Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Writers are Dreamers

If one advances in the direction of his

dreams, he will meet with success

unsuspected in waking hours.

~ Henry Thoreau

Dreams are a writer’s best friend for more reasons than one. Like our hearts that never stop pumping, our brains never stop working. Synaptic connections throughout our bodies are constantly in play keeping the electrical charge of life shooting like lightning bolts. Those connections also fire through our brains in an automated creative storm. Dreams are our productions centers, telling us stories for our own good.  They are a rich part of everyone’s life, waiting to be discovered.

For centuries, dreams have played a factor in every culture. From the ancients who thought them messages from gods and demons to Carl Jung who considered them tools for learning about ourselves and reaching our potentials. We have learned that dreams play a varied and active role in our lives. The mere fact that we dream is good for us. They help keep our lives in balance and support mental health.

In the studies by Nathaniel Kleitman and Eugene Asserinsky at the University of Chicago in the last century, we first learned of the physiology of dreams. They introduced us to REM sleep. Rapid eye movement that occurs when people–and most other animals–dream. REM studies reveal that we watch our dream visions in much the same way we watch a running movie while we are awake.

Your dreams can tell you how you really feel about your mate, how to solve your problems, and in some cases, they reveal the future. For writers, they can actually plot out entire book scenarios if we learn to harness their power. The best person to figure out the meaning behind your dreams is you. To do that, you must train yourself to remember your dreams and interpret them. There are tons of dream dictionaries on the market. Find one you like to help you understand the symbols and meaning. But before you can do this, you have to remember your dreams. There is no big trick to this.

Writers Write

For some, it doesn’t need to be said; but for others, it does. Keep a Dream Journal. The first step to harnessing the power of your dreams is to write them down. By doing so on a regular basis, you will begin to recall more and more details. The best was to do this is to follow a routine.

1.      Keep your dream journal at your bedside for easy access. Knowing it is there will help your remember dreams. You may even want to use it in the middle of the night, so don’t forget the pen/pencil.

2.      Tell yourself several times a day that you intend to remember your dream.

3.      Just before you go to sleep, after you are relaxed, tell yourself, “When I awaken, I will remember and write down my dream.

4.      Place a bag of aromatic herbs near your pillow as a reminder that your will remember your dream. The scent will soon be associated with both dreams and recalling them. (On a side note, we know that scents, temperatures, etc. can enter our dreams from the real world. They can also affect the mood and response we have to them physically).

5.      Drink a glass of water before you go to sleep. Avoid Alcohol and other drugs that suppress REM.

6.      If you are trying to solve a problem, write it down before you go to sleep. This may inspire your dream world to solve your problem.

7.      Don’t jump right out of bed in the morning. Don’t open your eyes. Lie still and focus on remembering your dream. How did it make you feel? Did it leave you with a certain mood? Who was in your dream? Did the people have faces? Did they remind you of anyone? (Keep in mind that dreams have their own symbols and language. A person in your dream may not necessarily be that person in reality. You may dream about Henry VIII and in reality your mind is addressing issues you have about someone you feel has undue and unjust power over you in your waking world.) Where did your dream take place? Have you ever been there? Did it remind you of a place familiar to you? Did anything in your dream remind you of something from real life?

8.      As soon as you sit up, grab that journal. Even if you remember only a small part of the dream that makes no sense, write it down anyway. The more you do this, the more you will remember and the better you will become at recording your dreams.

9.      Start with the date you had the dream.

10.  Give the dream a title to make it easy to retrieve.

11.  Write in the present tense and not the past tense to keep the story flowing. Punctuation and grammar do not matter here. This is not for an editor or agent or even a critique partner. It is for you alone.

Your conscious mind may not know a good idea if it bites you on the nose. Your subconscious mind can take an idea and create a literary masterpiece.

Desperate for money and not knowing where his next meal would come from, Robert Louis Stevenson fell into a fitful sleep. He awoke relaxed and refreshed and immediately set about writing one of his classics, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You can do the same thing. You can pull from your subconscious while sleeping and find the missing elements in your characters and plots.

Remember when I spoke of capturing skills in relation to creativity? Dream capture is one of the most important things you can do for your writing life. Studying the things you jot down might do more than give you story ideas, it may solve real life problems.

You can also influence your dreams. With a little guidance they will give you the answers you want. Think of your brain as a computer–data in, data out. The data out depends on the data programmed into it. By instructing your mind to solve a problem just before you go to sleep, your dreams will soon start doing this for you.

Suppose you are working on a plot. Everything is falling into place and wham, you somehow got from point C to point F, but no matter how hard you try, your waking mind won’t let you figure out how it happened–point D and point E are mysteries.

When you go to bed, let yourself drift off to sleep thinking about the plot, keeping in mind you’re looking for missing information.

You may dream your entire plot as a movie in your mind. In some cases, you may not only pick up the missing plot points, but you might actually find other elements that enhance your story. Sometimes the only way to find the next right answer is through our dreams.
Dreams are an important and big topic within the creative mind. For that reason, I’ve decided to split it up. I’ll address lucid dreams, and daydreams. Those are areas where your creative muses will love to play. Until then, happy writing!

Oh, and one small plug. February 2, 2015 is the release date for my next book, The Strangclyf Secret.


Anonymous said...

Virtually all my SF have evolved or were seeded by dreams.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

The main turning point in the story that became An Alien's Guide to World Domination came to me in a dream. I am always eager to remember and mine this source of imagination.

Victoria Roder said...

Great advice, Mary. I'm going to print this information off for future use. Several of my ideas have come from dreams. One scene in Bolt Action, my entire book The Dream House Visions and Nightmares is based on a recurring dream I've had since childhood.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Dreams keep us sane. They are certainly helpful in keeping us writers sane.