Dream On: The Subconscious as a Writer’s Tool
I had a happy dream last week. In the dream, I received a letter informing me that my book had been accepted by a major publisher. Not only would they publish it, they would give it what my husband calls “the full court press” as far as marketing goes. The publisher would even put out an “app” as a tie-in to the book! Where my brain came up with that one, I don’t know since I’m the least likely person on the planet to care about “apps.” You can bet that I woke up with a smile on my face. What was my subconscious trying to tell me? Which book had sold? I knew it was a picture book. Then it occurred to me: it was a picture book I have not written. In fact, I couldn’t recall the subject matter. A lot of help that dream would do me, I thought at first! But then I started to think about it a little harder.
You see, I am a believer in dreams – both as writing problem solvers and as conduits for creativity. Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously dreamed his entire Kubla Khan “fragment,” which came fully realized into his consciousness after he awoke. True, it might have been an opium-induced dream, but the dream-state still produced his masterpiece. Charles Dickens sometimes found his characters and plotlines in his dreams. And Mark Twain’s dream accurately predicted his (then perfectly healthy) brother’s death, right down to the coffin and the bouquet resting on the corpse’s breast.
As a writer, I often fall asleep with a writing problem in my brain. When I wake up, the solution to my problem is in my conscious mind, often in full paragraphs. I advise other writers to think about their current writing issues as they fall asleep. Whether you wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning, stay in bed for a moment and give yourself time to review your dreams before you leap out of bed. The answer to your plotline problems might be right in front of you. The old advice to have a small notebook next to your bed is still sound. Write down what you remember in as much detail as possible, right down to the wording if it’s there. You could lose valuable information if you are too quick to immerse yourself in the practical matters of your day.
According to Craig Hamilton-Parker in his 2000 book (Sterling Publisher) Remembering & Understanding Your Dreams, dreams can have amazing value for the creative person, whether artist or writer. He suggests starting a dream diary and making dream maps. He also provides advice for triggering lucid dreams through the power of suggestion. My dream of a publishing victory? Though I didn’t glean subject or words, the dream stays with me vividly: the shock of the happy news, the sheer joy of my success. I’m sure that dream was telling me the same thing it might be telling you: keep writing, keep believing, keep working towards your dreams. The subconscious is mighty smart!