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“It” happened again.  

“It” is the story I presented in this spot several weeks ago. To wit: I awoke quite early after dreaming the beginning, middle and ending of a novel, got up, typed everything I could remember, and started an outline. That work in progress is now titled The Lake Effect and other than for those occasions where I get in my own way it has actually been fun. I am not finished but I am seeing the highway distance signs assuring me that I am headed in the right direction at speed.

However, “it” has happened again. I woke up Friday morning with a dream vividly lodged in my head, a dream that laid out another novel, beginning, middle, and end. I for a number of reasons (none of them really acceptable) could not get up but I had a pen and a notepad at the ready and scribbled a bunch of notes to my daytime self, all of which actually made sense when I woke up for a second time Friday morning with paper all over the place. The novel? It is, as with The Lake Effect, way outside of my writing comfort zone. The Lake Effect is a love story with a bit of science fiction attached. The latest dream —so far unnamed — is a dystopian thriller. I hate dystopian novels, as a rule. I have been able to read, enjoy, and finish two in my lifetime: Dahlgren by Samuel  R. Delaney and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. My humble effort could be pitched as “Long John Silver and John Wick team up at the end of time and make one final effort to hit the restart button.”

I haven’t decided whether to set this newly inspired work aside until I finish The Lake Effect or work on both. What I really wonder, however — and this is a rhetorical question — is…why now,  as I do the slim, slow slide into age sixty-eight (September 11, if you’re wondering when to send the Amazon gift cards)? Am I the recipient of some sort of precursor to the “check engine” light flashing on, or is a blood clot going to jackknife in the middle of my cranial freeway at rush hour in a couple of months, and is this last-ditch creative spurt is a traffic alert?

I ask because something else is happening as well. I’ve had a major change in appetite (food, that is) over the past five weeks. I suddenly have no desire for what had been my four major food groups: pasta, donuts, french fries, and kettle chips. I no longer find appealing what I had to resist. A friend brought over a large bag of my favorite potato chips — Zapps Mardi Gras Kettle Chips — the other day as a gift. Up until a few weeks ago I would have opened them to share with her as a pretext to doing a deep dive in the bag. They’re still sealed. Glory be, ‘tis a miracle, Father Mahoney. Meat is going the same way. I’m down to eating meat as part of one meal per day, at most. It hasn’t been a conscious or deliberate choice. It’s just what I feel. I’ve eaten more oatmeal and soup in the last month or so than I have in my entire life. My cupboard and refrigerator look as if they have been taken over by Jack LaLanne (well, that is a gross exaggeration, but it’s changed quite a bit). This all occurred after I dreamt The Lake Effect.

I don’t know if this is even worthy of a question, but since we have a bunch of artistic minds out there, and many of them are seasoned, let me ask: have any of you experienced a sea change like this? Was it a precursor to something good, bad, or indifferent? What ultimately happened? Thank you, and enjoy your weekend.

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

25 thoughts on “Again

  1. Good morning, Joe.

    Very interesting. I don’t know if I have an artistic mind. I probably am well seasoned by years of salty jaundice.

    First the medical answer. You might want to stop by your doctor’s office and have your liver checked. Change in appetite is a classic symptom.

    Now to the more artistic: With all the attention to UFO’s (or whatever they’re calling them now), maybe someone/ something is channeling their message through you. Maybe someone/something is trying to tell the rest of us something.
    You might want to take a look out the window when you get the next “vision.”

    On the good side, maybe those books are destined to be best sellers. On the other side, be careful if the next message in one of your visions instructs you to run naked to the capital building and howl into the night, “They’re coming! They’re coming!”

    Just saying. And maybe that is too artistic.

    Have a good day, Joe. And be careful.

    • First! And good morning to you Steve. I appreciate your kind medical counsel (and other) more than I can adequately state. Thank you. Just so I don’t leave any misinformation in my wake…I’m not experiencing loss or change of appetite. It’s more a change or maybe a shift IN appetite. I’m also not eating strange things or craving things I previously didn’t like (such as asparagus). I guess one might say that I’m starting to eat like a grownup, so there is hope for me yet. Also, I’m not showing any of the other symptoms of liver problems (jaundice, fatigue, etc.). Thanks for the suggestion though.

      As far as UFOs go, I happened across a website that was selling a vibration tool which would enable one to see the extraterrestrials among us, who are invisible only because they vibrate at a different speed than we do. If that is true there should be many sightings on the dirt roads in Delaware County!

      If I start running anywhere naked I will no doubt get harpooned before I reach my destination…

      Thanks again, Steve, and you be safe as well!

  2. The only dreams I seem to remember are ones where I can’t find my hotel room, usually while attending a conference.
    I suppose there’s a paranormal story in there somewhere, but the dream has never played out with anything resembling a plot.
    We moved from city life to rural life, but aside from a major wardrobe change, I can’t say my life is much different. I don’t get out among live people as often as I used to, but I haven’t missed it. I did change my hair color, but that’s hardly a sea change.
    Color me boring.

    • Terry, boring is good. Boring is wonderful. Excitement, drama, and the like are all grossly overrated. Enjoy your life and hair color and everything around you. Thanks for sharing and for stopping by.

  3. I often follow my urges regarding what to eat, and those seem to run in cycles, but as far as I know it’s never been a precursor to anything good, bad, or indifferent. That being said, what Steve said above seems good advice to me.

  4. Thanks Harvey. I have had occasional urges as well (at one point I was determined to visit every Tim Horton’s in existence) but this is different. It’s an absence of cravings. It’s tough to explain. I suppose it’s like the occasional person I encounter who, after several years of smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day, suddenly loses all desire to smoke…

  5. Hahahahahahahahaha. You crack me up, Joe! I don’t know what’s happening with you, but my advice is to enjoy the ride. Perhaps your regular muse retired and this new muse only works nights. 😉

    • Sue, if I have brought a smile to your face on this fine morning then my job is done! As for my new muse, if they work at all it would be an improvement! Thanks.

  6. My only response is jealousy. My dreams are never fodder for writing. Last night I dreamed that dork from “Napolean Dynamite” stole my hamburger. I defy anyone to get a novel out of that.

    As for the food thing, it has happened to me as well. I was a confirmed carnivore but of late, barely can tolerate the smell of meat. Wait…maybe that has something to do with the burger dream?

    • Kris, you…jealous of me? With all of those wonderful books that you have written? No way!

      Thanks for sharing your dream. What I want to know is…when Jon Heder stole your hamburger, did he pull back a bloody stump?

  7. All I know is that when I read your post what came to my mind is that dreaming these 2 full novels and the alterations in eating habits sounds like you’ve been given a mission. That’s how it struck me, anyhow.

    On a strictly dietary note, I’m no one to give medical or health insights, but I do know that if we will listen to our bodies, it tells us when a shift is in order. I get these unspoken communications from my body every once in a while, but dang it, minus the fully dreamed stories. LOL!!!!!

  8. I agree, BK, re: listening to our bodies. Particularly when they tell us that today we are too frail to cut the grass and to wait until tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. First, I definitely agree with the suggestion that you see your doctor. The improvements in your diet may be your body telling you something. Plus, it never hurts to have a check up and blood work at our age.

    My theory about inspiration offered via dreams or daydreams is that creativity and putting words on a page is a form of adrenaline addiction. Writing is scary and thrilling so adrenaline. The problem is that as we reach the end of the story we know where we are going and the rush is no longer there so we get inspiration for yet another story and adrenaline hit. The smart writer realizes this and finishes the story while taking notes on the new story.

    As we become much more experienced and comfortable at what we write, the adrenaline hits aren’t as high so inspiration for stories outside of our comfort zone/genre appear to shove the adrenaline level up to where it was.

    I have a funnier version of this explanation called, “The Demon Returns” on my blog.

  10. While it sounds like the new diet is healthier, I gotta go with the crowd: go see a doctor. If it were just one thing, well, tastes change. But this is a lot. BTW asparagus is one of the most delicious foods ever.

    • Actually, catfriend, it only is one thing: change of taste. Everything else works (some things too well, actually) and I’m not exhibiting anything else, like bleeding, vomiting, pain, etc. So…

      As for asparagus…people either love it or hate it. There is actually a website for people who hate asparagus, which seems to go a bit far. I dated a woman at one point who hated raisins. And so it goes. But enjoy your asparagus (and other things!) and thanks for stopping by and for caring.

  11. Hmmmmm. Sounds like when I was pregnant!
    While we can surely rule that it for you, Joe, maybe a shift in hormone levels could be a possible culprit?
    In any case, definitely worth a check with your Doc.
    Btw – I would totally read your pirate dystopia!!

    • J.A., that is interesting. It could be a shift of hormone levels except I’m not exhibiting any other signs. As you said, however, we can rule out pregnancy. I hope.

      Thanks for your encouragement. It’s not exactly a pirate dystopia, but one of the characters has an eyepatch and a wooden leg from a close encounter with a giant spider. End times will not be fun.

  12. See the doc!
    A note for those who don’t get inspired by dreams try this. Binge watch Deadwood for at least four erpisoders and eat a bowl of chili before bed time. Works for me every time. I dream of Ian McShane chasing me through muddy streets that on fire and he’s screaming. . . Well if you’ve seen Deadwood you know what he’s screaming.

    • Brian, thanks for that great suggestion re: Deadwood. I am planning to binge the three seasons before watching the movie in order to refresh my recollection as to what has gone before. As far as what Swearingen is screaming…could it be “Goshdarn it, come back here, please?”

  13. Congratulations on your dreams having a plot. Mine are typically mixed up messes. I often dream I’m late for something also. My daughter told me that’s a stress dream. My food has changed but that’s because I moved to India. You ask people at a restaurant to not put too much spice, but “too much” seems to have a different definition here than in the U.S. The folks at KFC are sneaky. They put the chili powder “under” the coating. People here tend to like spice with almost “everything”. Their packaged oatmeal in the morning has spice and vegetables. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • Thank you, Suzanne. Just to be clear, I have plenty of dreams that are of the type which you describe, where they make no internal (or external) sense and just roll along incoherently. I had one last night in which I was watching A Game of Thrones and couldn’t change the channel. I haven’t watched a minute of a single episode and have no inclination. Can’t figure it. Re: spices, I like them myself, but not in oatmeal! Yikes! Thanks for the warning!

      • I’ve never seen those packets in the U.S., just India. They probably sell them in Indian stores. In the U.S. Indians may just add their own spices and vegetables to their oatmeal. 😀 — Suzanne

  14. As far as your change in taste, my husband has gone through that recently too. It was just that. As we age, our taste buds change, decay to a point, and food tastes different. Things we used to love, we can’t stand now. Normal part of getting older.

    I have never dreamed a novel, but I have had premonitions. They are like watching a home movie and then, days, months or years later, the event happens. Sometimes good things, sometimes not. They are so different from other kinds of dreams it is easy to know the difference, the details and images never fade.

    These dreams have found there way into my books since I write paranormal thrillers, but I have to fill in all the details around the scene. No complete beginning, middle, and end.

    It is an interesting coincidence that your change in taste happened at the same time as your dreams. I could ask my sis. She holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology, studying the physical reactions of our brains to drugs, diseases, aging, and life situations. She teaches human development from birth to death. She’s the one that told me our taste buds change as we age. Maybe our brain activity/dreams do to.

    • Thank you, Cecilia, particularly for your taking the time to research this and sharing it. It’s not so much that I can’t stand a lot of things that I used to enjoy eating…it’s just that they have no particular draw. I take your point, though, about tastebuds changing. I also use a lot of hot sauce on just about everything (not oatmeal) which may be a factor too. You may be right about brain activity/dreams changing too. Tony Bennett says that creative people get better with age so who knows. Thanks again!

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