Every time I hear someone talk about how they don’t remember their dreams, it baffles me. I dream and remember my dreams all the time. And believe me, I have some wild ones! As a writer, some of the best ideas for stories I’ve had and some of the most effective fixes for trouble spots in other stories have been inspired by dreams.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that our subconscious is full of brilliant (and not so brilliant) ideas. There are things up there in the untapped realm of our minds that are essential to helping us live. I am reasonably certain that one of the reasons I’m not more insane than I am is because I’ve dealt with a lot of the crap that’s happened in my life through dreams. I’ve had some incredibly insightful dreams full of imagery that has helped me to make sense of my state of mind at any given point.
Ah, dream imagery! You can find a thousand different interpretations about what certain things in dreams mean: a fear of falling, losing your teeth, being caught naked in public. There are experts out there who will rush to tell you the meaning of it all based on the things you dream about.
Don’t listen to them. I am reasonably certain that dream imagery is personal. What means something to you probably doesn’t mean the same thing to someone else. Like me and trains. I know that when I dream about trains, my life is about to change in a positive direction. I used to dream about plane crashes all the time in my childhood and adolescent years, but those dreams were always about not being in control of my life, especially my messed up family situation. I stopped having plane crash dreams suddenly one night after a dream in which my mom told me I didn’t have to get on the plane. Hmm. Strangely enough, I’ve had train dreams ever since then. Funny how the difference between a life that is out of control and heading for a disaster and one that is going someplace positive is simply choosing not to “get on board” with those forces that hurt you.
That’s all very deep and esoteric, but I have dreamed ideas for stories too. In fact, some of my best ideas started out as those peaceful, visual whispers in the predawn hours. I dream more vividly right before waking up in the morning than I do deeper into the night. I don’t know if everyone is that way or just me, but it sure does make it that much easier to remember the important details later.
Remembering the details of dreams is one of the hardest parts of using those dreams as creative fuel or personal therapy. At the same time, I confess that I don’t keep a notebook by my bed to write those things down or anything like that. It might be effective, I’m not sure. Mostly, I wake up thinking about them, and if those dreams are something that can inform or be of use in my writing, I connect those dots right away and run with it.
If you’re a writer and want to see if your dreams can provide the kind of inspiration you’re looking for, I do recommend writing those dream ideas down when it’s most convenient for you. I’m pretty sure that dreams come from the same place as the imagination that makes us writers in the first place. Listening to those whispers is just the beginning of a world of stories.