“There is much to be learned at both sides of the threshold.”
Creativity. First of all, we need to have enough of our own juice in supply to be able to create something else. If our well is dry, we can’t get water from it. It took me several vacation weeks and enough solitude this summer to resupply my well. Our wellspring can dry out for many reasons: overwork, stress, worry, illness, lack of sleep, lack of meaningful deep sleep, and simply the too much-ness of our plugged in everyday lives. It is a chronic modern problem. In the “old days”, before electricity (to say nothing of computers) we would naturally wind down as darkness fell and settle into our first sleep . Our “first sleep” of the night lasted for a few hours, followed by a normal nocturnal wakeful period. Here inside the deep early morning silence we could think, muse, easily remember our dreams. We would rest in this soft fertile space until we naturally nodded off again in our second sleep till morning light: this was the norm for pre-industrial society.
I must admit, I was relieved when I learned this, and don’t reach for the Tylenol p.m. so quickly now when I wake at 3:00 a.m. I highly recommend the book “World Enough and Time: On Slowing Down and Creativity” by Christina McEwen where I discovered this tidbit. It is so beautifully written that I devoured it quickly on the first read; and then followed the directive of the title for a second slow and savory read.
What resources do our dreams have for us in our creative lives? Countless authors, musicians, scientists etc. have credited their dreams with providing the answers to previously unsolved questions about the project they were working on. The phrase “let me sleep on it” has real value. While we are asleep, our brain function is different than when we are awake: during sleep our left analytical brain goes off-line, and our right brain imaging and creative centers go more on-line. We thus have more access to thinking outside the box while asleep, and can dream up options that we would not have considered while awake. In addition, as I am sure every dreamer knows, we frequently do outrageous things in our dreams that we would not “dream of” doing in our waking lives. Thankfully, our internal censor is asleep as well, so we can try out things that our waking superego may have not allowed.
To use our dreams as a creative resource, we first have to remember them. I encourage readers to review my blogs of April and May 2012 for several chapters on remembering, recording, and incubating dreams with a purpose in mind.
The clearer the question we ask and write down as we prepare to sleep and dream, the greater the likelihood that we will receive a reply from the dream universe that is clear to us and needs less decoding to understand. If, for example you are stuck on writing that next chapter in you book, don’t simply ask to “get unstuck”. Be specific: i.e., ask for inspiration on “what do the characters of Jamie and Claire need next for the part of the story about passing through the Standing Stones, in order to make sense of time travel in the context of their relationship through time and space”? (fans of the Outlander series will know who I am referring to!) That clear. Or “What shades of blue do I need next for my palate to make the water shimmer in my painting?”
We can tap into our creative source from at least three primary aspects of the actual dream material: the narrative story line of the dream itself, the emotions and sensations we experience in the dream, and the images and pictures it brings to us. These three elements can include both what happened in the dream as well as what you thought/experienced/saw in the pre-dream preparation and the post-dream continuation of the dream journey.
Other sources of creativity from dreams may come from:
1.) Associations to place; the topography or landscape or a feature the landscape of the dream
2.) A particular character or the interactions between characters
3.) A color or colors that catch your attention
4.) What you title the dream
5.) What happens when you re-enter and move around inside the dream
6.) The aha’s or insights you get from the work on it
7.) Perhaps most importantly for the creative aspect of our dreams, the action plan you use to move your answers out into the world based on that dream work.
Victoria Rabinow, artist and dreamworker in Santa Fe says “…dreams have a voice and presence of their own…my role is to create a space in which (we) can enter the living experience of (our) own dreams.” In addition to writing them down, we can embody our dreams, draw or paint them, act them out, dialogue with them, dance them…More on these ways of dream working next time…