Write What You Know

Nightmares. It doesn’t matter how old you get, they never stop getting at you.

According to Wikipedia:

“A nightmare is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong emotional response from the mind, typically fear or horror but also despair, anxiety and great sadness. The dream may contain situations of danger, discomfort, psychological or physical terror.”

I had a nightmare a week or so ago and woke with all the usual sensations. The sick feeling from adrenalin flowing, unused, through my blood. A lingering feeling of despair and fear and loneliness ebbing away slowly as I realised I was awake and the nightmare was over. My first thought as I turned over to go back to sleep was: “I need to write this down.”

You know you are a writer when you want to write down and remember as much as you can about your nightmares instead of allow them to fade away from your memory. As I write mostly horror and scary stuff, I thought it would be a great idea to write down the thoughts and feeling I get upon waking, so I can work on replicating them. As a spin off from the initial exploration, I wrote a poem called Nightmares. I wasn’t looking to describe the sensations but to instil something close to that feeling into the reader.

I think I did a fairly good job, if the first comment to pop up on that post was anything to go by:

“I just got goosebumps in broad daylight.”

Another piece of feedback I get said:

“Hey, I like that – I feel a bit sad reading it and vulnerable however isn’t that what a nightmare is?”

Nailed it!

When new writers are told to “write what you know” it can sometimes confuse them. After all, who knows about monsters and magic and evil people on a murderous rampage?

This is what they mean. This is writing about what I know. I may have never faced anything murderous or monstrous during the waking hours, but I have faced them in my nightmares. I know what it is like to run with all my strength to get away from a monster behind me, but never manage to reach that next damned lamppost. I know what it is like to wake up after hiding from ghostly Greek Gladiators in the ruins of a colosseum. Those feelings and emotions are real. They are what I know. So I will write about them and make the things I don’t know feel so much more real for those who read it.

I will also continue to keep a notebook by my bed so I can write down my thoughts and feelings about my dreams and nightmares. If I have to dream about icky scary stuff, then I sure as hell am going to make sure I get something good out of it.



  1. I remember writing down a dream once – it wasn’t a nightmare – but I also remember thinking in that dream (in some subconscious part of it), “how do people come up with these really great story ideas?”. I kind of answered my own question.

    Liked by 2 people

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