Today’s prompt––Brainwave: What’s the best idea you’ve ever had? Regale us with every detail of the idea — the idea itself, where it came to you, and the problem it solved.
Although I rarely remember dreams, when I do, I pay close attention, for my best brainstorm of my life came in a dream. I was thirty-three years old, living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I’d spent the last four years of my life building a dream house that had proven to be more of a nightmare than a dream. My contractor, the friend of a good friend, had agreed on a very good price for my house, with the understanding that I would pay for the house as it was being built. He would have lumber, concrete, shingles, appliances and flooring delivered to my job site and as the bills were presented for them, I would pay them—up to the limits of the agreed-upon price of my house.
This worked well for a year, but when the year ended and every other house on my side of the block had been completed, whereas mine, started first, was still only three-quarters finished, something started to look fishy. Finally, one of the subcontractors told me the ugly truth. My contractor had had material for all of the other houses delivered to my site and I had been paying not only for my house materials but many of the others, too. Then the big news came. My contractor said that although I’d paid the agreed upon price, materials had gone up so he was going to have to raise the price of my house!!!
At this point I got a lawyer and discovered that his claim was that although I’d agreed to pay a certain amount for the house to be built, that there was nothing in the contract that stated that I would own the house once built! To add insult to injury, he got a restraining order forbidding me from entering my own house and started installing in other houses the material I had researched and gone to great lengths to find while he put substandard material in my own. The time leading up to the court case and the eventual trial meant there was a period of almost a year when I could not enter my own house!
It was agony, but finally I won my case. I could not recover the money I’d lost paying for the material of other houses or sue him for lawyer’s fees without going back to court and my attorney (surprisingly) suggested I just finish the house and enjoy it. I was out $12,000 in attorney’s fees. In addition, when he discovered he would probably lose the case, my contractor did a number of things to make my enjoyment of my house less. He took a chainsaw to the kitchen counter top, drove deep tire tracks through my sod, splashed varnish over the walls and dumped trails of concrete all over the floors. In addition, it was not until someone saw in the paper that my house was about to be sold for taxes that I realized he hadn’t been paying any of the property tax on the land, which up until the time of the court judgment, he had owned!
It took approximately 4 more months to fix the damage he’d done, to carpet the house, install kitchen flooring and to move into the house. Then an additional two years to stubbornly replace material he’d chosen with material I’d ordered that he’d put into other houses, to build the shoji screen drapes and wet bar and to furnish the house; but finally after two years, the house was perfect—just the way I’d wanted it. And it was then that I had the dream.
In the dream, I was sitting in a bar or restaurant with a man when a woman approached us from across the room. Coming to stand directly in front of our table, she threw a drink in my face, hit me on the top of the head with the glass and shouted, “Just wake up!”
I did wake up to find myself screaming “Just wake up.” I was soaking wet and had a bump on my head where I had hit myself with the bottom of the glass. Astonished, I finally realized that I had picked the glass of water off my bedside table, thrown it in my own face, hit myself over the head with it and shouted to myself to wake up.
It was a Saturday morning when this astonishing act occurred. Needless to say, it was clear to me that I had some big thinking to do. Just what was I supposed to wake up to? I then did something I hadn’t done for ten years. I sat down and wrote a very long story pretty much based on my own life. At the end of it, I had convinced myself as to what the dream was trying to tell me. At the end of this school year, I would have been teaching for ten years. In that time, I had taken ten thousand or more student stories, essays and compositions home to grade, edited a teen anthology and been sponsor of a creative writing club for students—but I had not written one thing myself. In spite of a Masters degree in creative writing, I had been exhausting all of my creative energy in instructing kids to write—and living vicariously through them while any additional time and effort had gone into the planning and designing and decorating of the house.
Yet there was still some need to create within me that was so strong that it came out of my dream to rouse the conscious me to action. And rouse to action, it did. At the end of the year, I put everything in my house in storage, rented out the house, resigned my job and went first to Oregon and then California to write. I’ve been writing ever since. That single brainstorm so strong that it stepped out of a dream into my real life changed my entire life. I sold my dream house and used the money to live my dream rather than live in it.
For two years, I stayed with a college friend in Orange County, going to the beach every day to write. I then moved to L.A. to study screenwriting and film production and got a job with a TV production company. I became involved in a poetry workshop and gave numerous readings in the L.A. area, eventually marrying and moving to the Santa Cruz area where I made my living by art for the next 14 years, but continued to write, give readings and publish in a few literary journals.
Since moving to Mexico 14 years ago, I have published a number of poems and articles in various English language print and online magazines. I’ve published one book in conjunction with my women’s writing group and gone on to publish three of my own. Four more children’s books and a book of humorous poetry await formatting as for the past year and a half, blogging has more or less taken over my life.
And this is why ever since, when my dreams speak to me, I listen. No longer am I going to make it necessary to hit myself over the head with a good idea–as I had to do to force myself to recognize the best idea I ever had!