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.
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.