Guest spot: The story of the picture

Would you like to know where the dream house picture at the top of this blog came from? I’ll let Mooncakelizzie explain… Picturing the House of Dreams, by Mooncakelizzie I’ve been interested in creative writing for the past eleven years. Attending a multitude of classes and groups freed up a rabble of short stories and some novels, jointly written with someone who’s now a friend, met at one of Jen’s workshop series. These have not the rigidly defined tick-box ‘outcomes’ of formal courses, but are absolutely absorbing and simply fun to take part in. In particular, ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ opened up a kind of secret garden I’d lived alongside almost unaware. There, for example, I could meet myself at younger ages, and also a hidden self who was growing, maybe pupating under a cabbage-leaf in a homely but boundless place.

Liz's first dream hut picture

The first dream house drawing I made was during a workshop. We all told a dream, and then chose an image from one person’s dream to draw. We wrote three words to describe it. Then we asked three questions to spark a story – ‘Who finds it? Why are they there? What happens next?’

Liz's second hut

At home, I did more drawings. I began to put daydreams in, of living near the sea in a beautiful Oast conversion. A bit of Kentish beach; a view imagined from my little house.

Then a night scene, an isolated hut on a wild headland with distant lights of other houses far away across the water. I don’t consciously know what’s inside.

Here, I can hold dreams, experiences, events and things I’ve picked up or eavesdropped on while careering openly in and out of that world behind the ‘hedge.’

My little bloggie

Well, who would have thought it? I’m loving writing my little bloggie! That’s what my friend Sian calls it, she of http://www.spiritoftheblog.co.uk/.  We’ve never met, but she got in touch with me last year about my books on bullying through my website, and we reconnected last week through this blog.

To be honest, I only came to blogging because I wanted to put the word out about my dream book, and I imagined that it was going to feel like any other writing task. But it’s turned out to be completely different, and the reason why, is you.

Already, in a few weeks, I’ve had a number of email conversations with people in Britain, Canada and the US, and I’ve loved hearing your dreams and comments.

It reminds me of when I started to teach workshops, which I did out of financial necessity after my marriage broke up. The last thing I expected was that I might actually enjoy it.

But, almost immediately, I discovered that nothing is more wonderful than sitting among a group of people who are totally absorbed in their writing, and then hearing them read what they’ve written. I think one of the reasons people come to writing workshops is because it answers an ancient need in all of us to come together and tell our stories.

So hello Sian, and hello everyone else who is reading this! Is there anything you would like me to add to my topic list?

Guest spot: the dream that sparked the book

The dream behind ‘One Wolf Howls,’ by Scotti Cohn.

I have always had an active dream life. The content of my dreams ranges from the mundane to the bizarre. Many of my dreams are lucid or ‘conscious’ dreams.

About fifteen years ago, I had ‘the wolf dream.’

Scotti with a wolf called Wotan
Scotti with a wolf called Wotan. A percentage of the royalties from ‘One Wolf Howls’ goes to Wolf Park, Indiana, where he lives

In the dream, I am running on a paved road in a rural area. I can feel each of my four paws striking the road as I run. I realize that I am a wolf – specifically, a black, female wolf. Up ahead, I see three or four men with rifles. I immediately veer off into the tall grass. I creep closer, crouched low, watching them warily. I am very much in the body and mind of the wolf.

Animals of all kinds fascinate and delight me. In addition, I am intrigued by the idea of totem animals. This dream made me wonder if the wolf was my totem animal. I sought out pictures and books about wolves and watched television specials about them.

One night in 2003 I was about to fall asleep when an image formed in my mind: a lone wolf howling, with a full moon in the sky above. My mind began to play with the image, and produced the lines: ‘One wolf howls in the winter moonlight… Night light, dim light, midnight soon.’ The word ‘winter’ felt too general, so I tried ‘January moonlight,’ and liked it. I continued to create lines in my head, moving from ‘one wolf’ in January to ‘two wolves’ in February, ‘three wolves’ in March, and so forth.’

After many revisions and submissions to editors, my children’s book, ‘One Wolf Howls’ was published by Sylvan Dell Publishing in 2009, with marvellous illustrations by Susan Detwiler.

I dreamed of being a children’s book author my whole life. It seemed fitting that my first published children’s book was inspired by a dream.

www.scotticohn.com  http://onewolfhowls.blogspot.com/

Your dream animals

When you don’t remember many dreams, the ones you do remember can seem weird and random, but most people find that as soon as they start to recall and record dreams regularly their dreamlife settles.

It’s like when you first start writing. It feels as if you could write absolutely anything, but gradually you discover your own inner landscape with its particular themes, characters and environments.

Each person’s dream-world is surprisingly consistent. It is characterised by certain landscapes, flora and fauna. The open spaces in my dreams are invariably coastlines and mountains – I can’t remember ever dreaming about woods or jungles. The built environments are parks and gardens with ponds and statuary, old houses, churches and castles.

The flora fits with the dreamscapes so, for me, there are very few trees in my dreams but lots of cultivated flowers, open grassland, mosses and lichens. My animals are mostly fishes and birds, but I have occasional visits from lions and tigers, lizards and snakes. I have never once dreamt about sheep, goats, cows or elephants.

The animals you dream about are like companions, or daimons, to use Philip Pullman’s word in ‘Northern Lights.’ Your favourite animal is probably your life-long guide, but others may be with you for a season. You can find your dream animals without waiting for dreams.

Simply take a slow breath to centre yourself. Close your eyes or look down. Relax your mind, and enter your inner world. The first animal you see in there is the one that has something for you right now. Run with that one, whatever it is.

Draw your animal with your non-dominant hand. Consider its qualities. Collect some pictures of your animal, and possibly a model or ornament of it. Look up more information about it online. Have these things around, so that you are living alongside them for a while. Allow your animal to reveal itself to you.

This is what my guest Scotti did, after she dreamt about wolves, and out of that process came a beautiful children’s book.

Read Scotti’s story tomorrow

I had this amazing dream!

At the end of the first series of creative dreaming-and-writing workshops I did, my favourite feedback was from someone who said she felt as if she had been walking past the same opening in the hedge every day of her life, but never stopped to look over the gate. Now she had looked, she was astonished to find there was a whole new world on the other side to explore, which had been there all the time, unobserved.

The world of the unconscious mind on the other side of the gate is a treasure-trove for writers, and many do get ideas and inspiration from their dreams. (If you’re a writer with a dream story please get in touch – I’ll be inviting guest bloggers to share ‘The dream that sparked the book’)

But even people who value dreams and get inspiration from them usually do it in a fairly random way, rather than deliberately and consistently using their dream-life as part of their writing practice.

Creative dreaming and writing are both ways of opening to the hidden places of the psyche. You can use one to magnify the other. In my writing life, I use dreams for gathering material and for finding structures that work. I harness the currents of imagination and emotion at work in my unconscious mind in the moment to energise my writing.

In my dreamlife, I use creative writing to further explore and enhance my experience of dreaming.

This approach works brilliantly for me. I love sharing it in workshops and now I want to share it with readers too. I’m working on a book called, ‘Writing in the House of Dreams – creative dreaming for writers, creative writing for dreamers,’ which should be on publishers’ desks by the end of the year.

files

At parties or the pub, when I tell people I’m writing a book about dreams, they always say, ‘I had this amazing/weird/hilarious/alarming dream…’ And then they go on to recount it. I love that!

If you’ve had a memorable dream, please share!

Next week, I’ll be blogging about the thing people always say when they have finished telling their dream, ‘I don’t know what it means…’

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