At the end of the last final exam every semester during grad school, as I walked away from the business building, I felt a relaxed feeling in my shoulders and in my neck, like a heavy load had been lifted off of them, along with a tremendous feeling of relief, knowing full well that I'd be getting a terrific night of sleep ahead of me.
I don't have that grade-worry anxiety any longer, but the one time of the year when I get a feeling that's similar is when I get done doing my taxes. It's always such a pain in the ass to go through all the year's receipts and itemize everything, that once I have my meeting with my tax guy and hand it all in, I feel relaxed as hell as I walk out the door (knowing that I'm getting money back helps as well).
I had my tax meeting yesterday afternoon, came home, hopped into bed, and had the best three-hour nap I've had in years, during which I had the most memorable dream I've had in a long, long time.
I'm not going to divulge the concept of the dream, but I will say this: it was a frightening (but often in a good way) narrative that had a very distinct beginning, middle, and end. What was amazing is that I woke up right after the climax but before the denouement, at the exact time when the emotional rise had peaked and had started falling like a rock. It was a wonderfully immersive experience that was scary as hell.
Though it was not complete enough to form a complete novel or feature-length story, the concept was complete enough to serve as the foundation as one.
I think it says a lot about how the creative process works. Sometimes it's in the abnormal times in our lives (emotional or comfort level extremes) that we come up with good stuff. It's in these times that our minds, even our unconscious minds, can see things from a slightly different angle, which is often all it takes to open up the development process deep inside our brains so the magic can happen.
That's the awesome thing about dreams. There's no work involved. You just kick back and watch the story that you create in real time. For a writer, it's doing work, while doing no work at all.