Friday, July 23, 2010

Lucid dreaming


Dreams have a part in shaping my stories. It's a mysterious process that I have no control over, and I was curious if other writers out there ever experience this. I have two sorts of dreams - random and strange dreams I have no control over, and lucid dreams, a sort of half-conscious state where I'm dreaming about my stories.

My first semester in college was a huge transition - as it is for most people. Being away from home for the first time. Adjusting to new friends, a new lifestyle, many demands including developing study habits (I had an opportunity to transfer to Cornell, an Ivy League school, but I had to pull straight A's that first semester in order to qualify). I remember many nights after I finished studying I would fall asleep thinking about my first story, as a sort of escape from the rote work of calculus and chemistry. This wasn't really dreaming, just a pleasant way to send myself off to sleep. One morning though I woke (or sort of woke) in the middle of a powerful dream about my characters in Refuge (a story about a hidden refuge for unicorns). I remember looking at the clock and thinking, I should get up and go to class. And then, never mind, skipping one class won't hurt anything, and I stayed in bed and kept on dreaming. ALL DAY. I didn't get out of bed until nearly dinner time. I think that was my first lucid dreaming experience. And shortly after that, I started writing again because I had so many ideas (I hadn't worked on my book at all since starting college).

Many years later, after college and then grad school and then moving to Wyoming and starting a my first real job, I finished that first book (well, at the time I thought it was finished - hadn't yet realized that a first complete draft is far from finished!) and started really brainstorming on another book idea. My parents came out to visit me and I took them on a driving tour of all my favorite beautiful places in the Rocky Mountains. We were staying the small, beautiful town of Lake City in southern Colorado, and for some reason I couldn't sleep that night in our hotel suite. There was a couch in the suite and decided to try sleeping on the couch instead of in bed. And I fell into another powerful lucid dream about my new story (the one that eventually turned into Handful of Scars). I dreamed the whole night - I know because I was lucid enough to check the clock several times - and also because I was lucid enough to feel giddy about being immersed in the story and all the terrible and wonderful things that were happening. It was such a powerful dream that it stayed with me, because we were traveling I didn't have time to write anything down until almost a whole week later.

Each of my story ideas (I have four well developed ones at this point) has been accompanied by at least one and sometimes several lucid dreams. I have no idea when they will come, or what triggers them. They never come until I have some initial ideas about the story and the characters, and then when the dream comes it always shows me the way the book should go - sometimes drastically changing the plot, and always giving me ideas that fire me with passion.

I've looked at some articles on the Internet about lucid dreaming and how to induce it or prolong it, but they seem kind of hokey or forced to me. Mostly I am curious to see if any other writers out there have experienced lucid dreaming in relation to their writing. If you have, please share!

23 comments:

  1. I would say my dreams fall into a couple categories. I have the random silly dreams, I have dreams I can control. I "set the stage" as I'm drifting off to sleep, playing a scene in my head over and over hoping it 'catches'. LOVE it when it works. Haven't tried it in a really long time though...I'm usually so tired by the time I get to bed I'm out in seconds.

    I also have very long, involved dreams that are like mini-movies. Very well-developed plots (that of course I can only remember about half of when I wake up) and some of them even come with soundtracks! I don't control these, but I get a lot of inspiration from them. These are usually very realistic and I don't recognize they are dreams until I wake up. These are probably my favorites. I have no control of them, but they are the most interesting!

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  2. I think this experience sounds so interesting. I dream heavily--about all sorts of things and usually remember so much the next day but always with people I know or have known. Nothing like a story for a book. I think it is cool that you did and it makes sense to you!

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  3. I'm not sure if what I experience qualifies...but it's how I often write. I go someplace quiet and clear my mind. Then a character will waltz in (I can see and hear him/her). And the story begins (or continues) and I just "watch" it. Often I feel like I am just the "recorder" of the stories I see.

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  4. I am always amazed at people who can remember their dreams. I rarely do. But when I do remember, it's only fragments.

    So it's probably a true gift from your subconscious and creativity that sparks your story ideas.

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  5. Vicki - oh I will have to try that "setting the stage" when I go to bed (or to nap). I think that's kind of what I was doing in college, without realizing it

    Teri - that's usually how I dream, too, and seldom remember anything after the first two minutes waking up. My lucid dreams are very, very rare. And treasured.

    Connie - I would say those dreams definitely qualify! That's how i feel, too, like I'm just an observer recording what i see

    Karen - yes, I like to think of it as a gift. It's so rare, I treasure those few lucid dreams. Too bad it wasn't like a super power kind of gift I had more control over! More like a Time Traveler's Wife kind of gift :(

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  6. Wow. I'm impressed. My dreams are too random to form into stories. Oh well.

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  7. Dreams help me several ways.
    -- waking up in the middle of the night and scribbling whatever situation appeared in my head on the notebook by my bedside.
    -- being bonked on the head by the solution to a writing problem just before I fall asleep, and
    -- ideas sneaking into my brain when I'm giving the cat his morning lap. [I get coffee in the process.]

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  8. Wow! It's so amazing that you dream your novel and vice versa - your novel supplements your dreams - that's a gift I think! My dreams tend to be extensions of my current emotional state rather than about anything creative!

    So your ability is truly wonderful!

    Take care
    x

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  9. I've had some experience with lucid dreams, but it's not something I could write about. It's so personal to me, and really symbolic. Sometimes so graphic! Great topic, Margo. Cornell, huh? Impressive.

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  10. Darn it! this never happens for me. I tend to day dream about my characters, though. :)

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  11. I've never had any experience with lucid dreaming - sounds intense!

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  12. I never dream about my stories, but I'd love to! And you actually get stuff you can use? Usually when I remember a dream and wake up thinking I can use it in a story, later on it just seems ridiculous.

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  13. I love dreaming and remembering my dreams.

    Sometimes I know I'm dreaming and therefore I guide the dream to what I want it to be.

    Dreams fuel my imagination.

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  14. I don't remember many of my dreams, and definitely have never experienced a lucid one. The funny thing is I always seem to dream more when I'm in the middle of writing a book.

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  15. I read your post, Margo, and thought, yes; there is someone else out there like me!

    I have three types of dreams:

    1) Random dreams about nothing in particular, which I seem to have no control over, and are easily forgotten. They may take portions or characters from my life, but they make no sense.

    2) Dreams that in some minor way are related to a story I'm working on, and sometimes give me an idea.

    3) Vivid dreams that, like Vicki, are almost as real as a movie. I actually feel I'm there, or I am creating the situation, even though often never seem to relate to anything in my life. These are the dreams that I remember, and could probably still describe in detail.

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  16. I found this post so interesting. I also 'set the stage' for my dreams when I go to bed, hoping my imagination will carry on working away at whatever story I'm trying to put together. It doesn't always work, especially if I'm too tired. But if I'm only in a light sleep I can drift in and out of a dream, controlling it up to a point where it just takes off on its own. For a while I did used to write my dreams down every morning when I woke up, however mad they seemed. Lucid dreaming is a fascinating subject which I love to learn more about.

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  17. What an interesting range of responses! Thanks everyone for sharing!

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  18. Oh gosh, nothing like you experienced. But if I nap with the purpose of dreaming about my characters sometimes that helps.

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  19. I tend to write better after a nap...does that count? I do have a few reoccurring nightmares.

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  20. I'm fascinated by this post! I have never experienced a lucid dream, as you describe here. When I do dream about my characters, I either can't remember when it comes time to write it down, or the whole thing seems corny in the light of morning. But I'm going to think more about this and do a little Internet snooping on the subject. Thanks for sharing!!

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  21. I like to follow writer’s blogs as I feel I learn from each one. I have a book of Communion devotionals at the printers which I authored, although I don’t consider myself an accomplished writer. I am a follower on your blog and invite you to follow mine as well…and please leave a comment when and if you visit.

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  22. My best ideas come from dreams. Mine are like yours--powerful and well-developed and I love how varied they are. They're pretty entertaining, even when they aren't useable for book material. I think I developed that part of my subconsciousness as a kid when I would have such horrible nightmares that the only way out of them was to change the stories in the place between sleep and awake. There I would work through the scary parts and create a more satisfactory ending.

    I'm so happy to know I'm not the only one that does "plotting while sleeping too," Margo!

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  23. The way you describe it, it almost sounds like a trance as much as a waking dream. I do think I drift into mental spaces like that, especially if I'm doing something mindless like washing dishes or walking the dog.

    BTW, I have an award for you over on my blog.

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