Last week, in the comments, Abi said she wished she could visit her dream house more often, and I suggested she might try incubating a dream.
Creative dreaming is all about ‘flying on the wings of intent,’ to borrow a phrase from Carlos Casteneda. Setting an intention is how we start to establish regular dream-recall, as I explain here https://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/tips/
Once we have begun to experience regular recall, we can use intention in the same way, to incubate a dream on a particular topic. I sometimes do this with a group.
The first time I did it, I asked my workshop participants to intend to dream about a tree. Of the six people in that group, five reported tree dreams the following week.
Two people dreamt about saplings, and another about ‘baby trees.’ I dreamt about a tree-lined avenue. The fifth person, frustrated by a marked no-show of trees for the first few nights, wrote a poem about a tree to help set her intention, and then dreamt she was on a ranch in America, where she saw a single tree in the distance which looked like a child’s drawing of a tree.
This person thought, either in her dream or upon waking – she couldn’t tell which – ‘There was a tree!’ The same thing happened in my dream, where I thought, ‘Ooh… lots of trees!’
This is the waking ‘I’ being aware during the dream, and an interesting bonus of dream-incubation is that you’re likely to become lucid at the point where the dream meets the conscious expectation.
I incubate dreams to resolve plot problems and develop my writing ideas, as well as to gain insights into anything which might be bothering me in my everyday life.
If you want to try it, think about your dream intention at points throughout the day, affirming, ‘Tonight, I will dream about…’ Repeat your intention as you go to sleep.
You can reinforce your intention by writing it down, or drawing an image to represent it. Promise yourself that you will record any and every dream you recall when you wake up.
This last point is important. If you don’t automatically record everything, your conscious rational mind can click in too early and push your dreams away.
Besides, if you’ve asked for a dream, it would feel rude not to note down the answer. The dream will not co-operate if it thinks you’re just messing around.
I’ve just got back from a wonderful weekend in Peterborough with the Scattered Authors Society where I got into conversation with several people on the topic of dreams.
The first thing two of them mentioned was that they sometimes dream about a house. This is a house they recognise from previous dreams, but have never seen in waking life.
Lots of people have a dream-house, and when they dream about it they are usually finding a new door or room, which they have never noticed before.
I’ve heard these house-dreams interpreted in a number of ways, but I prefer not to interpret. What is interesting to me is the house itself, and the experience of exploring it.
My dream house is big and old, on three storeys. It’s long rather than square, and grows longer as I discover more and more rooms. Once, to my surprise, I discovered a complete self-contained appartment with a squatter who had been living in it for ages!
I always enter my dream house with feelings of excitement and anticipation. ‘Here I am again! What will I discover?’ I always come away feeling as if I’ve been given something wonderful.
There are slight variations in my dream house, but it’s always the same sort of style and age, and I don’t think I’ve ever been there in the dark.
Some people’s dream-houses may not be recognisably the same building but have a strong theme which alerts them to the fact that they are in their familiar dream house. One of the authors told me his dream house is often mixed up with other people’s houses, so he has to go through someone else’s living room to get to his bedroom, for example.
Do you have a dream house? Is it old and labyrinthine, like mine? Is it always the same, or variations on a theme?
As I was writing the introduction to Katherine Roberts’ guest post last week, I suddenly remembered that a workshop exercise I did with the Scattered Authors Society on another occasion had in fact previously appeared in a book*
I called that workshop ‘Busting through blocks,’ and it explored a basic collage technique I use a lot in my own writing practice. You can use it to create characters, examine relationships between your characters, develop settings, find titles, spark stories… pretty much anything.
Whatever the issue is, hold it in the back of your mind as you flick through some magazines. Don’t think about which images, colours, patterns, words you need, or how they will relate to your project; just tear out the ones that draw you, and trust they will be the right ones, the ones you need.
This works through synchronicity, like tarot or other divinatory practices; the outer world reflects what is going on in your inner world.
Limit the time you spend on tearing out pictures to 10 minutes max, because you don’t want to overthink it. The whole process should feel instinctual.
Now get a pritt stick and a piece of plain paper or card. Again, follow your instincts and don’t overthink it, as you put your collage together. Take 10 minutes max for this stage, too.
Sometimes, your collage will give you the inspiration you’re looking for straight away, but there will always be more, so put it somewhere you will see it, on your study wall, for example. Look at it often. It will gradually reveal more of itself, and its relationship with your writing project.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome children’s author, Katherine Roberts, to the House of Dreams, on her blog-tour to celebrate her new book ‘Sword of Light.’
It’s especially exciting for me because this is the first time, as far as I know, that a book has been published which was helped along by one of my workshops, in this case, for the Scattered Authors Society http://www.scatteredauthors.org/
My Heroine’s Journey for SWORD OF LIGHT, by Katherine Roberts
My inspiration for ‘Sword of Light’ came in a waking dream, when I attended a workshop led by the lovely Jenny Alexander, who guided a few of us children’s authors on a ‘Hero’s Journey’ along our personal writing paths. It went like this.
Imagine you are walking in a familiar place, when you see a sign saying, ‘To the Treasure…’
I am in the local wood on the boardwalk, and it is raining so no-one else is walking today. The trees are dripping and the bluebells are out. All smells green and garlicky. I am approaching my favourite bridge over a stream, where I often imagine fairies, when I see a new path twisting through the trees where there are no marked trails. A sign says TO THE TREASURE. I think it is one of the farm’s treasure hunts for children, so I hesitate because it might be something tacky and disappointing. But since no-one is around to laugh at me, I decide to take a look.
You find the path blocked…
I push through some ivy and find the path blocked by a monstrous dragon that some local artists have strung up in the trees by the boardwalk for the annual Arts Trail. It is a fantasy creature made of old grey canvas, black feathers, and a scary triangular beak/snout. It is meant to be a future people’s idea of a bird they have never seen because birds are extinct in the future, and it has come alive. It hisses at me. It has been tied in the trees long enough, and now it has escaped. But it can’t fly because its wings have not been made the right way, and they are soggy with the rain. Also, it has no eyes, so it is blind.
How do you get past the block…?
The ‘future-bird’ cannot see me so I freeze, trying to make no sound. I think about going around it, but the undergrowth is too thick. Also, it’s boggy because I am off the boardwalk. I am too afraid of its huge sharp beak and its powerful claws to try climbing over it, so I decide to fool it. I pick up a stick and throw it into the undergrowth. The dragon hears the stick land and flaps off after it, getting its wings entangled in the bushes and shrieking as it flounders in the bog. I hurry past before it can get free, a bit afraid of meeting it again on the way back.
You find the treasure…
As I leave the dragon behind, the sun comes out and the path emerges in a clearing where there is a barrow covered by greenery. I push aside some leaves and crawl inside, where I find a gleaming sword. This is the treasure! I take the sword, thinking it might be useful if I have to fight the dragon, although I don’t really want to soil the beautiful blade with its blood, nor hurt the ‘future-bird’ because it is the last of its kind. Also, I doubt my fighting skills because I have not been trained to use a blade. So I venture back warily along the dripping path, where the sun now sparkles through the leaves and gleams off my treasure.
What do you do next…?
The dragon is still stuck in the bog, but it has exhausted itself and the sun is drying its feathers. It steams gently, its wings spread in the warmth. It still cannot see me, but the sword is magic so it can see the light coming off it. It crawls towards me, as if hypnotised. It seems less afraid now, maybe because it is no longer lost and alone. I stroke its beak and it does not attack. Murmuring to the creatuire, I climb on its back, and since the sun has dried out its wings it can now fly. Although it is still blind, my eyes will guide us. As we take off and circle above the trees in the sunshine, I see the glint of water below where fairies live. We both feel amazingly free. As long as we continue to trust each other, we can fly anywhere in the world, and my sword of light will defend us from enemies, past or future.
I was writing the first draft of ‘Sword of Light’ at the time of this workshop, and am quite spooked by how many elements have ended up in the book:
The sword – Excalibur, the Sword of Light that was forged in Avalon.
The dragon/’future-bird’ – a shadrake, a dark dragon from the underworld of Annwn which breathes ice instead of fire.
The heroine – Rhianna Pendragon, King Arthur’s daughter.
Well, I didn’t see it coming. When I finally finished my dream book last week, I was planning to break open the bubbly, but I just felt bereft.
Before I was ever published, I knew I wanted to write a book about dreams, and for twenty years, that book has been the heart of my writing life, at first a secret addiction, later an open obsession.
There have been various versions along the way, non-fiction, autobiography, novel, work-book… each new one rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the one before. I liked them all – my agents liked them too – but none of them felt exactly right.
The dream book defined me to myself, as a writer, far more than my growing body of children’s books. I’ve loved it, felt impatient with it, hated it in equal measure. I’ve wished I could put it down and get on with my proper writing career.
And now I can. It feels like a death, but all week, I’ve been dreaming about babies. This reminds me of the Death card in Tarot, which is sometimes called Death and Rebirth.
Death in Tarot is deep change. As one situation ends, a new one begins. I don’t know what kind of writer I will be now that a third of my writing life won’t be channelled off into this dream book any more.
So farewell and thank you, grand passion of my writing life, and hello and welcome dream-babies of whatever is coming next.
Bubbly wine, anyone?
Next week – great excitement in the House of Dreams – Katherine Roberts will be calling in on her ‘Sword of Light’ blog tour to tell us how a workshop session she did with me helped her to find the story
Someone asked me last week, ‘What makes you want to follow a blog?’ Before I started this one, nearly six months ago, I read a lot of blogs about blogging, and everyone agreed that your goal should be to get people to sign up rather than call in from time to time.
Now that I’m blogging myself, I can feel the difference this makes, because the signed-up members feel like a community, and the result feels more like a conversation.
Most pundits seem to agree that the way to get people to sign up is to offer an incentive, usually in the form of a free download. Following that advice, I offered my printout about dream recalling and recording, which I had been intending to put up on my Tips page.
But when this friend asked me last week why I personally subscribe to the blogs I like, I realised that for me it’s all about content. I subscribe if I like the content enough not to want to miss a post. In fact, free downloads are a disincentive to me, after my experience of them so far.
I’ve only signed up to three blogs because I was curious about the free download, and each time, it’s lead to a slew of nuisance emails about topics I never asked for information about. In two of these cases, they also quickly went on to try to sell me downloads or get me to sign up to courses.
So as of today, my sign-up offer ceases. You can see my recalling-and-recording dreams info on the Tips page, and here’s a heads-up on some great content coming in the next few weeks.
How to use dream material to energise your writing… guest post from one of my fave bloggers, Katherine Roberts… interview with lovely dreamworker, Toko-pa Turner… the Death card and the end of the dream book…
If you haven’t done so yet – I do hope you’ll sign up!
Can dreams inspire a writer to write a novel? Mine did – and they still do.
When I was 16 years old, I started having dreams about a man named Jonathan. These dreams happened almost every night and lasted for many years. Two years after the dreams started, I dreamt that all of the dreams combined were turned into a novel titled, ‘November’s Child.’ I even saw the title of the novel in this one dream!
I was 19 years old when I finally completed that novel. During this time, I had to work out how to make the dream ‘story’ work as a believable story. After all, I had no idea what kind of connection Jonathan had to me, the dreamer, so I had to think of what kind of connection he would have to my story’s main character, Malissa.
This name did not come from my dreams; I needed a name for a character that represented ‘me’ in the story, and I decided to use an alternative version of my sister, Melissa’s, name.
As to the connection dilemma, I discussed this with one of my other sisters, who happened to have just seen a movie about Druid characters. She suggested I turn Jonathan into a Druid. After researching Driudism and reading about their belief in the transmigration of souls, I decided that, yes, that could work. Voila! I had my story figured out.
My novel was published when I was 20 years old. Shortly afterward, my publisher went bankrupt and the book went out of print. I rewrote the book and gave it a new title: ‘Shadow of Samhain.’ This new version of my ‘dream novel’ will soon be published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing.