Tag Archives: illustrations

When Did I Stop Dreaming?

Years ago, I was in a class at Queen Margaret University College (now simply Queen Margaret University, and with a drama department that’s been gutted, compared to the years I spent at the now-closed Gateway Theater campus) called “Experimental Writing.” It was aimed more at those on our course who were focusing on theatrical disciplines that weren’t writing, so those of us who were on the writing track were asked to try and find something new to experiment with.

I chose illustrations. I’m not an artist, but every so often I find myself drawing strange little pen drawings, and in this case I wrote a short piece about dreaming then used Photoshop to put together a set of illustrated pages.

The story is called “When Did I Stop Dreaming,” and the images show off how much I am not an illustrator. But the class was about going out of your creative comfort zone. This was pretty far out of my comfort zone.

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I read enough about science and the brain to know that we dream every night, multiple times a night, and that the question is less whether we’ve stopped dreaming than whether we remember what we’ve dreamt.

When I remember them, my dreams are incredible. They boil down the complications in my life to their most basic questions, then pose those questions in ways that illuminate choices that lead to improved mental health, improved environmental satisfaction, and seeing options I may have been clouding for myself, before. And yet, for at least four or five years, memories of dreams have been few and far between.

What I have far more regularly than dreams is trouble sleeping. Transitioning from the hectic pace of the city to the subdued peace of unconsciousness is difficult, and often takes me hours. It’s also a process that’s easily disrupted – by emotions, by interruptions, by thoughts.

Falling asleep takes discipline.

A couple months ago, a run of insomnia and a fluke neuron firing had me searching YouTube for sleep hypnosis videos.

I stumbled across a channel run by a woman named Jody Whitley, and decided to give one of her videos a shot – I don’t remember which one it was. Sleep hypnosis for pain. Sleep hypnosis for depression. For weight loss. For lucid dreaming. Something.

Lucid dreaming sounded really f*cking cool, and the other topics didn’t sound too bad, either.

Now, I’m not going to get into the efficacy of hypnosis because frankly I don’t know anything at all about it. And I don’t really care, because the videos I’ve listened to from the channel have put me to sleep every time.

More importantly, I’ve started remembering my dreams again.

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Conflicting Emotobooks?

Somebody get me an emotobook, stat. I need to figure these things out.

There’s been a steady background buzz/chatter, via the usual social network suspects, regarding emotobooks for about a week now. I looked into them about a minute ago.

Near as I can tell, an emotobook is a book created for consumption on digital platforms, with a text injected with pieces of abstract visual art. That art is meant to evoke a certain mood or feeling being experienced by the characters, thereby bringing a new level of emotional involvement to its readers.

Color me socked in the stomach. Is this a new evolution of the book, a new bridge in the gap between unillustrated texts and graphic novels? Is the writing/illustration a collaborative effort? What is the quality of the writing and is it possible for writers to create a piece that doesn’t wind up leaning on the ability of painting/artwork to provoke emotions? What does this mean for the commercial future of painting as an art form? Is using abstract art to evoke emotion in the service of the written word a new thing, or is this just an updating of the classical idea of illustration? Knowing how some authors have had negative reactions to having their works illustrated, what is the level of interaction between author and artist, here, and what will it become if emotobooks take hold as more than as passing fad? If an editor feels a writer needs “help” pulling an emotional reaction from their audience, will the decision be to make the writing more resilient and communicative, or to throw in a graphic that “nudges” the reader in the right direction?

Anticipating the answer to that last question makes me a little nervous, particularly in light of my feelings on the quality of writing in some recent bestsellers. At the same time…it’s an exciting idea, if executed well, and potentially opens reading up to much larger audiences. While my gut frets, “What about the ghettoization of unillustrated fiction?!” my mind replies, “Don’t be an idiot, art is not a zero-sum game.” So for now, I’m going to tell my gut to shut its big mouth, and see where emotobooks take us.

On the reader’s side, I’ve only heard good things about the experience of reading in this form, and I’m glad of that. Mostly, people are talking about the emotobooks making it possible for them to connect with what they’re reading to a degree they hadn’t quite understood before. A new way to open up the classics? I’m in.

Think about it: haven’t you ever had the experience of watching a movie, and that making it easier to get through a classic work of literature? I wouldn’t have been able to make my way through Jane Austen (who I grew to adore) if I hadn’t had the six-part BBC miniseries to help me learn how to read them to hand. But some writers don’t lend themselves (in my experience) to quite the same kind of graphic dissection. I’ve got about a hundred pounds’ worth of books by Russian writers, and as many times as I try, I can’t get into them.

Maybe I’m reading crap translations. But maybe having some emotionally evocative visual art inserted into “Crime and Punishment” would help me – and other readers – follow along.