Few realize the way dreams have shaped our world. I'm not talking about the aspirations of visionaries, but the literal dreams people have had while sleeping. If you are like most people, your dreams are forgotten within moments of waking. Here are some tricks to help you capture – and make the most of – your creative power.
Trick One - Stay in Bed
The average human spends one third of their life sleeping. Twenty percent of that time is spent dreaming. Dreams are a good source of new material for writers, but how can you capture them? The first step is to stay in the half-awake state for just a few moments longer. Keep your eyes closed. Think about your dream. Try to run through it from beginning to end; this will help you remember it later.
“I woke up from a very vivid dream,” says Stephenie Meyer on her website regarding the origination of her book, Twilight. “Though I had a million things to do, I stayed in bed thinking about the dream.” Later that day she penned it in its entirety. Readers will recognize it as the now-famous meadow scene.
Trick Two – Write It Down
Otto Loewi nearly failed to capture the dream that led to his earning the Nobel Prize. He dreamt of an experiment that would prove once and for all how nerve impulses were transmitted. He woke up long enough to scribble his idea on a scrap of paper, but the next morning couldn’t read his own handwriting. The day that followed was, he later said, the longest of his life because he could not remember his idea. When he dreamed of it the following night, he jumped from bed and went straight to the lab to conduct the experiment that made medical history.
Take a lesson from Loewi. Write legibly or use a computer to record the details of your dreams.
Trick Three - Look Deeper
Don’t be afraid to look for a deeper meaning in your dreams; the answer to a problem may be just under the surface. Albert Einstein dreamed he was sledding down a hill at night, faster and faster until the stars blurred as he reached the speed of light. This dream gave birth to his Theory of Relativity.
Trick Four – Expand and Expound
Robert Louis Stevenson gleaned many plots from dreams, most notably that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. His wife related how, one night, Stevenson cried out so horror-stricken that she roused him. “Why did you wake me,” he protested, “I was dreaming a fine tale!” She described how the next morning he awoke exclaiming, “I have got my chilling shocker, I have got my chilling shocker!”
Stevenson discovered he could dream complete stories and go back into the same dream on succeeding nights. If you have a dream you want to expand upon, or a plot in which you have reached an impasse, think about it as you fall asleep. You may be surprised when you wake with more material or a solution!
Trick Five – Pick a character
Have you ever started out as one person in a dream then seamlessly become someone else? Some experts believe we play all the characters in our dreams. For writers, this means we can expand our repertoire endlessly. Pick a character (any character!) from your dream, and you should be able to understand their viewpoint and motivations.
This trick gives you as an author great versatility. That boogie-man that chased you in your dreams the other night? You already know how he thinks, and can nail his voice in your writing.
Trick Six – Invigorate and Inspire
You may be surprised to learn that Thomas Edison invented, among other things, the power nap. He renewed his creativity by curling up on his workbench to sleep for twenty minutes at a time, often gaining great flashes of insight on a particular problem that had been plaguing him. He trained himself to remain in that in-between sleep state for as long as possible.
Artist Salvador Dali took this technique one step further. He napped with a fork clenched in his fist, held out over a plate he’d set on the floor. As he began to doze, his grasp relaxed and the fork clattered onto the plate, waking him. He would immediately sketch the images he had seen in his dreams.
While you don’t need to go so far as finding a workbench or plate and fork, a short snooze will give you a burst of energy and some fresh inspiration to go along with it.
Why It Works
The dreaming mind is free of all the creativity blockers that are usually present in the conscious mind. While you sleep, the power of your creativity has free reign over your brain. Dreams take you to new and exciting worlds. Your writing will be more vivid; as far as your brain is concerned, you are writing about places you have been and events that have happened to you, albeit while dreaming.
Don’t be surprised if ideas come to you in their entirety. “…because I had dreamed it, I couldn’t believe I had written it,” said Paul McCartney of Yesterday after waking with the song in his head. “I thought, ‘I’ve never written anything like this before.’ I had the tune, which was the most magic thing!”
Keep a dream journal and write your dreams down. If you don’t have time to log the whole dream, write down a few details. You may be surprised when you come back to your notes and discover that you can recall the dream in its entirety. Refer to your dream journal often, most especially when inspiration seems to run dry. It's possible to weave many dreams into a single story.
Now, close your eyes, dream big, and let the magic of your own creative power come to you!