While I was writing a post for my other, baby blog that focuses on a single story of mine, I came back to a point that I have wondered about for a while: the phenomenon that writers (well, I don’t know whether laymen/casual writers do this also) are able to browse, select and adapt ideas for pieces of writing whilst they are sleeping.
Of course, I am fascinated by this occurrence because of my research and study into Psychology (I find that this topic also slides slightly into my interest in Philosophy, too); though I have not yet academically studied REM sleep and dreams, I have occasionally researched the way the mind is working.
I do it without a doubt, though I don’t remember when it (let’s call ‘it’ the Writer Phenomenon) first happened to me. I probably did not used to dream ideas, though I have also been known to compose pieces of music in my head as I dream, something which is particular frustrating when I cannot replicate the tunes physically in ‘real life’. My most recent case of the Writer Phenomenon was the first day of June when I managed to write two verses of a song in my sleep; but the most advanced of mine was a large majority of one of my novella, ‘A Game of Murder’, playing out in front of my eyes. I absorbed the information, but retained it when I awoke, leading to a rough plan, characters biographies and then the start of the story. All that from a dream!
It was because the beginning and end of my current work-in-progress ‘L.I.L.Y.’ came from a dream I had a year ago that I had to mention this idea that I have had. And thus, there are questions:
Why do we seem to see a plot unfolding in front of our closed eyes? Is it because of a writer’s so-called ‘active imagination’? I know I like to think that my imagination is sharper than most, when I am able to conjure up anything random and believe its existence. On the other hand, could it be more about the fact that some people are more able to remember dreams- and, as writers, we just have a tendency to want to make the strangeness of these dreams into a story? This is turning the idea onto its head a bit.
Lewis Carroll was one other author who suffered from the Writer Phenomenon as I do. In the preface to ‘Sylvie and Bruno’ (1889), the author remarks- in such a way that he seems to be addressing himself in some manner!- “there have been passages which occurred in dreams, and which I cannot trace to any antecedent cause whatever. There are at a least two instances of dream-suggestions in this book- one, my lady’s remark “it often runs in families, as a love of pastry does”…”
Unfortunately, there appears to be no proof to the matter, as the thoughts cannot be measured clinically, apart from the words of fellow writers and musicians who simply say that they are able to create such artis forma in their sleep, in the same way that lucid dreamers can only remark that they are able to alter the events of their dreams and interact with them. I believe that there is a link between lucid dreaming and the Writer Phenomenon, as we not only become part of the dream and see exactly through our characters’ eyes there, but we also apply what we know and come out with greater information.