Tag Archives: Sue Grafton

How dream emotions can energise your writing

In Naomi Epel’s book, ‘Writers Dreaming,’ several of the authors interviewed say that dreams are a way they can connect with very dark places and intense emotions.

My favourite interview in the book is with Sue Grafton. She says – among many other interesting things – that she has engineered the world so that she doesn’t have to face bad guys and monsters in waking life, as everyone does. Therefore one of the ways in which dreams energise her writing is by connecting her to ‘often very visceral experiences.’

In dreams, anything can happen. We can have extremely frightening, exciting or pleasurable experiences, as we did when we were children, before we knew how to engineer our world. That means we will feel the full force of our emotions, as we did back then.

Pure emotion produces strong effects in the body. That’s what makes these experiences ‘visceral.’ Dream situations may be the only opportunity you have in adult life to truly feel the physical effects of extreme fear, dread or murderous rage; of bodily power or spiritual transcendance.

As writers, we say ‘show don’t tell.’ Rather than describing how our characters are feeling emotionally, we describe where the emotion is in their body. We make it physical, so that the reader can feel it in their body too.

Sitting at the computer, we can imagine what it is to feel these super-strength emotions, but in dreams we can actually experience it. A dream recalled is like a memory of waking life; remembering it will bring the emotions flooding back with the same physicality as when you recall events from your dayworld.

Living your dreamlife with awareness means you have more emotional experience to draw upon, as well as more situations and events. Often, the emotion is so strong it carries over into waking life even though the events of the dream may be hazy. That intensity of emotion may spark your creativity as powerfully as the actual images and narratives in your dreams.

You can only draw on these memories of dream emotions if you remember your dreams. Check out my Tips page for info about recalling and recording dreams.