Archive for June 4th, 2012

Monday, June 4th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Mining Dreams

Another question from Facebook:  Gregg Chamberlain asked about the “benefits and drawbacks of keeping a dream journal as a source of ideas?”

A deceptively simple question, because this topic actually comes up a lot.  Do writers dream about stories?  Do we get great ideas from dreams?  If dreaming is our subconscious mind talking to us, then it ought to be just full of strange and beautiful images, ideas, connections, and characters.

Alas, I’ve found it isn’t so.  I kept a dream journal for awhile when I was in college, but this was mostly to keep track of my intensely bizarre and detailed dreams for my own edification.  Because I do have intensely bizarre and detailed dreams, filled with medieval wars and alien invasions, magical powers and deep conspiracies.  But I’ve never knowingly based any of my writing on my dreams.  Because my dreams don’t make a whole of sense, and trying to make them make sense, enough to build a story out of them, isn’t a project I’m willing to take on.  I like writing about the world as I see it.

Dreams — even my long, detailed ones — are not narrative.  They’re chaotic, they jump around in space and time, characters change identities in the middle of them.  So while dreams may be a rich source of images or feelings, or snippets of ideas, they’re not actually a good source for stories.  An idea gleaned from a dream would have to be adjusted and manipulated until it was unrecognizable for it to make sense as a story.  And if that process works for you, that’s great.  But ideas aren’t stories, not by themselves.

So, that’s my answer, but I know other people have different experiences:  do you remember your dreams?  Do you write them down?  Do you mine them for stories?