Monday, 19 March 2018

Dreaming and Creativity - Lucy Coats

All humans dream, even if they don't remember doing so. We can't exist without dreams, indeed, some of our sanity depends on dreaming, since it is the way our brains process both trauma and the stuff of everyday life. Prisoners who are tortured by sleep deprivation and thus the lack of proper REM sleep quickly lose all sense of reality. So dreams are essential to health.

Back in 2008 I wrote a little about dreaming and creativity here on ABBA. Since then, I have incorporated dreaming and dream journeys into my writing workshops, and learnt a lot more about how other cultures, particularly the Senoi culture, use dreams (for more on this, see Creative Dreaming by Patricia Garfield, PhD). I now see dreaming as an even more essential part of my creative life -- but not just in the random, unconscious way that most of us dream, where the dream drains away with the morning light and is forgotten at once. I now dream consciously, and can affect the 'story' of the dream while I'm dreaming it. This takes effort and practice, but is remarkably rewarding. When I teach a particular course on fostering creativity, I get the participants to keep a dream diary for a week or two beforehand. It is extraordinary how doing this actually makes your dreaming more fertile and more 'rememberable'. It's not a tool of analysis, but it can throw up some interesting patterns which relate to a writer's creative concerns.

When and if you get to the point where you are an active participant in your dreams, it is a very powerful medium for story ideas. Some time ago, I wrote a whole novel based on an idea I'd had in a dream, and I'll often dream the solution to my characters' predicaments by being an active observer of what they do within my dream.

So, if you are stuck on plot, or out of ideas, do try keeping a dream diary for a while. Even if you find it hard at first, the more you do it, the more you'll find you dream. The human mind is an extraordinary thing, and I think a focused and active dream life can be a very helpful tool in any writer's creative toolbox. Why not try it and see!

OUT NOW: Cleo 2: Chosen and Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) '[a] sparkling thriller packed with historical intrigue, humour, loyalty and poison.' Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Also out:  Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review
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Lucy is represented by Sophie Hicks at The Sophie Hicks Agency


catdownunder said... dreams are such a confused mess. Do you think they might tidy up if I tried to write them down? Actually I tend to forget them on waking. I know I have been dreaming but all I can remember is that they are completely illogical!

Lucy Coats said...

The short answer is yes, Cat. It doesn’t matter how illigical they are, either. So try writing them down immediately on waking before you do anything else and see what happens!

Anne Booth said...

That's really interesting. The wonderful actor David Morrissey asked me to write him a play the other night. I think I should take that more seriously than I did at the time. I do think that you are right - dreams can be an important part of our creative process.