This article is an exploration of the relationship between
dreamwork and creative expression, with a focus on writing as the medium. The
struggle is with my temptation to be evangelical about this subject because I
believe so strongly in the dreaming mind's ability to inspire, guide and enliven
written art. Robert Louis Stevenson counts among the many writers who have
written stories directly inspired from their dream material.
A good place to begin is attempting to answer the question, "What are
dreams?" Dreams are images, typically presented in story form about our
emotions, if we are sighted in our waking lives. If we are blind, they will be
less visual, and more sensation, but hold the same fascination and tell us about
ourselves in the same way that they do for us sighted folks.
Dreams are always about something we don't know consciously and they are
always about ourselves. Our dreaming mind takes several waking life experiences
and feeling reactions, and condenses them to one image. This is one of the
reasons why they must be decoded to be understood.
Dreams are fresh material, unfettered by social expectation and convention.
They are a gift from nature, original, complex, unaffected, real, and
unencumbered with artifice. They are emotionally intense, and honest which is
why using them for story inspiration will give your writing that special ring of
truth, infused with passion.
Dreams come naturally to us as well-constructed stories. They have a
beginning, a middle and a conclusion. This is why we often ask dream explorers
to discuss the "theme," or "plot" of their dreams and give
them a "title." Identifying and naming these aspects of the dream can
help tremendously in translating its message. Furthermore, dreams follow a
series. Part I might appear to us tonight and Part II might not appear for a
week, or a year or even a decade but inevitably there will be a follow-up. We
know a dream is a part of a series when similar characters, plots and settings
Dreams demonstrate for us both sides of an issue. Some believe dreams are
helpful for problem-solving which is true, but not in a way you might imagine.
They don't suggest, "You should . . . ," rather they suggest,
"This might happen if you choose this, and this might happen if you do
that." You must decode this information and decide consciously for yourself
(the bane and glory of free will!) which path you will ultimately take. That is
another reason why they are so fresh. They don't condemn, moralize, or
pontificate! They simply present you with the story. The other story of your
Writers are routinely admonished to write what they know which has always
struck me as wise advice. The dreaming mind will offer you more experiences,
more travel, and more exotic adventures than you are ever likely to have in your
waking life. In our waking lives we only have so much energy, resources and
choices available to us at any given time but in our dreaming mind these are
There is a process which is referred to as "incubation" which is
simply asking your dream self for a dream on a specific topic. Before going to
sleep put a recording device by your bedside and ask for a dream about something
that's bothering you or for an experience you would like to have. You might have
to ask three or four evenings in a row, but I guarantee you will have the dream
you need by the end of a week.
In my experience most writers are introverts by nature.(It's difficult for
extroverts to write extensively because they are energized by being around other
people. Time alone for an extrovert can be a depressing experience.) Developing
depth in your characters however can be a challenge if you have limited your
access to a variety of people. Your dreams will provide you with an amazing
array of characters to further develop in your stories. The characters in our
dreams are typically complex, unpredictable and unique. They certainly are a
contrast to stereotypes which can be a temptation when you have developed an
interesting and complex plot. Characterization development is a powerful
strength in an aspiring writer's work.
Dream material is universal. Your dream will be as helpful for you as it is
to me. Our problems, worries and aspirations are not so very different. When you
write from a dream, you will be appealing to a vast audience which is not only
relevant for now but for many years to come. Your writing will possess
collective appeal, contain universal messages, yet be unique and timeless. Your
stories will be rich, deep and expressive. And most importantly it will be
written by someone who is unafraid to know themselves.
As we honour dream material in our waking lives, we become more whole human
beings. We learn to accept those parts of ourselves that we may regard as
unsavory, or very grand. We open ourselves to a rich and uncontrollable universe
within ourselves that is the generator of not only our greatest and lowest
thoughts, but profoundly our most creative.
We learn to walk the path of the initiated, the brave and the receptive.
Dream exploration takes us to a realm of the individuated. We begin to
understand our calling, our purpose and we burn with the desire to bring our
passion into the world. It is one of the paths to enlightenment. It is within
you and available every night for you to explore. You don't have to go to a
special place to find it, you don't need a guru to teach you the way, and no
book on the subject will be as valuable as the one you write yourself. Your own
To begin I suggest you begin by writing down your dreams. Title them,
identify the theme and the plot, describe the characters and pay attention to
the action and reactions of your characters. For a really beneficial
exploration, invite a group of kindred spirits to bring their dreams to a dream
group meeting every couple of weeks. Share your dreams, explore them together,
and encourage each other to write about your dream experiences. It will change
your life in ways you can barely imagine.
Kathleen Meadows, Ph.D. Biography
Kathleen lives in Kitchener, Ontario Canada with her life partner. She trains
and supervises in a Mentorship Program for the Boards of Education. Kathleen is
a feminist, and strong believer in community economic development through her
involvement in Barterworks. She is the co-author of the DreamQuest cards with
Gloria Nye, and a private therapist working with artists who draw from their
dreams to deepen their self-awareness and develop their creative expression.
Kathleen and Gloria have just completed another piece of work which is a dream
symbol dictionary, and quite different in content and structure from most of the
dictionaries presently available on the market. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,