Dreams, daydreams and the writer’s trance

Jung believed the dream goes on all the time, day and night, a constant flow of images and narratives that runs like an underground stream beneath our conscious awareness. He said the only reason we think of dreaming as a night-time phenomenon is because most of us only become aware of it when the conscious mind is completely turned off in sleep.

If you conceptualise dreaming in this way, as a continuous layer of consciousness, you begin to notice how you naturally slip in and out of it all the time, in fantasies and daydreams. What if I go to the beach today? That person I met in the cafe last time might be there, and she might say… and then we might…

What if I hadn’t said what I said? We might have gone ahead with our plan… We might be making lots of money, and then we could…

Lots of us are unaware of our daydreaming mind. It’s like background noise we’re so used to we hardly notice it. But others enjoy their dreams and daydreams so much, they notice and deliberately nurture them.

Many writers report that they daydreamed their way through school – they may have got into trouble for it. But I’d say it was time well spent – they were developing a vital creative ability.


The ‘writer’s trance’ is a kind of daydreaming. In his book on writing, Stephen King describes his writing sessions as like slipping into sleep, because when he’s writing he’s completely unaware of what’s going on in the household around him. When he stops for lunch, he says,it’s like waking up from a dream and gradually becoming aware of his surroundings again.

Most people assume that the craft of writing – how to construct a strong plot, write convincing dialogue, conjure vivid settings so on – can be taught, but that the inspiration side is just luck. It has to come on its own, if it comes at all.

To some extent, that’s true but in writing as in creative dreaming, we can learn techniques for tapping into the unconscious mind at will, directing it and harnessing its power.

Developing dreaming and daydreaming skills doesn’t only make your dreams and writing more exciting – it makes your whole life more exciting too, because the unconscious mind is made of stories. Its nature is movement – a continuous growing and then dying back of possibilities – in which our conscious mind sits with all its certainties and definitions, limited and fixed.

Do you enjoy your dreams and daydreams? Does writing feel like daydreaming to you?

13 thoughts on “Dreams, daydreams and the writer’s trance”

  1. I think that the parallel between dreaming, daydreaming and writing is particularly true with poetry . I have a ambivalent attitude to my own occasional poems which do seem to come automatically and unexpectedly, my task just to get out of the way and write what is there. Just like when we dream . I have no interest in plots or characterisation, and am hopeless at them, but the blending of images and internal logic of dreams seems to produce pleasing gifts from time to time . I have some difficulty thinking of the poems as my own, and tend to think of them as being filtered through me . I think I need to work on not working on poetry.

    1. What a great comment – and I love your conclusion! I don’t think of my work as my own, but a collaboration – my job is to turn up, be receptive and craft what I get, and the amount of crafting first drafts need is very variable. I love it when something arrives fully formed.

      1. Thanks for your comments, it is interesting to know that “proper writers” have similar experiences . If I were being poetic, I would describe poetry as “sitting in a garden waiting for a flowering “. Good job I’m not a poet .Best Wishes , Gary

  2. Jenny, This so hit the spot with me. Many thanks for it. Connie Currie

    On Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 02:33 AM, Jenny Alexander’s blog: Writing in the House of Dreams wrote:

    Jenny Alexander posted: “Jung believed the dream goes on all the time, day and night, a constant flow of images and narratives that runs like an underground stream beneath our conscious awareness. He said the only reason we think of dreaming as a night-time phenomenon is because “

  3. Since I was a child, I’ve had a very active – sometimes overactive – imagination. I’d dream all the time. My grade school teachers used to tell my parents how well-disciplined I was and that I was a good student, but that I always had a problem with daydreaming. Not until I was an adult did I realize daydreaming was good for me (and good for the soul) and that I often daydreamed because school was so boring. Of course, I still get bored easily.

    Both my night dreams and daydreams have often proved a well-spring of material for writing. In fact, early this morning (Wednesday, the 20th) I had a very bizarre dream that bordered on the nightmarish. But it’s given me a great idea for a psychological horror story. Such is the manner in which a scribe’s mind is wired!

    1. Good for the soul – yes! I was like you at school, Alejandro – high achieving but often bored which, on the upside, I think probably provided me with head-space for daydreaming.

      1. You’ve probably heard that those who are easily bored are generally among the most intelligent. Therefore, I believe, Jenny, we are among the blessed few. Plus, we’re writers with vivid imaginations, so we are definitely among the rarest of individuals! Sometimes, it’s just too difficult to be humble. 🙂

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