I had a dream: the writing life

Last night I had a terrifying dream.  It was so real my lungs closed up and my limbs became paralyzed.  Even after waking, I couldn’t shake the physical affects of my nightmare’s ghostly grip.

I love dreams–even the scary ones.  I love living in them, directing them (I’m a lucid dreamer) and remembering them upon waking.  I also love writing about them.  In fact, my first paid byline came from a dream.  I woke up, wrote furiously and subbed my short story. 

Sorry for the short post, but my fingers are itching to hit the keyboards and bring my dream characters to life.

And so I ask, dear friends, how do you dream?  Are your dreams vivid and realistic to the point of pleasure or pain?  Do you remember them in full upon waking or do they slip away into the morning mist?  Can you lucid dream?

Fellow scribes: have your dreams ever prompted you to put pen to paper?  How successful were you at this?  What difficulties do you face when translating dreams into stories?

Curious minds want to know.


19 responses to “I had a dream: the writing life

  1. I have a lot of dreams and nightmares, and sometimes I wake up enough to fix the dream firmly in my mind, even if I don’t get up and write it down. I’ve turned dream images into stories twice. One is a short story, the other started as a short story but is now a novel. Like you, I like my dreams (the nightmares not so much).

  2. I’ve always depended on dreams to guide me when I’m stuck. When I was head majorette in high school, I would dream about new routines. If I got up, ran through the routine (with baton in the middle of the night) I could remember it. If not, it was gone. The same thing in college: Calculus was my nemesis. But more than once I’d go to sleep after declaring a problem impossible to solve only to dream, in detail, the solution.

    I have found dreams to be an integral part of my writing. I get story ideas, plot ideas and even have interactions with my characters. As odd as it sounds, my characters come alive in my dreams. In my most recent novel, for example, I typed “The End,” did a happy dance and went to bed. But I tossed and turned until I fell into a fitful sleep. At that point the murderer in my story told me he didn’t do it. He was so adamant I got up in the wee hours of the morning and (with his help) rewrote the ending.

    For a while it concerned me that my characters were so real to me. Long ago I’d accepted the “help” I got from dreams, but it was a little more difficult to have my characters bossing me around as I slumbered. I even sought the advice of a therapist who assured me dreams of this type were not uncommon for creative people.

    • Oh, Kay, what a great story!

      I have bossy characters, too, and fully appreciate your predicament about sorting out how I feel about that. But in the end, I laugh with them, cry with them and mourn them when they’re gone. I guess that’s a good thing, because if they are real to us, we should be able to portray them more realistically to our readers.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Dreams are always an intense event for me. Some are just whispers of thought, will-o-wisps that make little sense and fade away. Others are so vivid, they feel like an actual experience. I try to write both down, simply as I remember them without concern for grammar, consistency or interpretation, just all the details and sequence I can remember. This dream journal, over time, has become one of those items I can look at when brainstorming and cull for elements to use in my stories, although I’ve never attempted to turn a singular dream into one. Perhaps one day.

    • Gene, I love dream journals. I kept on in college, but it actually made me dream even more. As if that was possible!

      I think they are great resources for creativity and fleshing out scenes and characters. No worries that one hasn’t emerged fully ready to publish. I think that in itself is a bit of a dream!


  4. I have very vivid dreams, and I do dream in color, but what I remember when I wake up is how I felt in the dream. If I can’t remember the details, I always remember the emotions. It’s very cool when I wake up laughing (best days ever when I wake up laughing from a dream!), but not so fun when I wake up crying. Hate sad dreams!

    • Oh, I get you on that. The emotional connection to our dream worlds can be more intense than real life.

      Once I dreamed my nephew passed away. I woke up so sad, I wasn’t sure if he had and my dream was helping me process it or if I had simply dreamt it. I was embarrassed to have to ask, but such is the power of our imaginations sometimes.

      Thanks for your input into this fascinating discussion.

  5. I have nights where I can’t remember my dreams and I have dreams that shake me awake with the need to write down the story before I forget it. If I get too warm, I have a waking dream, like you describe. The dreamer frequently feels like they can’t move, can’t breathe, there’s something sitting on top of them, etc. (See Fuseli’s painting called “The Nightmare.”) If it’s one of those, there’s frequently a spider involved or sometimes an actual person in my room. I’ve been known to wake screaming, or to get up and sleep walk out of these dreams. I once made it all the way out of the house and woke up because there was snow on the ground! Ya just never know. ;D I have received several story ideas from dreams, so I always try to write down the most vivid ones.

    • Oooh, you would be as fun to watch sleep as my DH. He’s put out fires, dug around rubble (me) to save children, choked me (he swears it was a robber breaking in), carried our television away…oh the list goes on.

      You and he would make great novel fodder all on your own!

      Love your fun perspective.

  6. Writing a realistic story based on a dream! 😀 I used my dreams many times to write stories in the 80s and 90s. Now I might write a scene or two taken from a dream, but not base a whole story on them. I almost stopped writing them down anyway, but I do remember most of them.
    The last dreams I put in a story are in Books of the Immortals – Air (I think I used 2) so far… but I might soon rewrite some of those stories written from dreams, so… we’ll see! 😀

    • Good for you. It’s so nice to use these personal resources. Even while dreams can seem so disjointed and unrational, I think they free so much within us and allow us to see new and exciting things. Or, the same things from a different perspective. Either way is a bonus!

      Best luck as you continue your dream writing!

  7. I have an entire novel concept waiting in the wings that is based on a dream. I’m not sure I’ll actually DO anything with it, but I wrote the dream down just in case . . .

    My dreams are highly sensory, full of color and tastes and physical sensations and strong emotions. Sometimes I think I get more rest when I’m awake and reading or watching a movie than I get when I’m asleep . . .

  8. Dreams often inspire or inform my stories. I’ve seen and spoken with characters, found life-changing messages about my writing and my personal life, and even died (well, I awoke screaming — as my dream self fell off a precipice — and frightened the heck out of my wife). I’ve have had recurring nightmares that I’d forgotten about until I went back into them; even now, I don’t remember what they’re about — only that they exist. And any and all of these things can or have become story elements. We must write what we know, even if we’re not sure what these things mean.

    • Love it! I’m not the only crazy one!

      Dreams are very helpful to me in my writing life. The sometimes unravel mysteries and provide me with different options I typically wouldn’t see. Thanks for weighing in on this!

  9. Whoa, for me separating my dreams from my inpsiration could be a nightmare. As I was inpired to write, sometimes it starts from my dreams other time it starts from my inpsiration. But which ever comes first, it literarily leads to the other before becoming a work of prose. All my inpiration and/or dreams are now one finished or unfinished work of prose in my hands. I think without dreams it would’ve been impossible to aspire beyond limits.

    • “I think without dreams it would’ve been impossible to aspire beyond limits.”

      I love this phrase! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. It’s nice to see new faces and hear new perspectives.

  10. Hey i can’t upload my pics, i tried don’t seem to know how can you help

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