Do Dreams and Nightmares Influence Your Writing?
I realize that’s an odd question, but seriously think about it for a moment. Have you ever had a particularly nasty nightmare that just stuck with you? Something that haunted your waking thoughts for hours or even days afterwards? Maybe that nightmare could be the perfect influence for an original and terrifying story. What terrifies you might also scare your audience.
Edgar Allen Poe was quoted as saying, “Dreams. Those little slices of death.” If Poe was plagued by nightmares, it’s not a big stretch of the imagination to think those same dreams influenced his writing. His dark and twisted imagery had to come from somewhere, right? Perhaps his own personal demons that he experienced in his dreams were brought to life in the pages of his writing. It’s an interesting theory, but we’ll never know since he’s been gone a long time. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
I’ve had vivid dreams that I couldn’t shake, especially when I’ve been sick and took cold medicine before I went to bed. It always gives me crazy dreams. The thing is, sometimes they’re more than just vivid. Sometimes they’re images that I have used in my own writing. I can’t speak for Poe, but I know that my own dreams and nightmares have had an impact on what I write. True horror comes from within our own minds, from the core of what truly scares us. That’s where we find the darkness that haunts our dreams. It’s in that darkness where we find common ground. Things that scare us all, in the primitive recesses of our minds.
Dreams are imagery from our own subconscious minds. Good and bad dreams can affect us in profound ways. They can not only show us things that we want, but things we fear and things we may not even realize we have seen. Dreams can take us to places we’ve never been or places we don’t remember being at. Places real or imagined. Places not of our own world.
Dreaming is a big influence on our conscious mind. It can give us insights into things, bring things to our attention that we were only worrying about subconsciously, or even shock us with possibilities we hadn’t even considered. Dreaming is very much like reading a book that your mind is writing for you, pieced together from previous experiences, fears, concerns or even memories you had long since forgotten. Dreams are a true gateway into the core of our imaginations. Why not use that in your writing?
If you’re a vivid dreamer, maybe you should consider keeping a dream journal. It’s easy to do. Just put a notebook and an ink pen next to your bed. When you wake up, jot down the things that stick out in your mind from your dreams. You might want to keep note of the date when you had the dream and maybe rate it on how vivid it was. Nothing overly complicated. Maybe one to five stars based on how clear and strong the dream was. Just an idea. You can do it however you like. It’s your dream journal.
After a while, you’ll have a fairly lengthy journal to look back on. How often does the dream repeat? Does it have colors and smells? Did you know the people in it or were they strangers? If the imagery is particularly vivid, you can use the description to create scenes in your writing or even inspire new characters. The sky really is the limit. You’re tapping into your own creativity, so you never know where it will take you.
You might not find anything useful in your dream journal or you might find the exact things you were needing to take your writing to a whole new level. Your dreams, and your writing for that matter, are as unique as you are. Everyone will experience something different, both when they dream and when they write. Creativity is the key, here. Each of us will see and experience something completely different.
Even if you don’t gain anything useful from the dream journal, it’s still a great exercise to engage your creativity as well as a glimpse into your own subconscious. You don’t have anything to lose, but so much to gain. The things you learn and the discoveries you make might very well help to shape your writing, especially if you write horror. But there are other possibilities, as well. Sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction or really any genre in writing. Your dreams can take you literally anywhere or any time.
Dreaming is the vehicle of our subconscious mind just as books are the vehicle for our waking mind. It’s how we explore our creativity and experience realities other than our own. Escaping reality has long been one of the reasons that we read. Books are the written record of the stories that we read. So, unless you have a dream journal, there is no written record of your dreams. It’s worth a shot, right? What have you got to lose?
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