Practical Conscious Dreaming

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Someone asked on Twitter what writers do for inspiration, and I mentioned that I had recently dreamt an idea for a novel. “Lucky duck!” she replied, which slightly surprised me. Lucky to have dreams? Like saying someone’s lucky for having two eyes. Well, yes, I am, but most of us do, and you probably do, too.

I wasn’t consciously looking for inspiration that day (or night, rather), but if I had been, dreamwork might well be a method I would turn to. I wrote previously about how I’ve cultivated my dreaming over the years. If you feel a lack in your dreaming, I’d encourage you to try it. You might be surprised what you can discover in dreams.

If you do remember dreams, here’s an exercise you can try tonight. Deep winter is a good time for dreaming, though you can do it any time of year. Prepare yourself to sleep in your usual ways —put on pajamas, brush your teeth, whatever you always do before going to bed. I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it. Take your journal to bed with you. Clear your mind of extranea (that sounds like a real word, don’t you think?). Keep only the question you want to ask. Write it in your journal, as clearly and specifically as you can. Then set the journal near enough to reach when you wake up. Turn out the light and let the question float around in your mind as you fall asleep. As soon as you wake, write everything you can remember.

Sometimes when I do this practice, I get amazing insight into my question. Once, Kirstie Alley appeared and gave me some sound advice. Other times I don’t find anything I can make sense of regarding the question or any dreams I might have had. Sometimes I have a strong feeling that a dream is meaningful, but I can’t find a way to relate the dream to the question I asked. In those cases I suspect that the question wasn’t really right to lead me to a useful answer.

Whatever happens, I love dreaming and dreamwork. If I can’t apply a dream to a particular problem, it could well be fertile material for some other project, such as a poem or a story. I hope later this month to release a collection of surrealist short stories based on a series of dreams I had years ago, when I first started writing fiction.

What do you dream? How do you inspire yourself to dream? How are you using your dreams in your waking life?

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