Wednesday, July 11, 2007


by Gina Sestak

Do you remember your dreams?

Dreams come in the night to entertain or frighten us. Dreams help us to process information, understand the past, and, possibly, foretell the future. Dreams inspire our writing.

One week ago today, I returned from attending the 24th annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams in Sonoma, California. Three hundred-odd (some very odd) people came from all over the world to spend five days studying dreams from every conceivable angle. Nearly 150 seminars, workshops, and meetings were held, ranging from hard science to the woo-woo. Presenters included professors and shamans, ministers and dancers, psychologists and artists. Days began with dream sharing groups at 8 a.m. The final presentations ended at 9:30 p.m., followed by parties -- wine tasting, group drumming, a costume ball. It was overwhelming, but wonderful.

I attended many seminars and workshops, including one entitled Dreaming Into Creative Writing. Try this:

Pick a strong character from your dreams and spend eight minutes writing non-stop about that character. Then spend eight minutes writing as that character. Finally, imagine that character taken out of the dream setting and riding on a flying carpet. Spend eight minutes letting that character describe what s/he sees, feels, etc.

I used a character who has appeared in only one of my dreams, a sleeping woman who sits at a desk and writes with a lacquer pen that never runs dry. Imagine my surprise when, awakened and whisked away on a flying carpet, she cussed me out for disturbing her!

Have your dreams inspired your writing, or helped you to find a solution to a writing problem?

If you are interested in learning more about your dreams, come join our local dream workshop.


Tory said...

When I was a teenager, I would have the most emotion-filled dreams and want to turn them into fiction. Somehow, when I translated them into waking experience they never had the same punch. So I don't recommend dreams as ways to beef up plots.

But I did use one of my dream images (watching a funeral procession drive by) as an evocative dream for one of my heroines, and one of my critiquers told me it was pretty effective. So I'm not ruling out dreams altogether as a literary device.

mike said...

The only thing my dreams inspire is wonder--at what absurdity, silliness, and strangeness lurks in the fatty recesses of my brain! I so rarely remember a dream, and last night was no different. I woke up this a.m. replaying a whole series of odd little vignettes, all of them leaving impressions of being lighthearted and fun, but even a gun to my head wouldn't get me to remember what transpired in any of them. Blame it on the overly large scoop of chocolate butter fudge ice cream from Brr-kees in Oakmont last night.

Oh, and one other thing re: dreams: If a book I'm reading recounts a dream, that book is history. That is the biggest turnoff for me.

Joyce said...

Cool, Gina!

I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do, they usually come true in some way or another. I'll dream about a certain place or situation and a few weeks later I'll be in that place or have that same conversation. Weird, I know.

Annette said...

There have been times when I was having problems with a plot, thought about it as I lay in bed at night and then woke up with the solution, but that's something a little different.

One of the short stories I had published last year was taken directly from a dream (nightmare)I'd had. And my attempt at romantic suspense (the manuscript that collects dust in the shadows of a drawer from which it will never ever again emerge) was built around one scene that came from a rather erotic dream.

Kathy said...


How cool that I had to come to this blog to find out about such a neat thing right here in my neighborhood!

The thing this fall looks really great!

Kristine said...

Very interesting, Gina!

I have to say that since I've become pregnant, my dreams have taken a really weird turn. I dream about everything from old friends from grade school to zombies, and the dreams are so vivid.

The best is when I fall asleep reading and actually finish the book (or at least how I think it should end) in my dreams. Weird!

Cynnie said...

I have found that keeping a dream journal is a great way to exercise descriptive writing skills -- how do you put the indescribable into words?!

Here are some tips on recalling and recording dreams:

1. At bedtime, place paper and pen within easy reach.

2. When you're ready to go to sleep, repeat this suggestion to yourself: "I'm going to be able to remember my dreams tonight and write them down."

3. Upon waking from a dream, write as much as you can as soon as you can. If it's the middle of the night, at least write some key words so you can try to recover the details later.

4. Write in the present tense -- it will help you to stay in the flow of the dream. For example, "I'm flying to Mars" instead of "I flew to Mars." Concentrate on what has been going on in the dream, rather than what it might mean in waking life, until you've finished recording it.

5. Date the dream and give it a title. Add any details that might be of interest, such as your location if you're traveling.

6. Reflect on any corresponding details you notice between the dream and waking events, and make notes about them.

7. Leave extra space at the end of your entry, in case more correspondences come to light in the future.

This and more dream info was published 07/09/07 in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: