Exploring Dreams as a Writer’s Tool

A report on two books by Diane E. Bokor

Isabelle Allende

Amy Tan

Stephen King

Anne Rice

William Styron

Sue Grafton

All of these successful writers have at least one thing in common.  They strategically use their dreams to enhance their writing. 

Through an odd set of circumstances and her own dream-work, Naomi Epel convinced twenty-six famous writers to share insights into how their writing and their dreams intertwine.  Epel’s book, Writers Dreaming, is a unique anthology and a fascinating read.

King and Rice confessed that a nightmare from childhood sparked scenes in their published stories.

King and Grafton confessed that often, before falling asleep, they beg their dreaming mind for help with plot problems.  And the process works.

Styron’s idea for Sophie’s Choice was sparked by a haunting dream fragment that lingered one morning as he awoke.

Allende and Tan use their dreams to visit supportive ancestors and to change their own life circumstances.

Some of the interviewed writers describe being able to put themselves into a dream-like waking state when writing. Steven King describes this “sort of semi-dreaming state” as a little bit like finding “a secret door in a room but not knowing exactly how you got in.”

By the end of the book, I was ready to hop into bed and start dreaming.

Another helpful book on this topic is The Dreaming Writer by Alicia Leigh (subtitled: Applied Dreaming).  The reader finds over twenty exercises from easy (cultivating daydreaming) to hard (generating lucid dreams).  At the back of the book there is a dream symbology dictionary with suggestions of how to use your own dream images in your writing. 

If you’re looking to use a new writing tool, something you already have available to you each night (and day), check out these book suggestions.