Dreams as Writing Advice

The other day, I had this dream that I was late for a writing workshop with Dorothy Allison.  The problem: to get there, I had to take a commuter train (like the SUBWAY or the BART) until the end of the line and then catch a boat up the coast for three stops and when I finally arrived in her podunk town, I would then have to hitch a ride from a man who drove a pick-up truck (it’s not his job.  He just does this for Dorothy because he likes her).  The route was too long.  I worried about the time it would waste to get there.  So instead of the public transportation, I hitched a ride with a friend and arrivedearly.  Then I watched my other classmates stroll in out of the mist, everyone looking refreshed and talking about what a beautiful journey it had been.  I was jealous.  I wanted to see what the boat ride was like, and I was worried it would be dark for the trip back.  Then I woke up.

When I told the dream to Randi, she shrugged.  Said, “Total writer’s dream.”

When I entered "Dreams" into google images, it brought me to this painting. The water in my dream looked nothing like this, but oddly enough, I had a similar version of this image hanging above my bed in college...

I don’t know about you, but most days (especially lately), I wake up and I worry about the end product.  Will I get this novel completed in time for my fast approaching deadline?  Will it be publishable?  Will my committee members like it?  What about my friends?  What about my mother? (Because I just wrote this racy sex scene and it will make her very, very uncomfortable.)  I devote so much energy to worrying about the end product, that I can’t even see the page I’m working on.

According to Randi (who knows these things).  My dream was telling me to quit worrying and to enjoy the ride.  Train, boat, pick-up truck, and all.

Today, I’m taking my dreams advice.

And if you are into dreams, here’s a dream-oriented writing exercise for you that I got from a novel writing workshop with Julie Shigekuni.

Do the following for three nights in a row:

1.  Put a journal beside your bed.  Before you sleep, write down some questions you have for your dreams (about whatever it is that you are writing).  Perhaps they are things you are stuck on or perhaps you don’t know where to go next.

2.  Sleep.

3.  Write in the morning.  First thing.  Maybe even before you get out of bed.  It doesn’t have to be for long, but 5-10 minutes at least.  (perhaps avoid the snooze button and write instead).  Maybe you’ll remember your dream, but maybe you won’t, but the idea is that your subconscious will solve problems for you.

Repeat two more times.

One thought on “Dreams as Writing Advice

  1. I think my subconscious gave me an assignment last night. I had a very vague dream that I was either performing or directing Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, even though (gasp!) I’ve never actually read it. I went to Zimmerman and picked it up… my assigned reading over spring break (as in, assigned by a professor) is a total riff on Death of a Salesman. My professor never clued me in–but my dreams did.


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