What Dreams May Come.
I had a rather odd dream last night. I won’t bore you with the details of it, but suffice to say I have been thinking about it repeatedly since waking up. I’d say that happens with about a third of the dreams I recall having. There is that odd image, strange sensation, or inexplicable setting that just sticks with me. Most of you probably know what I’m talking about. And most of you have probably at some point told someone, (or everyone) about that one dream you had.
Writing down dreams has long been a practice of mystics, psychologists, and intuitives. Dream journaling has many psychological and emotional benefits. But perhaps doing so holds a particular purpose for the writer.
Robert E. Franken, in his textbook, Human Motivation offers, among other things, a definition of creativity. On page 394 of that work, Franken says of creativity:
“…it is linked to other, more fundamental qualities of thinking, such as flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity or unpredictability, and the enjoyment of things heretofore unknown.”
I chose to include this particular quotation out of the many I found on creativity, because it seemed to fit best with my advice to write out detailed accounts of our dreams. Whether we choose to acknowledge or not, every one of us is creative when we dream.
Allow me to elaborate by breaking down Franken’s quotation as it applies to strengthening our writer’s creativity by means of describing our dreams in writing.
Have you ever noticed how often within a dream you suspend logic? You may know deep within your thoughts in a dream that there is no way you should be able to see the Statue of Liberty in the distance if you’re in Chicago. But there it is, and by and large you accept it. Our notions of sequence and space are far more flexible when we dream. When we write down these experiences, we pursue a flexibility of thought that strengthens our creativity. We need to be flexible with our use of words, and the structure of our sentences if we are to have any hope of transmitting what our dream felt like to others.
2) “Tolerance of ambiguity and unpredictability.”
Needless to say, most dreams are both ambiguous and unpredictable. To be creative we must at times be willing to accept uncertainty. Perhaps a final draft of our story requires structure in order to be published, but the road we take to get to that draft may twist and turn a lot, and have no signs to lead the way. One of the most creative things a writer can do is to just strike out, and see where a line of thought leads.
Writing down dreams in as much detail as possible embraces this tolerance of ambiguity. You might not be able to remember a single word of the conversation you had with Harry Truman, but you describe it occurring and embrace the ambiguity of what he was trying to tell you based on other factors happening within the dream at the time. It could be that the not-knowing leads to the bigger purpose. Creatives embrace ambiguity, at least at first.
3) “The enjoyment of things heretofore unknown.”
As a writer, how many times have you used terms such as “discovering my characters” or found yourself “surprised” that a scene unfolded as it did? To outsiders this makes no sense. The writer creates and decides every word of their own story don’t they? Yet those of us who spend any time writing realize that this is often far from the truth. Many writers take as much joy in finding out what happens next as their eventual readers do.
Even with an outline, writing something is to a large extent taking pleasure in pursuing the unknown.
Because anything is possible in our dreams we may come across a thought or knowledge within us the we previously didn’t realize was present. Something within our minds that the ordered, logical nature of being awake kept hidden. By writing about such discoveries with a happy curiosity we are in a sense welcoming the unknown, and all that comes with it. When we seek, through our writing, the enjoyment of discovering new things, about ourselves and the world, more new things are likely to come to us.
Dreams are to some mere random firings of the brain at rest. To others they are messages from the beyond. Still to others they are subconscious desires made manifest in imagery. Yet whatever their true origin, a writer should consider them useful and inspirational in ways that those who do not write may not choose to see them. We break the rules in our dreams, and we make that rule-breaking not only a reality, but a habit, if we write down our dreams and review them.
A writer in the habit of challenging convention, as our imaginations do when dreaming, is bound to meet success.