Daily pages vs dreams

A few of my lovely dream diaries
A few of my lovely dream diaries

One of my favourite books about writing is Dorothea Brande’s ‘Becoming a writer.’ It was published in the 1930’s and is still in print, which attests to just how good it is.

Brande says we should treat our writer self as two people, the creative, playful child and the business-like, grown-up critic. We should develop and nurture both sides of our writer self, and teach them to work in harmony.

She refers to the creative side as the unconscious, and suggests one way of opening to it through the practice of daily pages, an idea which later formed the core of another writing bestseller, ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.

The concept of daily pages is that you write stream-of-consciousness for twenty minutes a day, ideally first thing in the morning before the concerns of the day have a chance to intrude. You keep the pen moving on the paper, even if all you can think of is along the lines of, ‘I don’t want to do this, I can’t think of anything to say, it’s a bit rainy outside…’

One effect of this is to help you let go of the idea you have to wait for inspiration before you can write anything – you can write your way in. Another is that you learn to allow unconscious products to emerge when the mind is relaxed and receptive.

Many of my writing friends have found writing daily pages really useful, but it didn’t really do anything for me. It occurred to me that the reason why was because I already wrote first thing in the morning, recording my dreams, and rather than my conscious mind idling and allowing random stuff to come up, I had been fully immersed in this amazing inner world. So, unlike daily pages, my dream diary was full of interesting incidents and images.

Check out my ‘Tips’ page for information about how to start recalling and recording your dreams

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4 thoughts on “Daily pages vs dreams”

  1. “Write your way in” of course! That’s why you scrawl aimlessly…because very often, if we give ourselves a chance, something will start to grow out of the nothingness.
    This is written in such a simple way, why haven’t I properly realised it it before?

  2. That’s a funny thing I’m finding about doing a blog, Liz – you have to keep it brief, so you find the most simple and direct way. I’m glad it spoke to you!

  3. I bought the Dorothea Brande’s ‘On Becoming a Writer,’ after hearing her mentioned several times lately and was amazed at her amazing insights into the writing process, so far ahead of it’s time that it could have been written recently. I’d definitely recommend it to starting out writers.
    Although I always have a notebook and pen with me wherever I go, I have been writing morning pages frequently over the past year and a half and if I remember my dreams on waking I write them down before I’ve had time to start thinking about the day ahead. I find that my first thoughts/dreams give me greater insight into my emotional life and help me problem solve. Some of these realisations are instant but many come up later when I type them up and write a ‘reflection’ piece afterwards, a practice which is far more productive than just mulling it over in my head. Now that I have sorted out many of my historical concerns I am finding my creativity again, painting again after many years block and writing more poetry than ever.

  4. Hi Karen – I’m struck by the similarity between your movement from using dreams to sort out ‘historical concerns’ towards a more creative approach, and my guest Pat Neill’s https://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/guest-post-the-dream-that-sparked-the-poem/ I think most people in the West first come to dreams looking for psychological insights but then, if they maintain recall, begin to discover they have much more to offer

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