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Naz Ahsun 3 min

How dreams can fuel your writing

Dreams have always been a powerful conduit for memorable storytelling. The ancients viewed dreams as significant vehicles for prophecy and portents. When we dream, we go outside the parameters of our limited logical mind into the inspiration of our creative unconscious – where magical possibilities await. Consider authors such as Charlotte Bronte and Mary Shelley, whose iconic characters in Jane Eyre and Frankenstein were birthed in the dreamscape. Would they have found their way onto the page without the influence of the dream world? There are many well-known modern authors, such as Stephen King, who use their dreams to inspire their writing. Through their dreams, they can access the power of their creative mind without their logical, limited thinking getting in the way. If we look at what dreams actually are, they are a form of consciousness involving a series of images, ideas, and emotions, occurring when we sleep. Dreams may be a way for us to process events and, most importantly, emotions we experience during the day. After a day of stimulation, your brain decides what to hold onto and what to get rid of. Interestingly enough, they are also a way we seek to problem-solve, especially if we are wrestling with an issue. Increasingly, studies on dreams suggest that the brain uses this time for creative problem- solving. So why not utilise this tool to help you overcome obstacles in your writing. Dreams can help you invent storylines, solve plot holes, or create more dynamic characters. Here are three ways in which you can use the power of your dreams to support your writing: Record Your Dreams Get used to having a pen and paper by your bed so that when you wake up, you can record your dreams in a dream journal. It doesn’t matter how fleeting the dream might seem or if you only remember a brief part of the dream. The purpose here is to get used to writing them down. The simple act of recording your dreams makes you more aware of them and, therefore, increases your mind’s ability to remember them. You can use the dream material you gather to create an interesting character or plot point from which you can build upon. You might find that in time, you recall more and more of the dream. Don’t worry if you can’t interpret it immediately, just get it down as fast as you can in exactly the way you remember it. You’ll have time enough afterward to review and reflect on its meaning, as well as consider how you might use what you’ve dreamed about in your writing. Lucid Dreaming Lucid dreaming is when you are in a dream and are aware that it is a dream. This vivid state of consciousness is a powerful state, where you are fully aware of the unfolding action. You can even train yourself to take it one step further by setting an intention about what you dream about and even control events in your dream as if you are the director. It’s a great tool for when you are experiencing a creative block and want to get back into the creative flow, or when you come up against a problem with the plot and are not sure where to go next. How to Lucid Dream: 1. Set an Intention: Before you go to bed, state that, "I will remember my dreams". This starts to train your brain to do exactly that. It might take a few attempts, but it’s worth persevering. 2. Recall Dreams: Once you are proficient in recalling your dreams, you might want to go on to the next stage where you set an intention about what you want to dream about. You might want to link it to your character or plot, e.g. “I want to dream about (character name)” or “How can (character) solve the murder?”For non-fiction books, you might want to ask, “What is the purpose of the book?” or “What do I need to include in the book?” Again, this might take a few attempts, but the results are really worth the effort. 3. Record Your Dreams: Remember to record your dreams once you wake. Day Dreaming This is one of my favourite tools, and it's so easy to do. You probably already do this already. Have you ever wondered why your ‘Aha moments’ happen in the shower? Daydreaming is simply a stream of consciousness where our mind wanders from the present and explores thoughts and ideas within our internal worlds. Our brain waves operate at a Theta state, the same state when we lucid dream. This state is commonly linked to our creativity and intuition. How to Induce Daydreaming: 1. Engage in Low-Key Activities: Activities such as knitting, crochet, listening to music, or walking can help you slip into a daydream. 2. Allow Creativity to Take Over: In this state, simply allow your creativity to take over and direct it to one of your characters, plot points or non-fiction content. Remember to record these daydreams in your dream journal. By using these dreaming techniques, you might discover that your writing doesn’t have to be an uphill struggle if you let your unconscious do the heavy lifting.   More articles by Naz can be found here.

Naz Ahsun

Naz Ahsun is a published author, literary agent, guest-lecturer on creative writing at Cambridge University and runs writing classes and courses. You can find details of her courses by going to her website and connect with her on Instagram. Or take part in her workshop Non-Fiction Alchemy here. 

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