Dreams have always fascinated me. Why do we dream? Are they meaningful? Why do they form certain patterns? And how can we use them to tap further into our creativity?
While I can’t answer these questions, I thought that writing some good old-fashioned prompts and exercises around this topic might help us gain further insight into our imaginations as writers. So make a cup of hot milk, light a lavender candle and prepare to drift away to the land of nod. By the end of this article you will have:
- Mined the storage space in your brain for story ideas.
- Created your own ‘language of dreams.’
- Learned how to write directly from dreams.
- Turn the masculine/feminine side of your personality into a character sketch.
The Magic Dumping Ground
If our brains can be described as a massive computer, one theory about dreams is that, just like taking old furniture to the rubbish tip they’re there as a processing plant to sort through all the stuff we’ve ‘collected’ during our waking hours.
Try for a moment to picture your own magical dumping ground. What does it look like? Who’s running it? What kind of old (or new) junk can be found there?
Mr Sandman, Bring Me a Dream Language
Bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom. One often hears the phrase ‘the language of dreams,’ which describes the images and themes we can use to interpret them.
But what if, linguistically speaking, a language of dreams actually existed? Take your writing notebook and answer these questions:
- What are the grammatical features of this language?
- What are the 100 most commonly used vocabulary words and phrases?
- What are some basic greetings?
- What does the language look like when it’s written down (maybe it’s not written down at all)?
- Who speaks this language?
- Where do they speak it?
Damn I Wish It’d Lasted Longer
Keep a record of your dreams for the next 5 nights in your writing notebook.
Choose a dream that seemed particularly interesting to you and write a short story based on what would’ve happened next had you not woken up. Alternatively, mix elements of the separate dreams to come up with an entirely new story altogether.
The Collective Unconscious
A character you’re currently working on has an enlightening dream that alters a choice they are about to make in their waking life.
Choose 3-4 words from this list, write the dream, then use their current state + a dream dictionary to interpret it for them:
A hire car, a crucible, a flower bud, a raging sea, a fence, crying, a leopard, a strange space, laughing, wings, a Viking, teasing, nettles, an enchantress, floating, a quartz crystal, an old man, angry, a thumb, a pool, girls and boys, sails, Virgo, fortress, a king, failure, red ink, Turkish language, an oval shape, an affair, a chemist, eating dates, evil, fatigue, a hurricane, knitting, a maze, unwanted.
Has Anybody Seen My Animus?
The Anima (in a man’s dream) or Animus (in a woman’s) is described as the dreamer’s personality of the opposite sex e.g. the emotional/sensitive representative within the masculine or the analytical/assertive within the feminine.
In your writing notebook, describe and/or draw your Anima/Animus as a character sketch. What do they look like and how do they behave? What’s the first thing they say when they see you?
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If you’d like to share any work you’ve done in response to these exercises, I’d be thrilled to see it! I’d also love to hear about any interesting dreams you’ve had recently and how you might be drawing inspiration from them.
Until next time,