How I Use Dreams to Support My Creative Process
Back then, I woke up, pulled out my journal and immediately wrote down what I remembered. I always equated my dreams to my never-ending crushes and teenage angst. Years later, tracking my nighttime adventures has become second nature to me, which means I don’t even have to write them down as soon as I rise--a good thing, since my kids have now taken over my mornings. As soon as I wake up, I automatically think about them, catalogue in my brain how I felt and what took place, and by the evening before going to bed, I am able to write them down if they are worth archiving. This ritual has turned me into the content creator I am today.
While going to therapy and trying to face things head on after memories of my childhood abuse surfaced, I was having a hard time writing about my emotions in my journal. All I could do was record my dreams, so that is what I did. I noticed patterns, recurring situations and they started peeling away at the layers of my anger, fear and betrayal. Missing a flight, packing and unpacking suitcases, going blind and getting lost in a house. All of these were related to feeling lost, hiding my emotions, and unsatisfied with life. For some reason, this encouraged me to look back at my past short stories and poetry. I wanted to find signs of these emotions in my writing, as it was always the tool I used to analyze my emotional state. In doing so, I came across Phobia, a short story I had written inspired by a dream a few months after moving into my home in New Jersey in 2012. I realized I had been trying to tell myself something and hadn't realized it until now.
In 2017, I expanded Phobia into something that would increase awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the long-term effects of surviving childhood sexual abuse, as well as give back to charities protecting children. The Survivors Club was published in April 2018 and it is a mind-bending thriller that would not have been possible without dreams and courage. Unfortunately, many men and woman have experienced sexual abuse: 1 out of 10 children will be sexually abused by the age of 18 and for black women it is 1 out 6 by age 18 per a preliminary study by Black Women’s Blueprint. Even the rapper Common recently talked about his childhood sexual abuse in his recent memoir, Let Love Have the Last Word.
A recent study on dreams and creative behavior found that enhanced dream recall through daily dream logging fosters aspects of creativity because dreams lack boundaries and don’t follow “stereotyped thinking patterns” that our brains are engaged in while we are awake. We are the most free and limitless in our dreams and history has proven it. --what do all of these have in common? They are recurring themes I have had in my dreams for the last three years. Here are my tips on using your dreams to enhance your creativity:
Recording dreams: Buy a journal or use your smart phone (put it on airplane mode if you keep it by your bed, so that the wifi waves don’t affect you at night) and as soon as you get up in the morning, write down/record what you remember. If you don’t have time to write it down but don’t want to forget it, think about it while you are doing your morning routine (taking a shower or making breakfast). Think about how you felt in the dream, the main images that keep surfacing and try to etch those into your memory until you have time to write them down.
Dream Dictionaries: I love using online dream dictionaries to reveal what my dream could potentially mean. I used to have an actual book growing up, but I’ve since lost it. My favorite site is Dream Moods.
Tracking themes/analysis: After a few weeks go by, take a look to see if you have any themes that are recurring. They could relate to something happening in your home life, relationship, or work. Or maybe they relate to a piece of work you are writing. Perhaps the themes can enhance your storyline or help one of your characters evolve in a more impactful way.