Writing from dreams

“Jacob’s Dream”
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Joyce Carol Oates once said, “Ideas have come from strange places. In 1976 I remember I had this kind of dream or image of a walled garden and there was a baby in a cradle, and it was something like a legend or a fairy tale. I was haunted by that image of the walled garden, something that just evoked memory, and a feeling of nostalgia. I have a thing about walled gardens, they just teem bery beautiful, and so I just kept thinking about this and eventually that turned into my novel Bellefleur. Where it came from I have no idea. It’s just the unconscious, I guess, or a dream.”

We’ve all had dreams that become pieces of art in our lives, and somehow they always seem to address something deeper than they seem on the surface. I had that once with a story that I wrote in college, which I illustrated as a final project for my teaching degree. I never tried to sell that story, or show it to anyone outside of my family. It was so private, even though it’s a story for children. My mother has been trying to get me to submit it forever. Nearly 20 years. I can’t do it.

But not everyone is as reluctant as I am, fortunately. Oates’ book is an example of that, as is Twilight, think what you will of it, it was originally a dream that Meyer had one night. Clearly, it speaks to millions of people.

If only all of our dreams were like that: stories that we can mine for gold.

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10 thoughts on “Writing from dreams

  1. Tracey says:

    I love magical realism. It’s probably the Caribbean girl in me. I once saw a picture book in that genre. It was lovely. If I could only remember the name of it…

  2. DEBatterman says:

    I don’t write from dreams per se, but if an image remains with me — early in the morning, or when I’m daydreaming — it’s often just the one I need to jump-start a story. It’s that ‘thinking’ that goes on just beneath the surface of consciousness that gives rise to some of the richest imagery.

  3. Claudine Gueh says:

    I’ve had few dreams which have given me great scenes. Imagery. Metaphors. Sometimes even dialogue. The sub-conscious mind is a great hinter of storytelling. (I love JCO. Her stories are wonderful. Her storytelling technique is a flow of consciousness, almost dream/nightmare-like.)

  4. Tracey says:

    I wish there was a way (maybe one of you knows of one) to tap into the subconscious and get at those inner gems on a regular basis, rather than waiting for that dream that happens close enough to waking that we can remember it.

  5. blastedgoat says:

    I take many images and feelings from dreams. Some of my earliest memories, fiction and poetry are associated with sleeping or dreaming. Interesting post… I have a novel in the works it’s about dreams! This is a subject close to my heart and sleepy mind 🙂

  6. Britton Minor says:

    Dreams are magical gifts. And I love that they allow visitors from afar…or perhaps not that far. I have hugged my father several times in my dreams…as a woman, not as the girl I was when he traveled on.

    Sometimes dreams tell us what we cannot or will not tell ourselves. Other times they allow our brains to wander in the far corners of our imagination…respite from difficult days and battles that make us weary.

    I wish you oodles of best-selling dreams!

  7. Tracey says:

    I love that image of you hugging your father, Britton. That’s so special. Could dreams be a very real bridge to another consciousness? It would be great if these things were actually real in some other reality.

    I wish us all best-selling dreams 🙂

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