How to Farm Content from Your Dreams
Whether you are a poet or a prosaist, your next great work could be hiding in a dream cloud. You might say that you don’t dream, or that they’re random or weird and have no coherent storyline, or that they’re just plain forgettable. The truth is that everyone dreams, and all dreams can be utilized for writing purposes.
How to remember your dreams (if you can’t):
On your next day off, spend a little more time waking up. Don’t set any alarms—they can disrupt your dreams very abruptly, and this will make recall more difficult. Try to savor the grogginess, and let yourself linger in the night past. Spend a few minutes after waking up lying in bed with your eyes closed and try to visualize what you dreamt. Hold that image for step two.
Keep a dream journal—and be consistent. Like with writing normally, it’s important to make a habit out of it. Even if all you can remember of the dream is word associations or unrelated, stand-alone images, you should still write it down. It can be a tool to draw upon when struggling with producing concrete details in your writing. Often, dreams have striking imagery that is difficult to conceive consciously. Use that. Let your sleeping brain do the work for you!
Lucid dreaming. Okay, this one is a little more involved, but if it interests you to be able to control your dreams (it can make sleeping a lot more fun—and if you’re someone who puts off sleep because you feel there isn’t enough time in the day, this could be for you), it might be worth the time and practice necessary for results. It will also help you with dream recall.
Walk into your dream. Some find it helpful to visualize the dream they want to have right before they fall asleep. Many people already do this out of habit, creating scenarios in their head as they wait for sleep to take them. This practice is not dissimilar to what I am recommending; the difference is that the intention to actually dream the scenario should be present in your mind as you are constructing it.
Relax. If it doesn’t come quickly or easily, that is okay. For some, it can take time to improve dream recall. Just keep at it.
Here’s what to do with your dream vomit:
Yes, looking back on your journal entries, you may find that they are utterly incomprehensible. What exactly does “Adam Sandler semicircle tomato sandwich” mean? I can’t really tell you that. I’m sure that when I wrote it down it made perfect sense, though it doesn’t anymore. But now, it’s a joke in a blog post. Do you see what I mean?
There are many ways that you can make use of your dreams, but it might be helpful at first to look into dream interpretation. Many underestimate the power of dreams and the symbolism in them. The mind is an interesting thing, and it’s not stupid. You might be stupid, but your brain isn’t. Every night, all by itself, it creates hundreds of images, people you’ve never seen (though actually, the strangers in your dreams are most likely random passersby that your brain has collected and stored for this such purpose), jokes, places, songs, etc., etc., etc. The things that appear in our dreams are important because they aren’t there by accident. The “meaning” might not be immediately obvious, but there is usually something there.
Throughout human history, we have all been compiling and contributing to a body of cultural knowledge that allows us to connect to each other and to our world in a somewhat spiritual way. Some of these things die and some of them prevail, but the way we tell stories, or hear them, or laugh, or love can be determined by these symbols that often have no beginning. Why do birds represent passed loved ones? Why is the moon a girl and the sun a boy? Why are we always losing our teeth in dreams? There are so many questions that we could ask, and not all of them have answers. The important thing is that they’re there, and sometimes they present themselves to us when we are dreaming—we just have to pay attention.
All I could remember of a dream I had the other night was that there were pink June beetles crawling around my house. I didn’t really understand it. That morning, as I walked to my bus stop, I passed by a Sarvis tree whose berries had dropped a week or so before and had been rotting on the sidewalk—they were the same color as the beetles. I looked up serviceberries and found that they belonged to the Rose family. I looked up beetles and found that they can represent stars, and that finding a beetle in the home is a sign of fertility (among many, many other things associated with beetles—the great part is that you can pretty much pick and choose whatever calls out to you because trusting your intuition is imperative to interpreting your dreams). I then wrote this little poem about my lovely boyfriend:
Serviceberries An image from a dream came to me. June beetles the color of serviceberries (the stars) popped and crushed on the sidewalk next to our bus stop, some still bouncing pink on their shadows. The beetles made formations on the walls of a strange house, humble decorations standing at attention. I’m dreaming of you always. I quest for love in my sleep and the five-pointed calyx of ours. Apples and roses belong to lovers, and so do homes and beetles and stars.
I could have written this poem differently to take the imagery out of the dream context, but in this case, I didn’t want to. And sometimes, I am lazy. You can be lazy too. Or not. What you decide to do with your dreams is your own business. I only ask that you try it—and have fun with it.