Awake or asleep, creative writers are dreamers. But what’s the connection between writing and the dreams that come of their own accord at night? And how can a writer tap into this rich source of inspiration and creative energy?
If a writer can forge a link between the imagery and symbolism of their dreams and the power of their own writing, creative sparks will fly. Sometimes a snippet of a dream is all it takes to inspire a poem, story, or novel.
Examples Of Stories That Were Sprung From Dreams
Richard Bach was moved to write the first few chapters of Jonathan Livingston Seagull after he heard “a disembodied voice” whisper the title in his ear. But it wasn’t until eight years later, after a dream that featured the famous seagull, that he was able to finish his hugely popular novella.
Stephen King, too, has looked to dreams for inspiration. In Writers Dreaming by Naomi Epel, King says, “…when I got road-blocked in my novel It, I had a dream about leeches inside discarded refrigerators. I immediately woke up and thought, ‘That is where this is supposed to go.’”
Mary Shelley wasn’t even fully asleep—she lay down and closed her eyes and was haunted by a ghastly mental image that inspired her to write Frankenstein. “I began that day with the words, ‘It was on a dreary night of November,’ making only a transcript of the grim terrors of my waking dream.”
Even if a writer’s dreams don’t have a direct influence on their work, their creative energy can generate forward movement. Maurice Sendak, in Writers Dreaming, says, “What dreams do is raise the emotional level of what I’m doing at the moment. They add color or counterpoint to the work, acting as an almost symphonic accompaniment to what I’m doing.”
How to Make the Most of Your Dreams
1. Pay attention to your dreams and jot down notes about them as soon as possible when you wake up. You may be able to glean general ideas—themes, plot, characters, or settings—from the wild tangle of images, if not the full concept of a novel. Dreams can certainly be a jumping-off point for the creative process.
2. Try making a conscious effort, before going to sleep, to be present and aware in your dreams that night. Some people describe being aware of dreaming while in the midst of a dream and are able to participate more fully in the dream or even direct it to a certain extent—something that would certainly take some practice, but what fun it would be!
3. If you’re suffering from writer’s block or faced with a seemingly insurmountable plot problem, concentrate on the problem right before drifting off. Your subconscious may work to resolve the dilemma overnight and either reveal a resolution in a dream or upon awakening.
“The brain is so strange and wondrous in its mystery. I think it creates a number of things for itself—it creates launching pads and resting places—and it lets steam off and it reworks itself.” (Maya Angelou, Writers Dreaming)
Simply be aware of the process—and the power—of dreaming to tap into that creative energy—and use it to your writing advantage!
Question: Have you ever written anything that was inspired by a dream?
I’ve never written anything inspired by my dreams…yet! But, it sounds like a great idea when you’re blocked…let your subconscious be creative for you! This is also a great way to let dreams work for you, since writing dream sequences into your fiction is usually considered taboo…an easy crutch to open your story.
I have a feeling that most of my dream-inspired work would be scary and disturbing since I tend to only remember my nightmares! But, that could be a good thing!
I dreamed once that I could read through my own eyelids. That was pretty cool. I got a lot of work done in my sleep.
I have so many strange and interesting and sometimes terrifying dreams that I probably could write a book from them. Thank you for the suggestion.
A few years ago I started leaving a note pad and pen on my night table,I have many plots,and un finished stories.It would be wonderful if I could put them all together into something worth reading.I have writing software,it has not helped me much.I had one dream where whole coversations were laid out for me,it was strange.
Yes, I am a constant and vivid dreamer. I have taken dream workshops. Once I wrote a question on paper, tucked it under my pillow and awoke in the middle of the night to record the rather simple and very graphic dream which on a closer look contained a complete and reasonable answer. I wrote another question and by morning got that question answered as well.
I once had a rather violent dream. As with all my dreams, I immediately recorded it. Sometimes during the recording, the dream’s meaning becomes very clear;this time it did not.( It is essential to record the dream and to do it ASAP. Paper and pen are always at my bedside or even on the bed.) Weeks or even months later, that violent dream become, all-of-a-piece, a poem. That poem was chosen for publication in an anthology on relationship violence.
Our dreams are a gift. Ask for them. Expect them.
When I was writing my novel my brain never stopped working on it. But I didn’t dream in paragraphs, I dreamed in scenes. I’d wake up with an entire dialogue in my head and in the a.m. I’d write it down immediately at the breakfast table. What a high that was – no drugs or alcohol required!
I do, frequently, actually, sometimes a voice asks me to write it down and share. I’m awaiting response on one dream in fiction submission to a literary mag now. 🙂
I recently had a lucid dream in colour and soft sound. It was such an awesome concept I am planning to write if not a full novel, maybe a short story featuring what it was I dreamt of. Will need a lot of fermenting in my mind first though.
You can program your unconscious to dream story ideas or the way out of the corner you’ve written yourself into. You can also program yourself to remember our dreams,so you can get the benefit of this useful talent. And it’s not hard to do…
This is a great idea because I always have crazy dreams and I be thinking wow that could be a movie. Well all movies start off as books anyways! Definitely going to try this idea.
Great! Good luck! 🙂
I actually record my dreams tho I don’t understand some of them