Artist Resources

Daily Inspiration: Stephen King’s Creative Imaging Technique

In an interview from 1993 with Naomi Epel for the book “Writers Dreaming: 26 Writers Talk About Their Dreams and the Creative Process,” super-prolific horror maestro Stephen King shared this thoughts on what he called “creative imaging,” or the frame of mind in which an artist needs to be in in order to create. He explained how partaking in a strict daily routine creates a scenario in which the mind is essentially hypnotized into a state similar to dreaming.

"Part of my function as a writer is to dream awake. And that usually happens. If I sit down to write in the morning, in the beginning of that writing session and the ending of that session, I’m aware that I’m writing. I’m aware of my surroundings. It’s like shallow sleep on both ends, when you go to bed and when you wake up. But in the middle, the world is gone and I’m able to see better."

I love that he said his “function as a writer.” You have a respect when a creative admits that is “art” is a function, a job, or a task. Though I suppose selling 8 zillion books puts things into a different perspective.

He continued, explaining his morning routine.

"I know that there are certain things that I do if I sit down to write: I have a glass of water or I have a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down around eight o’clock—or 8:15 or 8:30—somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill; I have my music; I have my same seat; and the papers are all arranged in the same places. It’s a series of things. The cumulative purpose of doing those things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind: you’re going to be dreaming soon."

And how does this compare to actually dreaming?

"It’s not really any different than a bedtime routine. Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side that you sleep on? I mean I brush my teeth. I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows: the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why. And the sleeping position is the same: turn to the right, turn to the left. I think it’s a way of your mind saying to your body, or your body saying to your mind—maybe they’re communicating with each other saying—we’re gonna go to sleep now. And probably dreaming follows the same pattern if you don’t interrupt it with things like drug use, alcohol or whatever."

Keeping a routine is vital to the creative process. I used to think that creativity only came when you thrust yourself into a cloud of chaos. While that still can be true, I’ve found that in order to effectively live the creative life, you have to literally make it part of your life, which means you have make it part of your routine. Putting your art and creativity into these terms can feel counterintuitive, but in the long run, it makes all the difference.

Dream awake, folks.

"Witch" by lutzi-ria

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Jen Durant

Redbubble Artist Relationship Manager