02 Sep Can Dreams Enhance Your Writing? – The Connection Between Writing and Dreams
Writers are always looking for ways to generate unique ideas and enhance their writing. Dreams provide a sure route to bizarre, interesting, alluring, romantic, and totally adventurous plots. This article explores the connection between dreams and writing, answering the question – can dreams enhance writing?
Can Dreams Enhance Your Writing? – The Connection Between Writing and Dreams
by Chinyere Nwosu
What are Dreams?
Dreams are images, emotions, ideas, and stories that our minds create while we sleep. They are mental imagery or activities that occur while we sleep. Dreams occur involuntarily at certain stages of sleep. They can take different forms and can be as exciting and intriguing as everyday life activities, if not more so. Dreams can be fun or frightening, articulate or bizarre, full of conflict, or warm and romantic. The main benefit of dreams is to help the brain process information. Psychologists like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung developed dream theories to shed more light on what happens when we sleep. Although we can dream at any stage of sleep, our most vivid dreams occur in rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep).
Is there a connection between dreams and writing? Read on to find out.
Why We Dream
There are different possible explanations provided by neuroscientists to explain why we dream. Here are two theories on why we dream.
- We dream when we process and consolidate information gathered during our daily activities (brain, body, and environment). Researchers say that the brain activity that occurs when we are dreaming is similar to the one that occurs when we are awake. This explains why we dream more when we are experiencing stress and anxiety. Our dreams also change with our state of mind.
- Our dreams represent our unconscious desires and wishes. Our subconscious and subliminal desires surface in our dreams. This is why psychologists advise we pay attention to our dreams when unsure of what we want. Dreams, therefore, are a form of psychotherapy naturally built in us to manage our mental well-being.
The question now is – can dreams enhance your writing? If it can, how can you harness the power of dreams to improve your writing?
Can Dreams Enhance Your Writing?
Dreams can inspire, enrich, and deepen your writing process. Dreams can act as inspiration for creative minds like artists, writers, and scientists. Just as we learn that Dimitri Mendeleev got clarity about how to organize the elements in the periodic table in his dreams, writers also have fantastic stories to tell about their works, which were inspired by a dream.
For example, Stephenie Meyer tells how an intense dream of two lovers – one human and the other a vampire, inspired her book, Twilight. Twilight, as we know it, is one of the most popular series in Young Adult Fiction.
Robert Louis Stevenson, a successful writer, was also gripped by a creative frenzy after he had a dream. His dream was about a doctor with a split personality disorder. Stevenson based the character of his famous book – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on this dream. This book has made it to stage plays and remains one of the front liners in the study of literature in schools. So, dreams can inspire, deepen, and enrich your writing process.
The Creative Power of Dreams
As mentioned earlier, dreams are a unique form of human consciousness characterized by vivid imagery, narrative structures, and emotional depth. They often tap into our deepest fears, desires, and unresolved conflicts. The subconscious mind weaves the events into colourful, exciting, frightening, and interesting pieces as it strives to sort and catalog information. Some aspects of dreams that make them a tool with creative power include –
a. Symbolism: Dreams often employ symbols and metaphors that can be adapted into powerful literary devices, enriching the writer’s storytelling.
Symbols in dreams tell the dreamer what he or she needs to achieve or get over to improve his or her life. According to Eric Fromm, dreams use three types of symbols – conventional symbols (ones we use every day and learn by association), accidental symbols (based on personal experiences – one thing means different things to different people), and universal symbols (means similar things to people). As a writer, these symbols can be adapted into your writing to make captivating pieces. Therefore, use your dreams to improve your writing.
b. Emotion: Dreams are replete with intense emotions that can be channeled to imbue characters and scenes with authenticity and depth. This is one aspect of writing that breathes life into your writing. See How to Develop Compelling Characters for further information on how to apply this concept.
c. Unconscious processing: Dreams can help writers explore unresolved issues, providing insight into character motivations and plot development. Clarity gotten from dreams can sharpen your understanding of a plot and enable you to develop a better plot for your writing.
How Can I Harness the Creative Potential of Dreams?
As a writer, to harness the creative power of dreams, you must be able to –
- Remember the dream and record it.
- Mine your dreams for relevant literary materials.
Recalling your dream could be just the key required to find the information you need to solve real-world problems, process your emotions, and tap into your creative potential.
Dream recall can vary from person to person. It can also vary from day to day for the same person. Some people say they never dream, while some forget their dreams as soon as they awake. Reports say that we forget fifty percent of our dreams five minutes after the end of the dream and up to ninety percent ten minutes later. This makes it even more relevant to devise ways to recall the content of your dreams if you wish to use them later.
To set you on the track to recalling and documenting your dreams as a writer, here are some techniques one can employ to facilitate the process of dream recall.
a. Keep a dream journal:
Maintain a dedicated notebook by your bedside to jot down dreams immediately upon waking. This practice helps reinforce memory retention.
b. Set intention:
Before sleep, affirm your desire to remember your dreams. This primes your subconscious mind to prioritize dream recall.
c. Wake naturally:
Try to wake up without the jarring sound of an alarm. This gentler awakening can facilitate memory retrieval. Some researchers theorize that dreams may be difficult to remember because the part of the brain responsible for the memory process – the hippocampus – is not fully active when we wake up. Therefore, ensuring that jarring sounds that may further hinder the recall process on waking, are avoided.
d. Progressive relaxation:
Engage in relaxation exercises before bed to promote peaceful and uninterrupted sleep, increasing the likelihood of vivid dreams. We need to sleep well and long enough to be able to recall our dreams. Remember that sleep happens in stages, and we dream in REM sleep. “If you cut your sleep short, you will tend to have poor dreams to report.” (Ribeiro). Remember also that what you do before going to bed is important.
How Can I Integrate Dreams into My Writing?
To effectively integrate dream content into your writing, consider the following:
a. Dream analysis:
After you have documented your dreams, next, you need to understand the meaning of the dream. Here, you will apply the significance of the symbols to interpret your dreams. You may seek the help of others to obtain multiple perspectives, especially on conventional and accidental symbols. Reflect on the meaning and significance of your dreams, as this can provide insight into character development and thematic exploration.
b. Dream-based exercises:
Use your dreams as prompts for free writing exercises or brainstorming sessions, allowing your subconscious mind to guide your creativity.
Discuss your dreams with fellow writers or creative partners. Collaborative exploration of dream content can lead to unique and innovative storytelling. This is because the process yields multiple views as a dividend of divergent thinking.
Dreams can be a powerful tool in the hands of a writer in developing compelling plots and characters. However, to harness this writing wealth, you must first understand how dreams work, take deliberate actions to help you remember and document your dreams, and then integrate your dreams into your writing. Dreams offer a gateway to the subconscious mind, where stories, emotions, and symbols converge, waiting to be transformed into captivating narratives.
- Chinyere Nwosu (2023), Crafting a Story Plot, HQ Words
- Chinyere Nwosu, (2023), How to Develop Compelling Characters in a Story, HQ Words
- Deirdre Barrett, (2001), The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving and How You Can Too
- Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams.” (1899) – Sigmund Freud’s seminal work on dream analysis and its psychological significance.
- Hannah Nicholas, (2018), Dreams and Nightmares, What are They? Medical News Today,
- Holly Slonaker, Symbols in Dreams
- Lee Obringer and Yves Jeffcoat (2021), How Dreams Work
- Van de Castle, Robert L. “Our Dreaming Mind.” (1994) – Provides insights into dream research and its implications for creativity.