Where do dreams come from? Many philosophers, psychiatrists, and other experts, as well as everyday people, have made conjectures about the sources of our night visions. But they remain a mystery.
Some dreams are obvious, of course. We’ve all experienced dreams that are clearly relevant to what’s going on in our lives or dreams that are some reflection of the past. Some people claim they’ve dreamed events before they actually happened — precognitive dreams that allow a dreamer to peer into the future.
Some of us remember every single dream we have. A few of us may even take time to jot down our dreams in a dream journal. Others cannot remember any of their dreams and will claim they don’t dream at all. There are those whose dreams are so vivid that they are induced into sleepwalking, and there are those whose dreams carry the essences of their greatest fears — nightmares.
Some dreamers are so attuned to their dreams that they can actually control a dream while they are having it (this is called lucid dreaming). They decide to fly in a dream, and they are off, soaring through the dream-sky.
Dreaming for Inspiration
Dreams may unlock mysteries, answer questions, or give us new insights. They inform artists’ work, help scientists solve complex problems, and they give writers plenty of fodder for fiction and poetry.
In fact, many famous works of art and inventions were inspired by dreams. In an article titled “Dream Art,” Wikipedia provides a list of artists and their works, which came directly from dreams. Some of the most notable artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers who have captured dream material to produce great works of art include William Blake, Salvador Dali, Clive Barker, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Stephen King, Carlos Castaneda, David Lynch, Rush, Paul McCartney, and Roger Waters, to name a few.
Dreams can even provide the answers to complex technical or scientific problems. Sewing machine inventor Elias Howe was having trouble figuring out how the needle on his machine would work, until one night he had a dream in which he was imprisoned by a group of natives, who were dancing around him and holding spears that had holes near their tips. This image finally gave Howe the idea he needed to make his invention work: a needle with a hole at the tip, which was designed much like those natives’ spears.
Journal Prompts and Dreams
If you’ve ever kept a dream journal, then you have some experience with exploring your dreams during waking hours. When you keep a dream journal, you learn to pay more attention to your dreams, and you start remembering your dreams better and in greater detail. Dream journals are ideal for generating raw creative material.
Today’s journal prompts aren’t based around a dream journal, and they don’t ask you to keep one, although doing so is definitely recommended. If you do happen to keep a dream journal, then you’ll have an advantage here, because these journal prompts do require that you remember a dream or two. Yet the main goal with these journal prompts is to add another tool to your writer’s toolbox, to leverage a little bit more of your imagination by paying attention to the messages, images, and signals that your subconscious is sending you when you’re sound asleep.
To complete these journal prompts, you do need to be a dreamer. If you don’t make a habit out of remembering your dreams, or if you rarely remember them, then you might try keeping a dream journal for about a week. As you fall asleep, remind yourself that in the morning your first task will be to write down your dreams. Promote dreaming and remembering dreams by using affirmations such as “I will dream” and “I will remember my dreams.” Then give these journal prompts a try.
- Write down a full account of a dream you’ve had recently. Try to include as many details as possible.
- Think back over some of the dreams you’ve had and try to identify recurring themes. Perhaps you’re often being chased in dreams (or doing the chasing), maybe a lot of your dreams are set in nature or feature animals.
- Identify the people, creatures, and animals in your dreams by describing them. Could they become characters in your next short story?
- Do you ever notice minute details in your dreams? Elias Howe noticed that in his dream, the natives’ spears had holes in them. Try to pinpoint seemingly minor details that appear in your dreams and write descriptions of them.
- Do your dreams ever stick with you throughout the day? Are images from your dreams haunting you as you go about your business? Why do you suppose this happens with some dreams but not others? What are the images that linger?
- Have you ever felt like a dream was trying to tell you something or send you an important message? What was the dream? What message did you come away with?
- If you could construct a full, vivid dream, which you will have tonight and remember in full tomorrow, what would happen in the dream? Who would be there? Where would it take place?
Interesting Facts About Dreams
- The scientific study of dreams is known as oneirology.
- Abraham Lincoln dreamed of his assassination.
- At one time, some experts believed that dreams only happened in black and white. Most people actually dream in color.
- “Famous Dreams” (includes source material) [Note: site is now down]
- Wikipedia: “Dreams“
Good luck with these journal prompts! Now let’s talk about dreaming and how we can use dreams to inspire our writing!