One of the mysteries of writing

Last week, I posted the picture Paul Farrington gave me before Christmas. Somebody else has given me a gift recently that I’ve been contemplating, and that was the dream therapist, Brenda Mallon. She generously read the MS of my book, ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ and gave me some really helpful feedback.

'The dream Experience' by Brenda Mallon
‘The dream Experience’ by Brenda Mallon

Brenda’s feedback was helpful largely because it focused  on what I had said about using dreams therapeutically – which I hadn’t even noticed I had talked about. It’s one of the mysteries of writing that you often don’t see everything that’s in a piece until it gradually reveals itself through other people’s reading.

I had thought my book was purely about using dream material for creative inspiration, because that’s what my workshops are. In dreaming-and-writing workshops we don’t relate the dreams we share in any way to our waking life – that would feel intrusive and be as creatively inhibiting as setting out to write fiction by first trying to analyse where it’s coming from in ourselves and our lives. We use dreams purely as a creative resource.

In this blog I’ve tried to steer away from interpretation and focus on dreams as creative resources too, but Brenda’s feedback has shown me that although I can easily narrow the focus in workshops, I haven’t done it in my book, I don’t do it in my life and I’m not really holding that line here on the blog.

So I’m throwing open the gates. This year, I’ll be writing about dreams from every angle, including some thoughts on interpretation and an interview with Brenda on using dreams in therapy. I’ll be doing some more general articles about writing too.

After all, it doesn’t matter what we write – we’re always writing in the House of Dreams.

Has a reader ever found something in your writing that you didn’t intend or realise were there?

6 thoughts on “One of the mysteries of writing”

  1. Hi Jen
    Yes! My first novel, Mondays are Red, was about (I thought) guilt, temptation, power and the corrupting influence of those things. So I was surprised to hear more than one person say that it’s about recovery from illness. I’d thought that the illness and recovery of the central character were just the vehicle.

    I think it’s interesting that Philip Pullman famously won’t answer questions as to what his books are about or what his intention was, simply saying that the meaning is what the reader takes from it. I disagree with him, though I do think the meaning is *also* what the reader takes from it.

  2. How interesting – thank you, Nicola! I love it when readers find something in my writing that I didn’t think was there – it kind of makes things bigger – though I’m happy to say what I think I was writing about. I agree with you – it’s not just the writer or just the reader, but a combination of both that makes the work what it is.

  3. My very first book, Man Hunt was a lighthearted, urban tale about a boy trying to find a boyfriend for his mother… who knew it was also *a rites of passage*?

  4. I’ve had that experience, too! My first book, an historical novel, had been out for a year when I had a comment from a reader that made me finally understand for the first time exactly why, on an emotional level, I had written that book at that time. It can be a little scary sometimes to realize quite how much of ourselves we are revealing – even parts of ourselves that we thought were hidden – yet I think that’s probably part of what makes writing worthwhile. And I don’t know how to write any other way.

  5. Yes, that’s it – on an emotional level. Not conscious at all. It’s like the story reveals something that you don’t even know about yourself, and so creates an opening to your future direction.

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