Writing and Dreams

I moved into a new flat a few weeks ago. It’s by far the loudest place I’ve ever lived – I’m on a main road and the traffic noise is nigh-constant. I tend to be woken up around six and sleep only fitfully until a more reasonable hour.

An interesting side effect of my newly revised sleep schedule: I’ve been dreaming more than usual. The intense and weirdly emotional dreams I only have when I get woken up in the morning and can’t quite get back to sleep. The result being that this week I wrote what is only my third story based on a dream and I may write my fourth soon.

I suspect stories coming from dreams is much rarer than often supposed. It’s a very attractive idea. It goes neatly with the notion of stories leaping fully-formed from the heads of their writers. There’s no effort involved; stories just come to you while you sleep. It doesn’t happen that way. The few times I’ve written a dream, there’s been a lot of mental gymnastics needed beforehand to render the random images of my subconscious mind into a coherent narrative.

In fact, what I tend to get out of dreams – and what most writers seem to get out of dreams – is not so much narratives as emotions. Nightmares are an endless source of inspiration – Dracula and Terminator are both supposed to have been based on nightmares. Or you have cases like YU+ME Dream, one of my favourite webcomics, which was based on a dream full of romantic longing. You experience emotions that feel intensely real and want to try and capture them.

I would still say these are the exception, not the rule – but last night I had one of the most frightening dreams of my life and I’m a little worried I won’t be able to convey that fear through writing.

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