Dreambusters: BUSTED!

Psst. Do you have any dreambusters around you? You know, negative voices who feed your self-doubt?

Maybe a few in your past, who now exist as a hypercritical voice in your head? Do they ever keep you from writing, sending a query letter, pitching an agent, or just plain believing in yourself?

Here’s a quick exercise to stop the negativity and start the creativity flowing again!


I just made a list of dreambusters—people who have tried to tear me down at some point in my life. Why would I want to remember all the meanies? Well, it’s not to create a hit list for who I might kill off in a future book or screenplay (although I won’t rule that out entirely).

Let me explain.

I am so geeked about the new Ghostbusters movie (set to release July 2016, with a talented, mostly female cast to boot!), that I changed my ringtone to the Ghostbusters theme song. It makes me smile every time someone calls.

The repetition of hearing it got me thinking about other “busters”—political fact checkers, consumer watchdog groups, the cool Mythbusters dudes, internet debunkers, and eventually my mind drifted to my own dream busters.

Then I had an epiphany. I could use the worst, nastiest things that people have said or done to me as a go-to list of heartbreaking, soul crushing material for antagonists.

First, I made a table with three columns:

1. Dreambuster    2. what they said/did    3. potential character/situation

Next, I thought back and let the hurt flow so I could fill in the first two columns.

I listed people who, by sheer presence in my formative years, had a significant impact on my inner dialogue. Their negative statements were either heard frequently or were part of a single negative interaction, and helped inform my inner bully for adulthood. The original dreambusters included family, teachers, friends, neighbors, and church people. (Intentional or unintentional dreambusting is still dreambusting.)

After that, I expanded the list to include other hurtful moments involving employers, coworkers, people I dated, people at funerals, doctors and medical staff, people in waiting rooms, strangers in lines, you name it. Any potential jerkface I’ve ever encountered.

Then, I looked at the list as a writer. What character in my current projects might say or do these things? If I could easily match up something, I added a character name to the third column, if not, I added a possible character type or scene.

When I was done, I deleted the dreambuster names, because they are not relevant. The magic is what my imagination can do with the material the dreambusters unknowingly gave me. (If you do this exercise, you could hand write it instead of typing it, then cut the first column off and burn it.)

Oh—I just had another idea! If you’re a writer who is submitting work and you get a rejection letter or a negative review, you could use it as material for a character that gets turned down for a job, promotion, college admission, or some other opportunity. (Or you could just burn it. Ha ha ha)

My dreambuster list is going to be one of my best resources yet! (Cue the Ghostbusters theme song!)