The source of creativity varies from individual to individual. There is no “right” or “wrong” inspiration. Basically, the final end product will justify the means. Or not.
The mystery of why and what we dream continues despite various studies and theories. The fact that no one really knows is also what makes the subject so compelling.
Dreams have been exploited as plot devices and even settings in literature dating back centuries. Alice Carroll’s series of Alice stories and L. Frank Baum's Oz books are two famous examples. When you bring up the subject in popular culture today, most people probably think of movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street or more recently, Inception.
But you don’t have to write about the actual state of dreaming to mine its artistic potential.
Mining your subconscious for fiction ideas can be beneficial for mind, body and spirit. ⤺ Tweet This!
"Dream a Little Dream of Me"
One thing is for certain: whatever the true nature of dreams may be, most of us agree they are a result of subconscious fears, desires, anxieties and other emotions that have their roots in our waking plane of existence.
Tracing the origins of these dreams may lead to uncovering truths about yourself, both as a person and as a writer, that may ultimately benefit your work – especially if the two are inextricable.
While being overly self-indulgent can be a turn-off to readers seeking an escape from their own problems, infusing your work with your own personal experiences can also make the material universally relatable, which automatically increases its commercial potential.
This can be attributed to experiences both while awake and asleep, especially if you can figure out the link between the two realms without paying a shrink, which could make the whole enterprise less than cost effective.
But whatever works best for your individual health and stability as a writer and as a human being should be your ultimate goal and guide. Advice is merely a suggestion, not an expectation. In the end, you're the steward of your own ship.
"What Dreams May Come"
Dreams most often play an important part in the development of Art when they’re left unexplained, letting the work they inspire speak for itself, sans any psychoanalytical “Monday morning quarterbacking.” (Or any day of the week, in this context).
Some famous examples:
Paul McCartney has said he just woke up one morning with the melody for the classic Beatles song “Yesterday” already in his head, obviously influenced by something from his subconscious (original working title: “Scrambled Eggs.”
Tthe same basic story goes for the Rolling Stones’ signature hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which Keith Richard claims he also just dreamed up one morning, literally, though in his case, it’s hard to say what other influences from the night before might’ve factored into the sudden creation of that legendary guitar riff…
And two of the most enduringly popular horror stories in history, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, both reportedly had their origins in the dreams (or rather, nightmares) of their authors. Stephen King has also said that his story Misery came from a dream.
Speaking for myself, my current fiction project, “Things I Do When I’m Awake,” popped into my head one morning not long ago, too. Whether it eventually joins the rarified ranks of these iconic properties is doubtful, but you never know until and unless you put it out there.
That’s where your daydreams interact with the nighttime kind. If you can connect the two, all of your dreams may come true, in more ways than one.
Even if they don’t, it can’t hurt to try. Dreams ideally suit the operating budgets of most writers. To paraphrase the Blondie song, “Dreaming is free.”
PHOTO: AUGUST BRILL