Home » Writers' Minds » The stuff made from dreams

The stuff made from dreams

(c) markgraf

(c) markgraf

Dreams.  Vivid scenes that play in your mind during the REM stages of a sleep cycle have a tendency to manifest into ideas, which can influence your writing.  Sleep is one of the least expected places for inspiration to materialize.  Lo and behold, sleep is one of the best places for writing inspiration to grow because a writers conscious self is removed from the dream sequence.  In sleep, a writer’s imagination is boundless.  It is free to expand and grow to whatever extent it needs to – without being held back by the writer’s fears, prejudices, morals, etc.  It will shape and form without being questioned or hindered by the dreamer.  And the dream will continue until the writer wakes to feast upon the creative smoragsboard just produced by his or her subconscious mind.

Each one of us has the capabilities and power to leverage our dream sequences into a creative and inspiration machine.  As a writer, your dreams should be one of your top sources for story ideas.  It is said that Edgar Allen Poe was plagued by nightmares, and many of his poems are influenced by the phenomenons he experienced while dreaming.  I can wholly relate with Poe, as most of my story ideas have stemmed in part from some dream.  What do you mean I should say “nightmares”?!  I don’t have nightmares, I have horrific dreams that I enjoy.  There is a difference.

Ahem, where was I… Oh… what was that?  You forget your dreams as soon as you wake up?  Well, my friend, there are solutions for that:

Take a note

There are a few things you can do to record your dreams.  Waking from a dream can be discombobulating and you may not be immediately coherent.  Sometimes that dream will instantly disappear from your mind as soon as your brain forms the sense you are awake.  You can easily solve that.  It is just going to take practice.  Here are some steps you can follow that will help you towards efficiently recording your dreams:

1.  Always, always, always keep a notebook and pen next to your bead.  Make sure it is within close proximity that you can grab both with your eyes closed. Your smartphone or other electronic devices work as well.  I downloaded Evernote on my devices and use that app because my handwriting at 2 am is completely illegible.

2.  If needed, get some light to see what you are writing.  Use whatever brightness your freshly opened eye can stand.  One word of advice, if you have a significant other, let them in on what you will be doing.  You will have a little less grumpiness when you switch that light on in the wee hours of the morn’.

3.  Just write.  Write what is immediately on your mind at the moment your pen touches paper (or fingers touch the screen).  Don’t think about the dream, unless it is something that you vividly remember.  Sometimes just thinking about a dream can make it instantly disappear.  When you wake, the dream is still playing in the recesses of your mind.  By not giving it a conscious acknowledgement still allows it to flow.  What you write will most likely stem from that dream, which is still freshly playing out in your memory.

However, if you are someone who can remember your dreams and replay them on a whim, then you can sit there and think about them as you take note.

The key is to get all this information written down upon waking up.  The sooner you write it, the easier it is to recall and remember.

4.  Another option is a recording device.  I have heard some find this a very successful option to record dreams.  I am not fortunate enough to be able to use that process.  My husband already thinks I am on the edge of insanity.  If he hears me recording my dreams — knowing what I really dream about — he will most likely have me committed.

Wake Up!

Now, if you are having a fantastic dream that the conscious side of your body feels would be a fantastic tale, you can actually condition your body to wake up as soon as the dream is over so that you can record it.  This is something that takes a lot of practice.  I have been working on this conditioning for over a year.  Some nights it works.  Other nights, I am fully aware that I had just dreamt something awesome, but my body continues to sleep through and I am on to the next dream.  The previous one disappears into the void.

How I have been conditioning my body to wake upon inspiration is by setting an intention right before I fall asleep.  I tell myself, “If a dream is disturbing enough to write about, I need to wake up as soon as it is over so that I can record it”.  My OCD makes me repeat this to myself 3 times, but it seems to be working.

Oh, and you can insert whatever adjective in your intention that fits your writing genre.  Disturbing may not be the, um, “feels” that you want to convey to your reader.   (bad Dr. Who pun.  I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry)

Speaking of conditioning…

Did you know that you can make your dreams solve your writing problems?  Scouts honor!  Wait… I was kicked out of Girl Scouts.  Um… just take my word for it.

Yes, you can invoke your dreams to solve whatever conflict you are having with a current writing project.  Say you have a character that is not developing.  Meditate on this issue right before you go to sleep, determine exactly what you want to solve / resolve.  Then tell yourself to dream up the answer / solution.

Your dreams will guide you if you pay close enough attention.  Follow the first two sections of this post to record whatever you dreamt up.  Then read what you wrote down.  If what you wrote doesn’t make sense.  Revisit it later that day.  If the results still don’t make sense or were not what you were looking for, then set your intention again that following night.  This can take a few nights to get the answers that you need… or it may take you a few nights to realize that you had all the answers from that first dream.


Dreams are not a science, and their mysteries will hopefully never be unraveled.  Yet, that does not mean that we creatives can’t take full advantage of them.

Go forth populate Morpheus’ realm with all of your dreams and nightmares.  Flood his world with your inspirations and imaginations.


So here is my disclaimer: This all stems from my personal experience and advice as I use these tactics to inspire my own writing.  Please don’t hold any of the other Sarcastic Muse authors accountable for whatever I said in this post… especially the bad Dr. Who pun(s).  They don’t like being held hostage because of my insanity.


10 thoughts on “The stuff made from dreams

  1. I get a lot of ideas from dreams. I use Evernote to write them down because my handwriting is as bad as yours. I can usually wake myself from a dream. Not the result of conditioning, just something I’ve always been able to do. Then again, I may just be dreaming now.

  2. What a wonderful justification for more sleep 🙂 Seriously though, this is great stuff Amanda. I have woken up on so many different occasions thinking one of several things – well, that was weird or exciting or intense or yes, sometimes disturbing 😉 As quickly as they arrive in my consciousness, they are gone again.

    You have an ingenious way of weaving together elements of practicality with humor that makes your writing absolutely captivating. Thank you for sharing, and may your dreams continue to feed your muse with boundless inspiration 🙂

    • Dreams are the perfect justification for more sleep! Thanks, Dave. I appreciate your kind words. 🙂 Hope these tips help you to capture those dreams, and that they don’t stay fleeting.

  3. I really like your advice here, especially option 3, the one about just writing and not overtly trying to remember or record the dream. One of my methods for getting myself writing is freewriting, where you just put words down for a set period of time without stopping. Sometimes I get great stuff and sometimes I get stuff that scares the shit out of me (I’m sorry, can I say “shit” in your commnts? Have I violated your Terms and Conditions policy? If so, I’m sorry), and often the scary and the great stuff overlap. Since I have a digital voice recorder, I should try using that, but unfortunately I hate the sound of my own voice, so I don’t know if that will ever work out. Btw, if you haven’t ever written about what got you kicked out of Girl Scouts, there is surely a story there–perhaps even a horror story (with a little tweaking?). Oh, and one of my favorite quotes, from poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy, by way of Willy Wonka: “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams…”

    • I love your free writing technique. I have tried that on occasion, but not with much success. Interested to hear what scary stuff that you come up with from it. And yes, you can say “shit” here. We won’t block you 🙂 We are accepting of all words, unless it is derogatory or hateful. I hate my voice as well and cringe relistening to the recordings.

      I would have to do a lot of tweaking to the Girl Scout story. Totally not anything fantastic. That is such a fabulous quote and one of my favorites as well.

      • About freewriting, I should say that I don’t use it primarily as a drafting technique but as a kind of “loosening up” exercise. That is, I do it with the expectation that none of it will be directly useful in anything I would try to publish. But at the end of a good freewrite (that is, one in which I’ve managed to turn off that conscious brain to the extent possible), I feel eager to start drafting. If any of the freewrite *does* turn out to be useful, that’s a happy bonus. As for the scary stuff, that’s easy to describe: It’s whatever most honestly and directly reveals how I experience being me. What could be more terrifying?

  4. That’s so weird…I have a guest post coming out later this month about using your dreams as a writing prompt. Much be something in the air. This was great, great, great. I keep meaning to learn more about dream symbolism, so I understand my dreams more, but it keeps not happening…

  5. Pingback: Dreams and Intersecting Phenomena | No Facilities

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