Monday, August 11, 2014

Mining your Dreams for Writing (2)


"Thanks to my dreams [and NaNoWriMo], November is one of my favorite and most amusing times," says novelist Shirley Letcher. Following up on last Monday's post, here's installment two of her guest blog on how to use dreams as a writing tool:

Mining Your Dreams for Writing
by Shirley Letcher

Dream diaries are a great source of material for any writer. Once you begin a dream diary, you will notice amusing things about your dreams. People often dream in puns or word play. A bottle of perfume (scent) might represent the word ‘sent.’ Sometimes I dream I am trapped in a shower stall. When I have that dream, I know I am ‘stalling’ about something. In another dream, an inebriated gander — hopping on one foot and singing off-key — let me know I was acting like a ‘silly goose.’ 

Meaning is sometimes obscured by transpositions. In one inscrutable dream I didn’t understand why an old friend and her husband appeared until I realized that the husband’s name was the same as my father. When I re-examined the dream action in terms of my father, the meaning became clear. These subliminal touches are magic when I am writing a scene in a novel or story.

There is another way I use dreams to enhance my writing and my life. This simple technique doesn’t always work, but often it is very successful. Before going to sleep, I think about a question that I want answered, or a situation that I need help with. The next few days I ‘mine’ my dreams for meaning. Using this method, I have found lost things, found creative solutions to problems and had satisfactory answers to questions. Sometimes, I don’t even have to ‘program’ my dreams. When I am involved with interpretations, my subconscious seems to jump on the bandwagon and send me all kinds of good information. Once I had a horrific nightmare about a fire in my basement. On waking, I discovered a frayed wire dangerously close to a pile of dirty rags. My subconscious must have seen the incipient problem and used a nightmare to call it to my attention.

When I am immersed in writing a novel, such as in November when I participate in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) challenge, my dreams pitch in and help. I have had my characters appear in my dreams and inform me that the scene I’d written didn’t work for them. I’ve had them scold me for making them do something they ‘wouldn’t do.’ I had solutions to a sticky situation handed to me in colorful detail. On one occasion, a flamboyant character appeared and insisted on being written in. Thanks to my dreams, November is one of my favorite and most amusing times.

In conclusion, I urge you to explore the wonders of your dreams. Not only will it enhance your writing, it will add richness to your life.

Books I recommend:
Dream Power and The Dream Game by Dr. Ann Faraday, PhD
Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo

12 comments:

  1. I like your point about consciously thinking about a question, problem etc before you go to sleep and then see what answers might be revealed in your dreams. I so enjoyed your presentation on dreams and writing at our last conference, so it was good to have a chance to review. Nicely done, Shirley.

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    1. Nancy, same here. I just wish I was disciplined enough to utilize my dreams, which is why I asked Shirley to guest blog.

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    2. Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate your comment!

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  2. I've not been able to explore dreams in that conscious way. They fade so quickly upon waking.

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    1. William, you gotta grab them by the tail before they run away and write down at least a snippet!

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    2. William, I always try a 'sideways' approach to catching those elusive fragments. I think about the dream-feeling and let my mind wander. Often I catch an image and can unwind more of the dream. Good luck. The effort is worth it.

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  3. I would love to enhance my dream experience! I love when I dream vividly too - it can help me with my stories! I've got to try asking myself a question - I think that could be good too :)

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    1. Nicole, it would be great, wouldn't it, to be more aware of your dreams.

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    2. Nicole, in my experience the more I work with dreams, the better I get at directing them. The question before sleeping really works for me a lot (but not all!) of the time. Hope you get good results.

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  4. Seeding my dreams works really well for me. I find that when I wake, even if I didn't get the answers I sought, I'm pumped to dig into the writing. Thanks for the post.

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    1. JP, glad to hear your dreams are helpful to you!

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    2. I'm glad you liked the post. I love some of the visuals I get from my dreams!

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