How To Use Dreams To Create Stories

Feb 11, 2018


Where to find wonderland? In your dreams, babe.

A few weeks ago, I dreamt that my legs were covered in thick, lupine hair. A pelt of fur. Then I dreamt a few days later of being in a clinic on a table with a cold steel blade tracing the bones of my legs shaving them. A few nights later, in another dream, the hairs on my legs were long, thick and golden stalks of hair like wheat in a field, with the wind blowing through them.

On Saturday evening, last week, I was talking about the notion of our 'shadowlands' (the secondary world in speculative fiction) with a fellow writer who had some very interesting mythological references to offer on the matter. That night I dreamt that I was reaching down to my nether regions pulling out single hairs that came out individually as black quills, like the spikes of a porcupine filled with black ink.

I woke and thought about the fur coats in the wardrobe in Narnia. Suddenly the single philosophical theme of my work came to me and I knew I had the bone of it - the 'salvation' which the child hero brings to a sad, bad world.

Now I am guessing my dreams concern releasing the primitive essential part of me, beyond the mores of politely gendered society.  Hair growing on us is a first sign of growing up. We are unnerved to see the first hair of adulthood poking through the skin of our armpits.

I thought I'd check Ian Wallace's fine book on dreams

Then I dropped Ian a line.

Here's what Ian said:

'Your legs enable you to stand up for what you believe in and take the steps that will result in you achieving your desired outcome. Standing up for what you believe in naturally gives you prominence and the motive power of your legs provides you with deliberate motivation. The pelt of fur on your legs suggests that you feel warmly comfortable in your prominence as a motivator and the lupine nature of the hair indicates that you are fiercely loyal to those you are motivating, like a she-wolf, even though it may sometimes set you apart from them.

Any medical location in a dream usually reflects an uncomfortable situation in waking life. Your dream is illuminating that your fundamental value is not in providing a feeling of cosiness and comfort, your fundamental value is the ability to cut through confusion and ambiguity, creating clarity and insight.

The golden hairs on your legs show that your motivating power is creating abundantly fertile opportunities so that you can reap the benefits that emerge from the deeper, darker areas of creativity.

Dreaming of your nether regions often indicates that you are becoming more intimately aware of a specific aspect of your creative power. We often think of euphemisms, such as nether regions, simply as a way of being polite, but what we routinely euphemise is usually where we can connect with our deeper power, although we may feel afraid to do so. This specific aspect of your creative power is the ability to write powerfully and precisely. These black porcupine-like quills reflect your instinctive ability to clearly make a number of points.

That potentially uncomfortable threshold in the nether regions of your creativity, where these black quills of ink are growing, is also where the child emerges. Where you can channel your capacity for creative wonder and the ability to hone your talent for critical appraisal as you conceive great work.

Engaging with that uncomfortable threshold is also a maturation process. Maturation and coming-of-age rituals always involve crossing a threshold in initiation ceremonies. Your deeper, truer identity begins to emerge as you take these initial steps across the threshold during the initiation. As you take these steps, you are not alone. Your child identity walks with you, as does the identity of the person you have the power to become. And they will continue to walk with you, guiding you across uncomfortable thresholds and to greater achievements. All you have to do is listen to them and acknowledge them, as they speak to you in your dreams and stories.

Euphemisms are also the source of many of our mythological constructions. Powerful human experiences are often externalised as mythical beings and beasts, in an instinctive attempt to make ourselves feel more comfortable by disowning the fertile darkness of our creativity. All mythical quests begin with the main character beginning to move outside their comfort zone. The further outside their comfort zone that they travel on their quest, the more rewarding the prize that they will return with.

A dream is just a dream until you put it into action. The action from these dreams is to balance your comfortable, cosily protective personal relationships with your students and your more critical, powerfully honest professional relationships with them, which enable your students to engage with their own deeper creative power. As you do so, you will balance your own self-criticism and doubt with the childlike wonder of your profound capacity for creativity.'

Ian Wallace is a best-selling author and popular broadcaster on the subject of dreams and the unconscious self. He is a firm believer that our dreams can guide our creative process and push us to explore those 'nether regions' of consciousness - the hypnagogic state - which is the fundamental source of most human creativity. 

Your dreams are a powerful source of creative fodder. Keep a book by your bed and catch them fresh as you wake.


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