Looking for the World of Dreams

Lately my life has been too many words.

I work with words all day, and especially here in the summer, when I don’t have much else to do. I have been working on several projects, putting the words into place and polishing them up. Short stories, novels, cover letters — all have been revised. But I am weary of words; they’re not inspired at this stage.

Words and Dreams

Inspired words have to come from somewhere. In my case, they come from dreams and daydreams. The realm that is illogical. I dip into that realm, find the inspiration, and use that thought and the energy to influence building out the dream into something readable. This is why I write fantasy instead of, say, historical fiction.

I haven’t had any of that kind of inspiration lately, and it shows. All I have been doing is revising, the brain work. No aha reactions, no warm feeling of having a scenario in my head (in my case it’s in words, not pictures, because of my aphantasia.)

A wake-me-up

A fellow writer in a writer’s group has assigned me to people watching at the cafe, listening to some good music (in my case, either ambient or singer-songwriter compilations). I think I should take notes away from the computer, preferably with my brass Kaweko Sport fountain pen. And I shouldn’t think about what I should write, but see where the inspiration hits me. Hopefully short stories and poems, because with 7 novels and one to be revised and added to, I probably have more than enough novels to consider publishing.

So that’s my plan for this afternoon.

Working while Sleeping

 This music is supposed to wake me up. The coffee is supposed to wake me up, Why, then, am I not waking up?

Maybe I should type this half-asleep. I can actually type half-asleep, at least for a couple sentences before I wake up and check it. But I can’t transition to the next idea without being awake.

Wouldn’t being able to type while asleep be a good thing? Think about how much work you can get done while asleep! All the times you said “I could do this in my sleep”? What if you could?

Think about being able to type out your dreams while still having them? Ok, maybe writing on a pad with a pen, as I don’t generally sit up while dreaming. I’d love to capture my dreams, though, so maybe sitting up while sleeping would be worth it. A sleep chair and a computer desk? 

Maybe this wouldn’t be a good idea. If employers found out you could work in your sleep, they would assume you could answer emails in your sleep, and then you’d never get any rest. I’m salaried, so my 55-hour week could eventually expand to a 140-hour work week. I don’t like that idea.

I think I’ve convinced myself that being productive while asleep isn’t such a good idea. That’s fine — the coffee is finally taking effect.

Monday Morning

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Monday morning, which seems a lot like every other day in this pandemic — I have two cats at my workstation (the corner of the loveseat in the living room), and I’m drinking coffee.

Today is work (the ordinary type where I have to grade final exams for classes) and work (the writing type where I look at what I’ve written and what it needs). I’ve done fixes on Whose Hearts are Mountains and Prodigies, and it’s time to apply it to Apocalypse.

You see, now I know what my problem is. I started right into the action and didn’t give the story its moments to develop characters and scene.  I hope I’m doing it right this time.

The semester is winding down …

It’s finals week, and after I do some wayward grading, all I have left is the finals, which are multiple choice and computer graded.  And then I will be done with the semester and get some quality time with my brain.

I wonder if I will feel possessed to write a new novel? I said I would back down from noveling because I have five I can release to the querying process. I could query — I think it’s been enough time. I could write short stories or poetry. I can’t just sit around and do nothing. 

So my break will be at least partially a writing break. It will also be a research break, a class-tweaking break (most of this is, however, done). A sit and pet kitties break. A big coffee break. A sit at the massive fireplace at Starved Rock with a mug of Irish coffee break. 

I’m looking forward to it.

Coffee coffee coffee

This is a not-enough-coffee day.

I’m on my second cup of vacuum pot coffee. A vacuum pot is not a common way of making coffee in the US anymore, although in 1910-1970’s (probably) they were a known way of making good coffee, better than the automatic drip which supplanted them in US kitchens. 

We have an electric vacuum pot because we’re a little lazy about trying to get the temperatures right, and right now we have fresh beans from the Board Game Cafe downtown. (Sometimes Richard roasts beans, and then we have really fresh coffee.)

We also have a Nespresso Vertuo for in-between coffee pots — for example, later in the afternoon. We prefer this to the ubiquitous Keurig brewer, which is impossible to clean properly and eventually yields a bitter coffee.

Sometimes we use a press pot, for good stout coffee, or a Chemex, for well-filtered coffee. Or a moka pot, for the closest you can get to real espresso without a machine.

We drink a lot of coffee here — I may drink over the daily limit of coffee. But if I quit drinking it, I would get the worst caffeine withdrawal — pounding headache and grogginess.

Besides, I like the taste. I like the coffeehouse culture and the fancy pot. I like espresso with a twist of lemon (or better, with a dash of sambuca). I like the coffee jokes. 

Coffee, good or no, is a part of my life.


I’m so tired this morning.

I’ve had to retype the above sentence twice because I couldn’t find the home keys. My hands are twitchy on the keyboard and my head keeps nodding.

I slept well last night, and kept sleeping till my alarm woke me up. Usually I’m up before the alarm. 

I’m up, though, if not totally awake, and I’m going to rescue myself with a good cup or three of coffee. Today’s coffee, from Mokaska Coffee, promises not only caffeine but epiphanies.

Hope that wakes me up. I’ll let you know if I have any epiphanies.


I really want to write today.

But so far, my calendar seems to thwart me from all directions. I have (another!) dental appointment* this morning, followed by a meeting with the outfit that is sponsoring the National Guard training which my husband and I will be doing moulage** for.  And, depending on how long that will take (too long, I suspect; I have no patience with dawdling) maybe then I’ll have time to write.

I had great ideas last night for my rewrite/character development of Gaia’s Hands, and of course I forgot some of it and I’m trying to piece the rest of it together with Richard***. I need a good stretch of time to write with more coffee to fuel me****. 

I’ve written today’s blog and I have promised myself at least an hour on Gaia’s Hands. Hopefully, I will feel inspired.

* I was born with an enamel deficiency and rather soft teeth; I have all my teeth crowned, but one or two of my teeth have broken off and require further work.

** Casualty simulation; making up volunteers to look like victims for training purposes. This run-through is an earthquake simulation to train the local National Guardsmen. For the first time ever, we’re getting paid for it. Woo hoo!

*** Richard is the husband previously mentioned.

**** We’re currently drinking our way through a coffee blend that is supposed to taste like chocolate; no matter how we roast it, we aren’t getting any chocolate notes, just something that tastes like really good commercial coffee. Sigh.

The Wind Chill

The temperature at this moment is -17 F (-22 C) with windchills of -32 F (-35.5 C). At this temperature, any exposed skin will develop frostbite in ten minutes. The US Postal Service suspends deliveries to save its workers from literally freezing to death and schools shut down. Outdoors could kill me today with very little effort, if I were to venture out and stay there.

I’m not sure why I got out of bed this morning. It’s hard even thinking about moving, even in a blessedly warm house, with temperatures outside like that. It’s bitterly cold outside, and my body wants to eat high-carb food, gain twenty pounds of fat, and hibernate for the winter.

I will do nothing of the sort. I have coffee to drink, blankets to swath myself in, books to edit. I have gardens to plan. I defy the chill, even though it frightens me with its potency outside. 

Welcome to My Winter Morning

Sunday morning, and Richard and I sit on the couch over coffee and Baroque music.

Our living room provides comfort with cream and burgundy and dark wood. Clutter from projects and plant catalogs litter the coffee table as garden planning helps us through the winter days. I sit on the couch next to Richard with a lap desk on my lap, tapping on the keys of a Microsoft Surface. Words come slowly today; maybe the coffee hasn’t taken effect yet.

The beans that Richard roasted came from Malawi, and the coffee brews up rich and brown sugar sweet with a slight herbal note. Yo-Yo Ma plays Bach on cello over a set of old yet functional speakers.

Chucky, the big butterscotch-colored cat, races upstairs chasing an unseen sprite. Me-Me, grey tabby and white, regards us with her huge, wondrous green eyes. Snowy, pitch-black and ironically named, sits in front of the fake fireplace warming herself by electric heat. Girlie-Girl, calico patched, demands something. Richard shrugs his shoulders and tells the cat he has no idea what she wants.

I light a candle, and the scent of sandalwood wafts to me. I drink my second cup of coffee and think about the seeds cold-stratifying in the refrigerator and other seeds in their packets waiting for the right time to be introduced to soil and water. It’s winter outside, and the weather forecast says it will get even colder, but for now I sit in my warm house on a Sunday morning.

My Relationship with Coffee

I grew up with the same coffee served across the country in the 1970’s and 1980’s — coffee in a can from the grocery store, left to oxidize once opened to the air, brewed in an automatic drip machine which made a weak, brown, bitter brew that I doctored with lots of cream and sugar as an adolescent.

I discovered real coffee late in high school, when I spent the weekend with my dad in the college town where he’d been assigned to install some electronics for AT&T. I was sixteen then; he took me to a coffeehouse called The Daily Grind, and we sat down to some coffee. I took one sip of that cup and decided two things: I would go to school at the University of Illinois, and I would drink more of that coffee. Both of those things would come to pass.

When I arrived at college, I had a yard-sale percolator and a can of Folgers among my belongings, but I quickly abandoned them for coffeehouse brew. One day, I realized that one could actually buy beans at the coffeehouse and take them home to brew. I bought some for myself and for my parents, and although my parents proclaimed my coffee “too strong”, they appreciated the difference right before they went back to canned coffee from the store.

Once I left college 11 years later with a Ph.D., the coffee renaissance had begun. When I had started college, Champaign-Urbana had one coffeehouse; there were at least 5 when I left. Starbucks had not opened up the corporate coffee scene, but it was lurking in the wings. I ground my own coffee and brewed it in a press pot; this attention to detail (and deep, bold coffee) marked me as a coffee snob.

What the coffee renaissance really opened up, however, was home experimentation. Ways of brewing coffee thought previously lost — cold toddy brew with its smoothness, the aforementioned French press coffee, moka’s near-espresso richness, the fullness of vacuum pot coffee — found their adoptees. Home coffee roasting –using everything from air poppers to expensive drum roasters — appealed to the most experimental. Single-origin beans followed, and coffee drinkers became connoisseurs much like wine drinkers

Today, I drank a single-origin Malawi coffee that my husband roasted in the basement. It was as fresh as could be drunk; coffee is best if given a two-day rest after roasting. As precious as this sounds, the coffee beans are cheaper than those already roasted in the stores, and the nuances between coffees make each cup an exploration.

I don’t know if my relationship with coffee could get any better with this.

beans are cheaper