Monday, February 28, 2011

Last Monday Book: Writers Dreaming

Post by Jenny

Most of you regular readers are probably familiar with NCW member Patricia Stoltey’s blog. If so, you may know that she also writes the Tuesday posts for Chiseled in Rock, the “Blog That Might Possibly Have an Association With The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.” (I love that title.) When I read Pat’s February 1 Chiseled in Rock post about a grizzly bear dream she’d had, I was reminded of a book that’s been in my “Read Me” stack for a few…years, I’m embarrassed to say.

For the book Writers Dreaming, dream researcher Naomi Epel interviewed twenty-six authors about their dreams and how dreaming influences the creative process. The book was published in 1993, but the contributing writers—including Maya Angelou, Sue Grafton, Anne Rice, and Clive Barker—are still widely read.

The book is a fascinating peek into an experience which is both shared (everyone dreams) and completely unique (no two people dream alike). The writers’ anecdotes of specific dreams they’ve had are very interesting, and, in some cases, so personal that I’m not sure I would have had the guts to share them with the world at large. One of the most amazing recollections is Amy Tan’s recurring dream of flying with a friend who had been murdered, and the effect it had on her development as a writer.

What also struck me was how many writers mentioned feeling that they are in a dream-like state when they write. As Stephen King put it, “Part of my function as a writer is to dream awake.” That makes me wonder where dreams end and imagination begins…or perhaps they are two sides of the same coin.

A few of the writers also relate how they are able, if they’re stuck on plot or character, to problem-solve in their dreams. I personally don’t find my dreams to be so helpful in that regard. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a character come to me in a dream. In fact, my dreams are often rather banal. But occasionally, I’ll have one of those (pepperoni-induced?) unforgettable dreams that becomes a permanent—if highly bizarre—part of my psyche.

How about you? Are dreams an essential part of your writing—or general creativity—or just something to talk about over dinner? Or maybe you don’t give dreams much thought and agree with Richard Ford, who said, “I have never in my life been as bored as I have been by my friends telling me their dreams.”

Writers Dreaming is about exactly that, but it’s also about how these twenty-six successful writers think and work and integrate everyday experiences into their writing. If Amazon and Barnes and Noble are any indication, Writers Dreaming is not easy to find. So I thought I’d drop my copy off at the NCW library for anyone who might be interested in giving it a look.

Happy writing and happy dreaming!


Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for the plug and links, Jenny. I appreciate that (and so does Chiseled in Rock blog). I seem to dream a lot (have nightmares, too), and manage to remember enough of each dream to give me occasional writing ideas.

Writers Dreaming sounds like the perfect book for me to read.

Dean K Miller said...

Jenny: thanks for the info. I'll pick the book up at NCW if it is there on Friday when I show up. If not I'll hunt one down. Sounds interesting.
Some of my dreams have been helpful in my writing. Other's have shown me how bizarre things can be. But don't dreams come from the same place as our waking thoughts? Aren't they only separated by different levels of awareness? Either way...If it's in there, it will come out when needed. Set the intention to remember the dreams and see what happens...maybe the next great book or feature article!

Jenny said...

Thank you, Pat, for inspiring me to dig the book out from my stack!

Dean, I'm going to try remember more of my dreams. There might be a blog post in there somewhere!

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