have any advice for me?”

“Write from the rails,” she said. As if I was supposed to understand that.

Then suddenly she was outpacing me again and I had to struggle against the crowd — finally I matched her speedy pace and said, “I don’t know what that means.”

She answered as she walked, and said, “Write like you’re up high and going fast. The story is a ride for you as much as it is for them.” And I tried to ask her more but she interrupted me, sounding irritated: “Write like you’re hanging from a rail.”

I tried tell her again that I didn’t know what she meant.

Riding from rails? Hanging from rails? What?

Finally, we were crossing the middle of an intersection. Cars screeching brakes. Honking at us. She stopped, and whirled me around and lifted her sunglasses and said:

“You gotta write stuff that scares the shit out of you.”

And then she was gone, moving faster than I could.