In a previous column, Power Dreams, I looked at some great contributions and
inventions that happened in dreams. In this column, and future ones, I will
examine the ways in which creative people make use of their dreams. In
particular I'll look at how novelists and screenwriters, the people who spin
out stories, use their dreams.
We acknowledge novelists as creative people but the real point, from my
perspective is that we are all creative people and the creativity of dreams
is available to all of us.
This week's column is based on the book, Writers Dreaming by San Francisco
author Naomi Epel. Naomi interviewed 26 writers about the connections
between their dreams and their writing. This week, we'll look at her
interview with Stephen King, the author of many great horror stories
including Carrie and Salem's Lot. King is a master of taking our worst fears
and turning them into stories that makes your spine tingle with excitement
as well as fear. That's a lot like dream work.
This column looks at two potent ways in which King uses his dreams. The
first is how he uses a dream to give him a critical moment in a story. The
second, a more everyday kind of use, is how he treats a particular recurring
dream as a warning signal.
A Creative Use of a Dream
It was King's longest novel. The story was already eight hundred pages
long when he became quite stuck and could not think of what to do with one
of his characters, Beverly.
"When I'm working I never know what the end is going to be or how things are
going to come out. I've got an idea what direction I want the story to go
in. But with It I got to a point where I couldn't see ahead any more.
"I remember going to bed one night saying, 'I've got to have an idea.'" That
night he dreamed:
I was in a junk yard, apparently I was the girl. And there were all these
discarded refrigerators in this dump. I opened one of them and there were
these things inside, hanging from the various rusty shelves. Then one of
them opened up these wings, flew out and landed on the back of my hand. I
realized it had anesthetized my hand and it was sucking my blood out.
"I woke up and I was very frightened. But I was also happy. Because then I
knew what was going to happen. I just took the dream as it was and put it in
As best as I can tell, you can read it in Chapter 17,The Death of Patrick
What Stephen has done here is incubated a dream. The dream told him, so to
speak, how to handle his waking life problem.
When you are stuck in some aspect of your life or need an answer that has
defied your rational powers, try dreaming up a solution (see Sleeping
If you have ever started a project and become bogged down when it was
nearing the end, check out your dreams. Of course you may not be able to use
a dream so directly (although it is not uncommon), but you will often find
answers to your needs, your questions and requests in your dreams.
What makes dream work so special is that you get answers you would never
arrive at if you applied your rational thought to the problem. King uses
that creative aspect successfully.
A Practical Nightmare
Regardless of how unpleasant they are, some bad dreams are functional. Here
is a nightmare and King's explanation of how useful it is for him.
"I don't have a lot of repetitive dreams but I do have an anxiety dream:"
I'm working very hard in a hot little room and I'm aware that there's a
madwoman in the attic and I have to finish my work. I have to get that work
done or she's going to come and get me. At some point in the dream that door
always bursts open and this hideous woman jumps out with a scalpel.
"And I wake up."
"I still have that dream when I'm backed up on my work and trying to fill
all these ridiculous commitments I've made for myself."
Nightmares can act as warning signals. They remind us, sometimes very
loudly, that we are neglecting something.
King understands that his dream tells him that he's got to get the work
done. Otherwise he'll get scalped.
We Are All Creative People
It might seem that writers have a special relationship to dreams because
their work is creative, but each of us is creative in every dream. Dreams
start from a creative place. They tell you something in a fresh, different
way. For all of us, that different view is the key to utilizing them. The
dream - or the dream work - will indicate to you a new way of seeing your
Writers Dreaming is a terrific read for dream aficionados. It shows how
famous authors (Elmore Leonard, Isabel Allende, Art Speigelman, Maya
Angelou, and others) incorporate dreaming into their work. When you see how
other people use their dreams, you'll develop ideas about how you can use
your own. This is the most practical book on dreaming that's ever been
(For more information see www.observationdeck.com.)
Over the coming summer months, I am going to publish this column less
frequently. Starting in May, you can expect to receive Dream of the Week
three or four times during the summer months. I'll be back to my weekly
schedule in September.
Announcing a New Dream Group
When you have a waking-life problem that you've attempted to resolve over
and over but never achieve satisfaction it's time to take a look at your
I will be starting a new dream group in which you will work on solving one
particular waking-life problem. Although my usual approach is to follow the
dreams wherever they lead, in this group you'll be using your dreams to tell
you about one specific problem (money, weight-loss, career change, sleep
improvement etc). The most difficult problems are typically much easier to
resolve when we look at them from a dream perspective. Interested? Send me
an email: email@example.com.
The Saturday drop-in group ($20) is from 10 am to noon at 2315 Prince Street
in Berkeley. The nearest major cross street is Ashby and Telegraph. Please
let me know if you are coming.
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DreamRePlay web site: http://dreamreplay.com