Category Archives: Guest posts

Art for Happiness!

I’m delighted to welcome the artist, author and creativity coach Val Andrews into the House of Dreams today to talk about her new book. I’ve followed her blog for ages, and feel absolutely in tune with the way she links creativity with wellbeing.

Val Andrews
Val Andrews

As a part-time visual artist and creative writer with 30 years of experience working in the healthcare sector, I have a keen interest in the impact that creative expression has on health and wellbeing, and on a person’s capacity to be innovative in their work.

For a number of years, I’ve been exploring this interest by delivering creativity workshops and offering coaching to people who are committed to moving through blockages in their creativity. I’ve also been interviewing professional artists and writers about their creative process and sharing those interviews on my blog in the hope this may inspire my readers: https://artforhappiness.wordpress.com

Over the years, I’ve found there are many reasons why people choose to learn more about their own creativity. Sometimes they’re driven by a desire to approach work tasks in a more creative way, sometimes they wish to ‘be more artistic’, or write a book, or invent something the world has not yet seen. Whatever the motivation, unleashing the creative process certainly seems to boost personal wellbeing, and enhance performance at work.

picture of cover

It’s for this reason I chose to write the book “Art for Happiness: finding your creative process and using it”. Freshly published in March 2015, this book explores the some of the contemporary research on the creative process – what it is, how it works and what it does for a person’s sense of wellbeing. I’ve also included a number of exercises which I’ve found helpful in unlocking the creative process and developing ideas beyond their original naivety. Please feel free to look inside this book on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Val-Andrews/e/B00HGG15A0

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Have you tried NaNoWriMo?

My guest today is writer, Julie Newman. She did NaNoWriMo last year  and she’s come into the House of Dreams to tell us all about it. 

Julie Newman reading at the Vital Spark in Liskeard
Julie Newman reading at the Vital Spark in Liskeard

The NaNoWriMo experience, by Julie Newman

On a late October afternoon at The Writers and Illustrators group in Liskeard, we all decided to have a go at the National Novel Writing Month in November. We all signed up and became ‘writing buddies’ on the NaNoWriMo website, hoping that by watching one another’s progress and competing, it would make us write. And write we did! Even the members who are usually reluctant to write regularly achieved much more by joining in.

As for myself, I didn’t expect it to take over my life. To start with I only had a rough plot outline of a fragmented family. I didn’t have the time to do any research so I used the old adage – ‘write what you know’ – so some of the plot came from my family history. We had the whole of November to complete a novel of 50,000 words. This meant on average writing 1700 words a day. Some days I wrote more than this, sometimes less, but I completed it in 27 days and although I felt as if I was chained to the computer most of the time, what came out of it was amazing. My characters blossomed and told me what they wanted to happen. I lived and breathed the novel. Everywhere I went I took my note book; I even went to bed with it and wrote down the ideas as they came to me and the same when I woke up in the morning. Fortunately my husband was understanding and encouraged me to stick with it!

When I finished I had an amazing sense of achievement; even more so when I read the novel through from beginning to end. It was as though the story had written itself, somewhere in my subconscious, but I didn’t expect it to be so rounded. There seems to be something very honest about writing like this.

I think what I gained from NaNoWriMo is to know that I can write without editing as I go, and to leave my inner critic at the door. But in the process I lost most of November living in another world.

On the website, one of the perks for the ‘winners’ is a hard cover book of our novel, and even though it’s only a first draft in a plain blue cover, it’s wonderful to be able to hold it in my hand.

As for doing it again, I think I would try and plan it better prior to November 1st so I didn’t have to spend so much time at the computer!

 

Julie Newman has had seven magazine articles published, the first of which, ‘A Day Trip to Ely’ was sparked by a non-fiction exercise in one of my workshops. You can read her article ‘Bodmin Moor’on the Cornwall Life website and her story, ‘Open all hours’ here.
Julie’s other published work includes short stories in The Caradon Writers’ anthologies – ‘Mining For Words’ and ‘Write To Remember.’ She’s currently working on a memoir called ‘No One Comes Close.’

Making art from a dream, by Susan Levin

Yesterday, I reviewed Susan Levin’s book, ‘Art from Dreams’ and I’m delighted to welcome  her into the House of Dreams to talk about the dream behind her artwork, ‘Home.’

HomeI am writing about the piece titled “Home” and the accompanying dream.

Dream: I am on a boat in the Detroit River headed for summer camp. I talk to someone about Detroit—how the city is out of money. We dock briefly along the city’s shore. I go for a walk, barefoot, through the muddy streets. I see little children in slum housing. I walk up the steps to the bank. I clean my feet with water so they will be less muddy.

Dream interpretation: I have to get down with uncovered feet to get close to the truth of my difficult childhood, growing up in a dysfunctional family in Detroit. The city of Detroit is bankrupt—it’s losing its libido for me. I walk barefoot, slogging through the mud of my past. With my uncovered feet, I get close to the truth. The slum of my childhood. Boats are a womb-like container that carry us on our life’s voyage. We all need a sense of security to help us navigate.

Being sent away to summer camp, where I don’t want to go, adds to my sense of being an outcast. By cleaning my feet as I go up to the bank, I am relinquishing my feeling of impoverishment. Something in me has money in the bank. I am coming to a part of myself that is substantial. I have my own resources—my own currency in the bank. I am approaching the SELF, going upstairs to a higher level of understanding.

Cleaning the feet has religious overtones, a rite of purification. I was destined to be barefoot in the mud, living in a slum, when I instead deserve to be in a bank with clean feet and access to money. My inner resources, which were never acknowledged or nurtured, are now accessible.

Have you ever been moved to create a visual image by memories, thoughts and feelings that have been stirred  up in a dream?

Acquainted with the night, by Victoria Field

I’m delighted to welcome writer, poetry therapist and tutor Victoria Field into the House of Dreams today. I’ve attended several of her poetry therapy workshops over the past few years, which I can highly recommend, and I always look forward to reading her blog

Victoria Field
Victoria Field

I have always been aware of my dreams.  I still remember one from my pre-school years in which I went to watch a Punch and Judy show at the bottom of the hill where I lived.  I sat on my tricycle and was both drawn and repelled by what I saw happening on the stage of the booth and feared I’d be sucked in.  I’m not sure I’d ever seen Punch and Judy in real life.

It seems dreams are informed by more than direct experience.   I know that on residential courses, participants report shared dreams and that when I was married, my husband and I somehow occupied the same dream space as we shared a bed.  As a student, I often dreamed of tents.  I loved back-packing but there was also something mysterious about my dream tents and when I recently sat in a Bedouin tent in Kuwait, it felt familiar.

Many of my poems begin with a dream image and they find their way into prose too.  Several years ago, I began writing down an exceptionally vivid dream that centred around finding a white horse in my tiny kitchen in a terraced house in Chester.  As I wrote, the dream took on a life of its own and eventually turned into a novella of 16,000 words recounting what happened next.  The white horse can stand for many things in my life and like all dream images is mutable and outside time.  Writing happens in a liminal space and to my surprise, the horse surfaced again in a comic short story. 

I’m also aware that dream-work happens without our conscious mind being involved.  I often tell an anecdote when people ask how I became involved in poetry therapy.   My first encounter with the practice was when John Fox, an eminent practitioner based in the US gave a workshop in London in 1999. It was a two day workshop and on the second day, I felt utterly unable to keep my eyes open, in spite of being fascinated by the work.  I’d had a leg injury and was on pain-killers which I blamed for my sleepiness.  I excused myself and found somewhere to put my head down and went into a deep sleep for a couple of hours. I can’t recall any dreams but I woke up thinking utterly clearly, ‘I want to be a poetry therapist’.  And so began my journey of the past decade and more.

So, if people fall asleep on my courses, I never object.  Important work is being done as we sleep, whether we know it or not!

9781906742614
Victoria’s latest collection

Victoria Field is a writer and poetry therapist.  More information is available here http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/victoriafieldpage.shtml  and she blogs at www.poetrytherapynews.wordpress.com

How tiny dreams can be big openings into writing, by Nicole Tilde

One of the reasons I love having guests in the House of Dreams is because they can surprise me with a new angle on writing and dreams. Here, Nicole Tilde talks about the creative treasure that can be found in what I call dream fragments, or ‘tiny dreams.’

Nicole Tilde
Nicole Tilde

She said to me in a dream, “Give me your knees child!”

And I did.

It got me thinking about poetry And how it starts with the knees

If I were to teach a poetry class

We would begin with the knees

I would teach the importance

Not of kneeling

But in hard work In finding your true north

We would walk through tall grass

And find the mud

That sinks

Deep Into the lines

Of our skin We would clear paths

And uncover ourselves

From beneath the bloodstone

And polished quartz

We would wander in silence

And not write a thing

And wait

Wait for that moment

When the healing of the work

Runs through your skin

Like a shimmering blue skink In the mapled wind

This poem was inspired by a Tiny DreamTiny dreams are the little vignettes or scenes that are often ignored or discarded as random. Tiny Dreams come to me as colors, objects, phrases, or flashes of feelings. They are not always connected to plot, place or scene.

One of the most common comments I hear from people is that their dreams are random or meaningless. But I wonder what a random dreamer might think of someone grabbing their knees and saying, “Give me your knees, child!” For me, the meaning in this short dream segment was large, full and sweeping. It was a window, a door, a threshold into poetry. We can find these openings everywhere if we are open to the experience.

What do I know about knees? Why would I give the power of my knees over to anyone? Unless perhaps, she came to heal me. Unless she was the crone who visits me so often, the Baba Yaga of my personal myth. The one with the faces of many.

I opened myself to the message. I let the window sash fly.

I garden on my knees. I might greet the wonder of the sun on my knees. I might approach someone younger than me on my knees. I could pray on my knees. We get on our knees to do the hard work. When I am full of regret or spinning off my center of conviction, I might lose the strength to stand on my own two feet, become weak in the knees. I might also become weak in the knees when I’m falling in love.

Knees are pretty important. I could see the significance of what I was asked to give in this dream. It was not random at all.

Just as we give ourselves over in our dreams, in poetry there is a moment of giving the writing over to the story beneath the story, to the river of awen. And beyond this there is a process of collecting the objects, events or dream symbols we’ve noticed, and then connecting the pieces.

I went to the river.

During the days prior to this dream I had worked in the yard, cutting paths through a corner of the property. I had been in the garden a lot, and I was reminiscing about how the hard work of gardening was a lot like writing. The pieces from this experience connected with the meaning of ‘giving over my knees,’ and I sat down and wrote this piece, ‘Poetry Class.’

What kind of class would that be, just wandering in silence, not writing a thing? What kind of poetry class offers you the chance to notice the blue skinks, this is what we call the blue lizards here in Georgia, and the maple leaves dancing in the wind? But this is exactly what I would teach. Afterwards, I might send everyone home with the instructions to dream.

Poetry is about noticing, collecting, tiny-dreams, the stories that drift beneath the stories. It’s about being present. It’s not about analyzing, but letting the events of our lives sink in and run all over our skin.

And the hard work? We give over our knees by doing the daily work of being a writer, a poet, an artist, by doing the hard work every day. To find true north we walk every day towards the star of our desire.  One step. One word. One line. One sentence.

She said to me in a dream, “Give me your knees, child!” And I did.

Nicole Tilde is a prose writer. Her work echoes the many storytellers who have gone before her. The storytellers who have unknowingly pitched for emotion by opening readers to feelings they thought were lost.  Her stories are of the everyday, of finding the sacred in the mundane and recognizing everyday objects as talismans. She publishes within her membership site at dream-speak.com You can find samples of her writing at nicoletilde.com or you can connect with her on her Facebook page.  

 

Using Freewriting to Take Down Writers Block, by Bryan Cohen

I’m delighted to welcome my guest today, successful self-publisher, creativity coach and actor, Bryan Cohen, who is tapping the unconscious in the House of Dreams.

Bryan Cohen
Bryan Cohen

The unconscious mind has ways of making you stop. You have a deadline and only a certain number of hours to write a certain number of words. And yet, despite all that pressure, the cursor or blank page is staring at you with all its emptiness. It’s writer’s block, that all encompassing, vague term describing why you can’t get the thoughts you know are in your head onto the page. Writer’s block can strike, even when you’re in a seemingly perfect writing situation. You can have writer’s block even when you have a comfortable chair, a mahogany writing desk and a closed door to keep out all the distractions. The problem of writer’s block seems to exist in the unconscious mind.

In writing and self-publishing 32 books to Amazon, I’ve found one of the tricks to unearthing this unconscious problem. The trick to stopping your unconscious hurdles to writing is to go into your unconscious to determine how to knock them down.

People use freewriting or stream-of-consciousness writing for all sorts of purposes. Freewriting can be an emotional release or it can be a way to capture your thoughts at a particular moment. This activity can also be used to answer a question. If you’re experiencing writer’s block at a subconscious level, you can use freewriting to ask yourself how to defeat the problem.

Setup your freewriting session by sitting in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. Turn off your phone and switch off the internet on your laptop. Set a timer for 15 minutes (though you can always write longer if desired). Start with a simple question or a “prompt” if you will. For instance, you can ask something along the lines of, “Why do I have issues writing in the afternoon?” Write the first thing that comes into your mind over and continue to write down the thoughts that naturally follow the first thought. Don’t edit yourself, even to correct spelling errors. Let one thought flow into the other. Even if you get off the topic of writers block, let yourself take the trip to keep yourself in stream-of-consciousness mode. If you find yourself looking at the timer or otherwise not writing, get yourself back in the game as quickly as possible. Don’t stop. Push yourself. Even if what you’re writing doesn’t make any sense, keep going at least until the timer goes off.

Here’s what I find happens in nearly all my free writing sessions that begin with a question. I take at least 3 tangents. I also retread a lot of what I’ve said out loud on that particular subject. But in all of that, I find at least one actionable step I can take to solve the problem. It’s a banner day when I come up with three or four possible solutions, but even one method for solving my issue is good enough. Besides, it’s easier to put just one idea into practice anyway.

When I put one of these steam-of-consciousness-generated solutions into practice, it almost always makes an immediate impact. In my opinion, this proves that most unconscious issues have an unconscious solution lying around in your brain alongside it. You just need to do a little digging.

Try starting a free writing session with a question that’s been nagging at you. It could be about writer’s block, weight loss, your relationships, your bank statement or anything at all. As long as you trust yourself to write without censorship during your session, you’re bound to find at least one solution to your unconscious issue.

Try a session on for size and discuss what you come up with in the comments!

About the Author

Bryan Cohen is an author, a creativity coach and an actor. His new book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2: More Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More is now available on Amazon in digital and paperback format. His other books include 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, The Post-College Guide to Happiness, and Ted Saves the World. He has published over 30 books, which have sold more than 20,000 copies in total. Connect with him on his website, Build Creative Writing Ideas, on Facebook or on Twitter

1,000 Creative Writing Prompts Volume 2 Cover

In honor of his new book, Bryan is hosting the “1,000 Prompts, 1,000 Dollars” Writing Contest on his website. Click the link to find out how to enter!  Click the next link to check out the rest of Cohen’s blog tour!

 

Dreams and the creation of music, by Travis Wernet

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my first musician in the House of Dreams. Travis Wernet is a professional dream teacher with three studio albums under his own name and musical moniker ‘Outlaw Dervish.’

Simone Weil called attention prayer. I think she was onto something. When we listen to music we are paying a special consideration to sound. Over recent years I’ve become increasingly observant of how, when I am dreaming, I seem to be engaged in an attentively mindful space of awareness. As a musician, there are even ways that I see how I’ve got to give attentiveness to the instruments I am playing. This serves the evocation of sounds that feel the most fulfilling as they emerge, seemingly out of the invisible ethers surrounding the instruments in the space where I am creating. How similar this seems to my experience of the way dreams appear!

In my experience, dreams can influence the creation of music, they can feature and contain music and, as it turns out, music also influences the creation of dreams.

While recording the didjeridu tracks for my meditation album, Yoro Yoro,  dreams synergized with the work we did in the studio one day. As we gathered tonalities for various songs, I remembered a dream from the previous night.

In the dream I am in the company of three aboriginal people… The first, a tribal elder, invites me to spear fish with him. Next, I see a woman and a man who are sitting in the ocean meditating. I notice all this and then the scene becomes somehow ethereal. I drift up into space and see the earth, which shape-shifts into what I know are the call letters for a radio station “K Be Radio”. Upon witnessing this I float back down to earth and witness a peaceful scene near the sunny seaside where softly blowing sands mix with waving grasses in the wind.

At the time we were recording, the energy of this dream supported a fluid ability to get what are called “one-takes” for the songs we were crafting. This simply means that in the studio, the first effort to add the didjeridu tracks turned out to be the most satisfying to our ears, minds and hearts. The tone of our collaboration in this sense felt effortless and energizing. Exactly what we wanted for the meditation album! The ambience of connection with the meditators and the vision of the globe, as well as the hint at an aura of pure being, with the “it’s okay to be” radio station, all added a felt dimension to our project.

Beyond this, I can see over recent years how that dream was helping to set the stage for current creative endeavors. I’ve become very fascinated with and involved in musical dream incubation. This is the use of certain kinds of sounds and music to invite and receive helpful, healing dreams. Alas, that’s a story for another time.

Receiving and imagining the dream of “the Three Aboriginals and K Be Radio” has also afforded me the message of a deep spiritual experience which set me on a path of renewed authenticity wherein I have sought to tune myself to the frequencies of who I am at an essential level. In addition the dream has inspired me to share its messages with others, through music and my work with dreams.

Travis Wernet
Travis Wernet

Following years of international travel, co-leading ceremonies from the Great Pyramid in Egypt to the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, Travis shares his work at home in the US and offers online video dream groups, workshops and private sessions. To find out more about his work, check out his blog and website