Room To Dream

Orbital Operations for 6 November 2022


See those four little icons right above this bit? They're for sharing the newsletter. My fine new newsletter host, Beehiiv, adds them by default. Click away! While you still can! Because I keep getting newsflashes from newspapers on my phone telling me that Twitter's on fire and Meta has fucked itself and in my RSS feed I'm seeing more "this is the end of the era of social media" hot takes. I mean, I have strong doubts about all of that - and for "strong" read "I thought about it for fifteen seconds and then put some music on and opened a script" — but, hell, click before it costs you $8 or your virtual legs or whatever.

(If you're actually interested in all that, read this essay by Rob Horning. Otherwise, here's a photo I took on my birthday in 2018 while eating lunch:)

lion 2018

There. That's better, isn't it?

This week I filed first drafts of two WRITTLE 2 scripts, and Wednesday morning I took possession of executed contracts on PROJECT MONTMARTRE and filed the commencement paperwork. PROJECT MONTMARTRE, a two-book deal for a new graphic novel series, is now a real thing, which means I now have to expand the outline into a full treatment and block out the scripting phase.

On Friday I wiped down the boards in the office, started marking them up again, and then decided I was going to take a long weekend to think.


Five years ago I was at the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Norway, which is where the film EX MACHINA was filmed, for a think-tank thing, and this time of year is when I think back to that. As you can see, it was golden autumn when I arrived. I spent a lot of time watching the sun crawl across the valley and a lot of time watching the river. It was a rare privilege to be in a place like that, and I gave it a lot of time. Sitting out in the cold with coffee and just dreaming.

Some weeks, I'll talk to you about schedules and work discipline and showing up and getting the words down and supporting that process. This week, I'm telling you that an essential part of the process is time to dream. Or even just to watch and listen and allow things to flow through your head. Put your notebook away so you don't feel any pressure to make marks in it. It's not about being productive. It's about going fallow-field for a bit. It's the equivalent of sitting on that rock and watching the river run.


And if you're Michael Rother, sitting by the river and just dreaming helps you co-create NEU!'s unique flowing music. (Still taken from this BBC documentary on German experimental music of the 1960s and 70s)

We spend our days and nights learning as much as we can for these dreaming times, when we just sit and be and look around and even get bored. It's in those moments that our brain starts to make associations between where we are and what we know. And that's one place that the stories come from. So your writing instructions this week are to sit somewhere comfortable or wander off someplace and get good and disconnected for a while.

My name is Warren Ellis, and I’m a writer from England. These newsletters are about the work I do and the creative life I try to lead. I send them every Sunday to subscribers. Feel free to send your friends to , where they can read the most recent letters and subscribe for their own.

I’m represented by Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company and David Hale Smith at Inkwell Management. Please add [email protected] to your email system’s address book or contacts.



I started ROOM TO DREAM by Kristine McKenna and David Lynch and then put it down. Here's the idea: McKenna writes a chapter of David Lynch biography, and then Lynch writes a chapter commenting on McKenna's preceding chapter. And, frankly, the first few chapters bored me enough that I put the book down. McKenna had nothing engaging to say about Lynch's childhood, and neither did Lynch. Which tends to be an issue for me with biographies anything. Very few of us do much of interest when we're eight. Anyway, I picked it up again the other night and decided to skip ahead to see if it got better.

Alan Splet worked with Lynch to create a wildly original audio-scape for Blue Velvet. When Dorothy and Jeffrey make love, we hear a groaning roar that morphs into the sound of a guttering flame; Frank Booth erupts with rage and we hear a metallic screech; the camera journeys into the interior of a rotting human ear and the sound of a sinister wind seems to deepen and expand.

“David has a wonderful handle on how to combine images and sound,” said Elmes. “There’s a scene where Kyle wakes up in the morning after being beaten, and the first image you see is a close-up of his face in a puddle. All you see is dirt and water and you hear this strange repetitive sound, but you have no idea where you are. Then you pull back and see he’s in a logging yard and that the sound you’re hearing is a sprinkler keeping a stack of wood wet. The quality of that sound is magical. If it had been the sound of birds it wouldn’t have given you anything, but there was something about that mechanical unexplained sound that made it special. David has an understanding of how things go together that’s purely sensory-based, and he knows how to play with sounds and images until they sort of ignite each other.”

As most of you know, I'm working on audio dramas right now, so that bit just nailed me to the floor. Once the book gets going, you get multiple viewpoints on Lynch's working practises. I'd have liked a little more on INLAND EMPIRE, one of my very favourite Lynch films, but the book becomes littered with interesting or curious little details. McKenna, a very readable writer, does interview around Lynch, and gets forensic on occasion, and Lynch tells stories. Lynch on Robert Blake: "His parents put him on the stage when he was three years old and he hated his parents, his mom in particular. I remember him saying, “I hated being in her womb.”" Blake's gig on LOST HIGHWAY was his final film role: some years later, he was accused of the murder of his second wife, acquitted in criminal court but found liable in civil court. That one line from Blake in that anecdote absolutely chills me.

Lynch's career fascinates me. He'll try anything, without fear. Film, tv, painting, music, sculpture, whatever moves him in the moment. He also seems incredibly selfish, and every in his world is bent towards making the space for his art. He is, of course, a huge advocate of Transcendental Meditation, which is a kind of pay-as-you-go Zazen, but, hell, it seems to work for him. I doubt it's the superpower that people attribute to him, but I can see how deep meditation twice a day for decades could lend him that fearless resilience. The use of meditation is that it is, essentially, a procedure for disconnecting from the jabbering superprocessor in the front of your brain and turning your head into a river.

Anyway. If you're interested in Lynch, this book is more valuable than it immediately appears, and worth taking a look at.

ROOM TO DREAM, Kristine McKenna and David Lynch (UK) (US)

And then I went to rewatch INLAND EMPIRE ("I kick him in the nuts so hard they go crawling up inside his brain for refuge!") and a bunch of TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN episodes.

peaks cig

This newsletter goes out to tens of thousands of you for free, but it does have costs, and buying me a cup of coffee will dull the pain. The tip jar's here if you want it. No obligation.

I don't know if there's a name for this, but one part cold brew coffee liqueur to one part amaretto just stirred in a glass, and suddenly I don't need the heating on any more and it's like 5C outside



Woozily beautiful new single by Midwife.

MONUMENTS OIF ECSTASY is described as "tribal ambient." Big drums.



The last one contains a link to great writing tips from the great WG Sebald.

There were more posts than that on LTD this past week, but why overload you with my random notes to self?

Right after I was in Norway that year, I went to Amsterdam and took this photo, which I will leave you with.

I'm thinking about dropping back to fortnightly over the holiday months. We'll see. But we should all do the things that preserve our energies right now, right? I always tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, but it takes twenty people shouting my own words back at me to make me do it. Don't be like me. Focus on taking care of yourself, staying warm, and doing the things that make you glow. Hold on tight. See you next week.