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Dreaming Ideas to Write About

14 July, 2009

Hulis Mavruk

Dreaming, by Hulis Mavruk

A previous post—based on Ruth Epel’s book, Writers and Dreaming—gave examples of how some writers find their writing influenced by their dreams.

I occasionally have dreams connect to my writing. Recently, I woke up from a vivid dream about a  trio of adolescents who tried to snatch my laptop.  The dream made me reflect on what was going on in my writing life at the moment. Another dream provided a character that  became the basis for a short story.

For me, harvesting usable bits from dreams for my writing has been  very much hit and miss. Is it possible to remember most of our dreams and make better use of them in writing? I looked at a number of websites to find what they had in common in terms of dream-work for writers.

Do you have any advice for remembering dreams? For using them in your life as a writer? Have you had any unusual experience in drawing on dreams when writing?

Preparing to dream and remember

  • Keep paper and pencils or pens by your bed.
  • Relax before going to sleep. Some people read or listen to music. Others prefer a warm bath and burning calming essential oils.  Avoid TV,  computer work, and stimulants immediately before bedtime.
  • According to dream-worker Richard Wilkerson, you can create a habit of recalling your dreams by recalling your day. Before going to bed, review your day in reverse: first getting into bed, then your evening activities—then all the way back to when you woke up that morning.
  • Direct your unconscious to remember your dreams by giving it a message: ‘I will wake up and will completely remember my dreams.’ Jill Gregory suggests strengthening this message with a physical trigger, such as pressing your thumb against a different finger for each word of your suggestion.

Remembering  dream-work

  • When you wake up, try not to move. Relax your body and keep your mind in a near-dreamlike state.
  • Remind yourself that you want to remember your dream.
  • Can’t remember your dreams? Prime your unconscious by writing something each morning when you wake up. It may be one sentence, such as  ‘I do not recall any dream  this morning’. Or  try a  longer piece, focussing on what you would have liked to have dreamed.
  • How can you capture a dream? Dreams can disappear quickly so do not try to remember every detail  before recording them.
    • Jot down the first thing you remember as doing so may help you recall more.
    • Quickly list the ‘bones’ of your dream—the main images, movements, people, emotions—and after that, search for more details.
    • First record  the end of your  dream, then recall the earlier parts.
    • When writing down your dream, ask yourself questions as prompts: Where was I? What was I doing? Who was with me?

Harvesting what you dream

  • Reflecting on elements in a dream may help you link to what is going on in your life, your creative self, or your fiction. Most of the sites I looked at consider dream guidebooks useless. You are the only person who can interpret your dreams in terms of the context of your aspirations,  feelings and experiences. 
  • Dream-work can be enjoyable and insightful, but do not let dreams take over your life. Jennifer Pierce commented that dream-work is ‘seductive’ and it is easy to ‘get lost’ in your dreams.
  • A dream may deliver a whole plot, some narrative elements, or a dominant  image. Play with these, either by incorporating them into whatever you are writing at  the moment or by creating a new work based on your dream.
  • If you weave dream ‘stuff’ into your writing, consider your readers. Material may be clear to you because you understand the emotional effects of your dream. But in order not to lose your readers, put aside this ‘dream logic’ and focus on using ‘story logic’.

Major source:

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 16 July, 2009 11:03 pm

    Nice post, Marsha. Years ago when I had a full-time job I used to write my dreams down on scraps of paper, before I went to work. My husband, also a writer, worked from home and got up later than me. So by the kettle for him there would be a note with my dream on it (sounds corny but it amused us!) Years later, I found the notes, all stacked in a bundle, and reread them. I thought they’d be nonsense but they were fascinating. Some I couldn’t remember, as though they had never been in my head at all. Where on earth did they come from? Some flooded back, fresh as though they were the previous night. And they were full of strange wonders where I’d taken my critical faculties off the hook and just invented stuff.

    I think I’m going to try it again – see if I’ve improved with age!


    • 17 July, 2009 8:21 am

      I wonder if your husband also shared his dreams. In my previous post about dreams, one writer said that men, unlike women, don’t divulge their dreams. Your scraps of paper reminded me that years ago I kept a dream journal. Will have to hunt for it and see if I have a similar experience in recalling some of them. I’ve been enjoying recording my dreams again recently, then thinking about what they COULD mean. The other night, I had a nightmare about a giant, bright pink slug-like creature with tentacles, who was chasing and killing people. Maybe best not to interpret that one!


  2. 15 July, 2009 12:09 pm

    Nice article. Dreams have been a core part of my creative process for writing and making art for years. If you’d like to learn more about creative ways of working with dreams, I’d highly recommend joining the International Association for the Study of Dreams. It is an excellent resource and a wonderful way to connect with dreamers throughout the world.

    You might find the upcoming online PSIber dream conference to be of interest as well: It goes from September 27 October 10, 2009.

    Sweet dreams,
    Sheila Asato


    • 17 July, 2009 8:14 am

      Thanks, Sheila, for the link–some fascinating resources there about dreams and nightmares. Marsha


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