***Originally published on Keith’s ‘Inside the jaws of Kaiju’ blog***
I am fascinated with the subconscious, especially its influence on the creative process and how it manifests in dreams.
At age 14, I read a bunch of ‘dream interpretation’ books (spoiler alert: don’t waste your money) and in high school / college I did additional reading on them and became interested in what you could call the unlocking of the power of dreams and / or the subconscious. One theory involving this ‘unlocked power’ is that your subconscious can answer larger-issue questions you might have. Trying to figure out what to say to that special someone? Think about it before you go to sleep and you may just dream of a solution. In a creative rut? Think of some ideas that need a ‘push’ as you drift into slumber and your subconscious may give them the kick they need. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic touches on this in one of the earlier issues when the Lord of Dreams is in a library. What library? Why, the library of all the great books that were written in dreams but not in reality – millions of unwritten tomes left to the realm of the subconscious. This is the core premise of the movie Inception as well (and many others) - inspiration via a dream can change the direction of your life.
A little further along my reading I found a comic called ‘Rare Bit Fiends’. In the 21-issue run of the comic, artist Rick Veitch conducts a bit of a dream experiment – he’s going to not only keep a dream journal (a consensus must to harness the power of your dreams), he’s going to illustrate his dreams as much as he can once he wakes up. The first few issues are sometimes funny, sometimes bizarre and always interesting (the way all of our dreams are, with the caveat that other people find *your* dreams about 20% as interesting as you do). After a while though, a few funky things happen: his dreams start to get longer and more epic and he retains a lot more of what he dreamt. Which is pretty crazy right? It definitely adds some credence to training yourself how to dream (and also, I suppose reaping the benefits).
I’ve done this myself as well and tried some of these methods. A few years back I had what I thought could be a good hip-hop track that needed the right beat/drums to to really put it over the top. I dreamt. In the dream, I was approached by “myself”, and “I” went over the my record collection, pulled out a specific record and said “Track 3, Side 2″. Bam, I wake up. I run over to my record collection, pull the record out of the jacket, put it on the turntable and put the needle on Track 3, Side 2. And you know what?
The beat sucked.
Well, I shouldn’t say sucked. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. For a while there I actually thought the beat would work - I mean it came to me in a dream! But after about a week I realized it really wasn’t a good beat idea at all – and the track sat (and still sits) unfinished. What’s up with that subconscious?
It wasn’t the last time something would come to me in a dream. I’ve had story ideas and music ideas come to me (there’s even one in progress that seems like it could work). Yet the totality of my creative ‘output’ from dreams has ranged from the unproductive to the flat-out bizarre. There are at essence two ways to perceive dream content: (1) they provide meaningful clues to a better existence (Inception et al), or (2) they’re a brain dump where the subconscious gets rid of a lot of stuff that was kicking around and it doesn’t have a use for. I’m leaning more toward the second option at this point.
Luckily stuff that pops into your head (as a creative person) is much better when you’re conscious…. right?
Why just recently a really catchy riff came to me that I liked a lot, to the point where I couldn’t get it out of my head. I hummed it over and over, ready for that moment when I could sit at the mixing board and record the riff for posterity (and build it into a song at a another time).
One day I’m walking around the living room and I blurt out the riff. My girlfriend’s kids – totally in rhythm with my riff – finish it by singing lyrics to it!
Except the lyrics they sang weren’t mine, or even original. They were lyrics to a REALLY well-known pop song, and on top of it a pop song I didn’t like. See, without knowing it I took a hook from that song, changed a note or two, changed the timing of it and thought it was something original. It wasn’t. My brain had succesfully executed a funky cover version of a pop song I don’t like and passed it off as originality. Whoops!
Suffice to say, the next time I wake up from a seemingly inspiring idea from a dream I might just keep the pen and paper right where they’re at and go right back to sleep.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: My friend Sama (of The 45 Brains and Carry the One Radio) red this post and wrote a long (and super-cool response here). Check it out:
Wondercon was this past weekend – at some point I considered having a table there for Kodoja, but settled on taking it in from the floor via one-day pass and being a fan. It was my first WonderCon (though I’ve been to SD Comic Con before and exhibited at APE San Francisco). While it’s only in its second year in Anaheim, I was impressed – it’s smoothly run, really big (compared to every con that’s not San Diego or New York) and chock full of vendors, panels and plenty of other good things.
While the stuff I expected to enjoy was great, it was the pleasant surprise of the day that reminded me why I love going to conventions. I reached my spending budget by 1:30 but wanted to stay around for some panels that started at 6:00, and after walking the floor for a bit I became eager to do something other than walk the floor. The strategy became “find a panel that’s at least moderately interesting, even if it’s not something you would have earmarked a few hours ago”, and before you knew it I was in attendance for a panel on crime fiction. The goal was to detox from the craziness of the floor and rest my legs a bit, but it didn’t take long before the panel was riveting.
It wasn’t necessarily riveting because I love crime fiction, either – crime fiction isn’t really ‘my thing’ though I have read some books I liked. It was riveting because one of my favorite things is listening to people talk about The Thing That They Are Passionate About. Whether it’s Godzilla, fly-fishing, car repair or identifying baseball talent it’s always a treat to listen to someone who is an expert in something to talk about that thing. It not only provided interesting insight into the creative process (which as a writer and musician I always enjoy learning from), I walked away with a few things to look for to read or check out – influences you might expect (but were new to me) like Weegee to Edgar Allan Poe, Isaac Asimov and and Robert Heinlein – not what I expected from a crime fiction panel.
It reminded me of my first exposure to excellence – a little pocket book by Jack Nicklaus where he talked about how he plays golf, strategy, mental approach, etc. I played golf competitively as a junior, and reading this book the first time as an eleven-year-old was mind-blowing; Nicklaus was unlocking a new way for golf to be played, a next-level way. When you’re eleven it’s some serious sh*t! While it influenced my golf game, more importantly it influenced learning – and ever since I always enjoying listening to experts discuss their subject of expertise. What started as a way to rest my legs and chill out from a busy convention day turned into an awesome experience and a great way to get exposure to new ideas.
Keith from Kodoja
(This was initially posted in July 2013 after San Diego Comic Con on another blog of Keith’s. Keith will be shutting down that blog soon so can migrate the posts over to Kodoja.com!)
It’s three days afterward and I’m still going through an annual event of mine – the San Diego Comic Con Detox. I table frequently at Comic Conventions to promote my (independently released giant monster) comic Kodoja - but this is the only convention a year where I walk through the main doors on the fan side.
This is my third year attending SDCC and I’ll probably remember this year for two things: (1) it was the year my tastes were actually mainstream, with both Pacific Rim and Godzilla having a large Comic Con presence and (2) it was the year I feel I became a Comic Con ‘veteran’.
For the first item, the experience of having my (Giant Monster / Tokusatsu) tastes was both rewarding and frustrating. Rewarding to look around and see Pacific Rim props / posters / t-shirts, Godzilla posters and prints peppering the convention floor, having an actual Godzilla panel (!) for the upcoming film, and of course the viral/marketing off-site event The Godzilla Encounter. Frustrating for those very same reasons – by those things being current movie properties AND being visible to the public, that means there are way more people that know about them and way more demand. Meaning, I actually have to fight people to get to events or get stuff! It was (and still is, after the fact) a bit of culture shock.
For the second item, I don’t know what it is but the third time around the Con flicked some sort of switch in that I felt I knew my way. I know the quickest way to get across the floor in minimal time, I know how to get to the panel rooms quickly, I know good places to eat downtown…but even more importantly I know how to make my own schedule. I’m sure there are cyborgs out there that can do it, but for me it’s impossible to stay on the Convention Floor for too long without getting exhausted – you need breaks from the floor and from the SD Convention Center. It’s the Circadian Rhythm of Comic Con, and it took me a few years but I finally mastered it. But the main attraction while I was there was….
THE GODZILLA STUFF
As you probably know by now, the Godzilla panel was great and included a nice Gareth Edwards anecdote, as well as some teaser footage that revealed a Mantis-Meets-Alien monster and some pretty impressive destruction, as well as the tease that this Godzilla will be HUGE in terms of actual creature size!
As for The Godzilla Encounter, it was as good as it gets (when you consider it was a free, viral-marketing event created by the studio). Part living, breathing Godzilla museum and part interactive ‘ride’, the first part of the exhibit recreated a Tokyo City block and peppered it with all kinds of Godzilla stuff – a Godzilla suit, overturned police car, gorgeous wall murals, special ‘code puzzle’ clues you solved with your phone to reveal Godzilla concept art for the film, and – the point of most discussion – a room with all kinds of Godzilla toys and a few one-of-a-kind Godzilla concept art statues that may or may not look like the final monster in the film. Unfortunately the time there is limited – sirens went off and everyone got ushered to a control room where actors / scientists were tracking Godzilla. The situation worsened and everyone was ushered onto an ‘elevator’ that began it course to the roof only to experience a massive wave (presumably from Godzilla stomping around nearby). Everyone is ushered out on the ‘25th floor’, a recreated office building floor looking out into a rainy city. After a brief few seconds, Godzilla appeared and stomped right to left. Just when it seemed he was gone, Godzilla proceeds to slowly raise his head and look right at you before stomping off to the right again. Crisis averted! The best things in life are free, and this definitely qualifies – it was the most enjoyable thing about Godzilla’s presence at Comic Con.
ABOUT THE DETOX
San Diego Comic Con is the closest thing in reality to a Twitter feed, only it bombards all of your senses instead of just one. Information is updating every few seconds, everyone’s vying for your attention, everyone’s promoting themselves, and no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you get the weird feeling you’re missing something out there that’s better than what you have going on. Even if you acknowledge this and try to manage your intake, after a few days it starts to feel natural. Again, there is *always* something going on. Even if you don’t act on information when you find out about new events, they are going on regardless and they affect you in terms of how you think. And when you’re heading home Sunday night and all of that just stops after four days of it, the effect is jarring. It’s almost like everyday life is trite. Now of course this isn’t the case, but for a brief period you have to recover from the insane pacing before you resume the normal pacing of your life.