How dream emotions can energise your writing

 (photo by D Sharon Pruitt)

In Naomi Epel’s book, ‘Writers Dreaming,’ several of the authors interviewed say that dreams are a way they can connect with very dark places and intense emotions.

My favourite interview in the book is with Sue Grafton. She says – among many other interesting things – that she has engineered the world so that she doesn’t have to face bad guys and monsters in waking life, as everyone does. Therefore one of the ways in which dreams energise her writing is by connecting her to ‘often very visceral experiences.’

In dreams, anything can happen. We can have extremely frightening, exciting or pleasurable experiences, as we did when we were children, before we knew how to engineer our world. That means we will feel the full force of our emotions, as we did back then.

Pure emotion produces strong effects in the body. That’s what makes these experiences ‘visceral.’ Dream situations may be the only opportunity you have in adult life to truly feel the physical effects of extreme fear, dread or murderous rage; of bodily power or spiritual transcendance.

As writers, we say ‘show don’t tell.’ Rather than describing how our characters are feeling emotionally, we describe where the emotion is in their body. We make it physical, so that the reader can feel it in their body too.

Sitting at the computer, we can imagine what it is to feel these super-strength emotions, but in dreams we can actually experience it. A dream recalled is like a memory of waking life; remembering it will bring the emotions flooding back with the same physicality as when you recall events from your dayworld.

Living your dreamlife with awareness means you have more emotional experience to draw upon, as well as more situations and events. Often, the emotion is so strong it carries over into waking life even though the events of the dream may be hazy. That intensity of emotion may spark your creativity as powerfully as the actual images and narratives in your dreams.

You can only draw on these memories of dream emotions if you remember your dreams. Check out my Tips page for info about recalling and recording dreams.

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8 thoughts on “How dream emotions can energise your writing”

  1. This sounds like a really interesting book. I agree completely that the feeling left by a dream is often so much clearer than the details of the dream itself, and can dictate your mood, often for a whole day. A winner for me (as with the dream that brought about Buttercup Magic) is a combination of the two – memories of details, and a mood. Lovely post Jenny!

  2. Yes, this sums up so clearly one of the effects of dreaming. A really lovely (or frightening) dream can stay with you for days. I hadn’t thought of using this emotion to inform my writing, though it seems so obvious now. Thanks, Jenny – food for thought. (Lovely photo too!)

    1. Days, yes.. and weeks… and months… I think some dream experiences can stay with you for years, just as some day-world experiences do. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Jennie. Thankyou for commenting 🙂

  3. Most of my own emotional writing does come from dreams indeed. I can’t complain of my life, so I search in my dreams for things I can use in writing, especially when it comes to emotions of fear. Is the only reason I don’t mind dreaming, it allows my mind to absorb much more than what is present in the physical world. 🙂

  4. Hi Marisabel – I agree, it’s specially the intense emotions such as fear that we can experience strongly in dreams – and remembering the dream in all its intensity feels the same as experiencing it in real life. I like the way you put it – that it ‘allows my mind to absorb much more….’

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