Dream A Little Dream

sickAh, dear readers, I am poorly bad. Nothing terrible, just a humble cold but I feel yuck. So bad, in fact, that the thought of lying on the sofa letting the sound of the England-Italy rugby game float over me, is actually quite appealing…

So, I will have to keep this brief and, as it seemed to go down well last week, I will be publishing another of my articles (new to the blog but which once appeared in Writing magazine), this time on the subject of DREAMS. (Have you ever got an idea for writing from a dream? Or solved a writing problem, while you were asleep?)

But first, I have to tell you, I had a mad splurge on entering writing competitions last week. (None of which are actually on my ‘goals and targets for 2017’ but I think that was part of the appeal: I am rebelling!).

I sent 2 entries to the Readers Digest 100 word story competition, a short story to the Chipping Norton Literary Festival competition and another short story to the Stratford Literary Festival competition. All were sent on the last day possible (and, in the case of the Stratford one, five minutes before the competition closed at midnight! Ah, who says I don’t live dangerously).

dreamDreaming for Writers

Paul McCartney famously dreamed the tune for the Beatles classic, Yesterday; Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan originated in a dream and author Robert Louis Stevenson claimed to have dreamed the entire plot of his novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

How many potentially great ideas for fiction or poetry are you wasting because you don’t remember or record your dreams? Don’t just dismiss them as too weird or boring: last night’s dream might hold the key to some really original writing.

Everyone dreams but even if you can remember your dreams on waking, they’ll fade very quickly (they are slippery fish!). You need to transfer them from your short term to your long term memory by recording them in some way, as soon as you wake up. Why not start a dream diary (or if you already do, tell us about it!) and see what writing inspiration it produces?

Tips for Keeping a Dream Diary:

1. Before you go to sleep, tell yourself that you’ll remember your dreams. The more you do this, the more effective it is.

2. Remind yourself of your ‘task’ in the morning, by writing a note (“What did you dream?”) and put it on the first thing you’ll see when you wake up. (But perhaps not on your OH, who may not appreciate having a post-it stuck to his/her head).

3. On waking, try not to do anything before you jot down your dream. Have your notepad open and your pen ready at the side of the bed.

4. Date your dreams and give them a title. This will make them easier to refer back to and it also forces you to think of a theme for the dream.

5. Write in the present tense. This helps recall your dream by putting you back in the moment.

6. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. Just get it down, quickly. As long as you can still read it back, that’s fine.

7. Record any colours you saw in your dream or emotions that you felt, as well as the ‘action’ and the people in the dream.

8. If you prefer, you could use record your memory of the dream, into a Dictaphone or similar and write it up later.

9. This exercise is not about interpreting your dreams, which is something quite different, so don’t worry too much about analysing your dreams.

10. As you become more adept at remembering and recording your dreams, you could try ‘lucid dreaming’ – the art of learning to dream consciously, to the point of being able to direct your dreams.

Of course, most dreams are fairly dull and unusable (try telling anyone else your dream and watch their eyes glaze over) and dreams aren’t logical, as you’ll realise when you transcribe them, so be prepared to change them or just use parts of them.

If you’re very lucky, though, a single dream could lead to a whole series of best-selling novels, as it did for Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.

Before her dream about a vampire and a girl standing in a meadow, discussing their troubled romance, Meyer had written nothing for six years. But her dream was so vivid and inspiring, that she was compelled to start writing about the characters she’d ‘seen’ and within six months, “Twilight was dreamed, written, and accepted for publication.”

If keeping a record of your dreams doesn’t appeal, there’s another way of tapping into your subconscious while you’re asleep. Many writers swear that by thinking about a problem they’re struggling with, just before they go to sleep, their subconscious will come up with a solution the next day – and sometimes in the form of a dream.

There’s no promise of fame and fortune from dreams but they’re certainly another potential source of ideas, so don’t dismiss your nightly imaginings. They’re gifts from your subconscious, after all – and they could be pure gold!

(Longer version first published in Writing magazine, Sept 2012)

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17 Responses to Dream A Little Dream

  1. Suzanne Goldring says:

    My self-published novel, Powerless – The Year The Lights Went Out, was inspired by a dream, in which we faced a long term power cut and I made a soup out of all the vegetables in the freezer. Sounds banal, I know, but it led to bigger things.

  2. There you go, then! It’s true – a dream can lead to a novel! Thanks for sharing, Suzanne and good luck with your book.

  3. Sherri Turner says:

    I wrote a story inspired by a dream I had of a wartime couple dancing to a song which I also dreamed up.
    The majority of my dreams though involve being unable to find a functioning toilet and then waking up needing a wee. (It’s my age!) Don’t think those would be so saleable.

    • Tee hee, that made me laugh! I have 2 stress dreams: in one I’m not ready (half-packed) when someone turns up to pick me up (and I’m about to miss the train/plane/bus) and in the other, I’m about to take my finals or A levels and I haven’t revised. Actually, I get that one less often, these days. It’s just a relief to wake up from both of them and realise they’re not real!

  4. Linda Lewis says:

    This is a BRIEF entry! How much will you write when you are better? Wishing you well soon.

  5. I always have vivid dreams. Usually they fade away just after I wake up but one night I dreamt about my late mum in such a way that it was very clear in my mind all the following day. The dream also included my son as a small boy, a pink fridge, a Golden Retriever puppy and Brad Pitt … I wrote a story around it which was published as In My Dreams in Woman’s Weekly and is in my collection Three’s a Crowd and stories.

  6. Hi Helen,
    Hope you feel better soon, it’s going through our household at the moment, not nice.
    Good article on dreams. 🙂

  7. juliathorley says:

    I’m always a bit wary of revealing my dreams in case I inadvertently give something away about myself that would be better kept in my head.

  8. Tracy Fells says:

    I get a lot of story ideas from dreams. One dream I turned into a short story and it was the first story I ever sold to a womag (Fiction Feast) – so that dream earned £250!!

  9. Kate Hogan says:

    How interesting. I too have sold stories that began as a dream. Amazingly after reading your blog last night, Helen, I had more dreams than I’ve had for ages. Not sure if there were any story ideas yet, though, but the dreams were very vivid. Maybe my creativity is waking up again! PS I have the same stress dreams as you, with an added stress dream were something or someone is after me, but every time I find a phone to call for help the phone has no keys, buttons or whatever! Good wishes KH

    • Kate, thanks for your comment! How weird that you’re having vivid dreams since reading the post! I also had a really vivid dream last night but.. I can’t remember any of it now. Isn’t it odd how they disappear so quickly? Apparently it’s something to do with dreams being formed in the ‘short term’ part of your memory, or something like that. That’s why you have to write them down as soon as you wake up! I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that started as a dream but hearing about so many of you that have, I need to ‘instruct’ my brain to come up with some ideas while I’m asleep!

  10. Kate Hogan says:

    Meant where, not were!

  11. Kate Hogan says:

    Yes, Helen – good idea. I’ll instruct my brain to come up with some good saleable ideas too! KH

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