Can Your Dreams Help You Write Better Stories?

Trust yourself and your dream messages.


We have all been there — ensnared in the middle of a cinematic dream that feels so real you think you’ve actually experienced it, even after waking. Maybe it was a nightmare that left you in a chilled sweat, heart racing. Or if you are anything like me, you’ve awoken deeply disturbed following a dark lucid dream. On the other hand, perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have returned from a romantic liaison with your favorite rock star — we should all be so lucky. Right? At least in our dreams.

Sigmund Freud believed that our dreams were the gateway toward unlocking the unconscious mind. Indeed, interpreting our dreams has long been an important technique used in psychoanalysis.

From Frontiers in Psychology:

“According to Freud, sources of dreams include stimuli from the external world, subjective experiences, organic stimuli within the body, and mental activities during sleep. Empirical evidence has supported some of these assertions. The self-organization theory of dreaming posits that memory consolidation, emotion regulation, and reception of external stimuli can contribute to dream content; hence, dream content can contain important information about the dreamer.”

Very interesting. But what exactly are dreams?

Basically, dreams are images and imagery, thoughts, sounds and voices, and subjective sensations experienced when we sleep.

Although science knows what dreams are, just like our imaginative mind, dreams essentially remain a large part of the great mystery of humanity, continuing to intrigue and enchant us.

We all dream.

And through our dreams, we discover a limitless realm of warped realities and private fantasy worlds. We dream about people we know or don’t know; or those who we’ve yet to meet or haven’t seen in eons— dreams even offer the dead a medium by which to make contact with the living.

Our dreams are mystical, orchestrated or disorganized glimpses into sacred secrets and repressed desires. Conjured from the inner-most parts of our minds to embody unusual and strange situations; peculiar feelings; a recalling of events. To forcing us to face our deepest and darkest fears; to premonitions of a future yet to unfold.

Dreams are our link into an alchemistic dimension — they are a convoluted part of us in some way. The sweet labyrinthine in our mind.

There is no limit to what the mind can experience during a dream, and there isn’t always sense or reason to what you end up dreaming about. Sometimes we remember them. Other times, we forget. Some hold significance and are meaningful. Others, are more like a random jumble of meaningless imagery with an underlying feeling.

That’s what makes our dreams so utterly fascinating.

Dream Theories

Scientists have hypothesized six major theories in attempt to explain why we dream. Jodie Tyley provides a brief summary in her article; The Six Leading Theories on Why We Dream.

Here’s a quick rundown…

  • Encoding our Day — Dreaming is an amalgamation of what we have seen in the passing day. Our brain has passed through so much information since its last sleep, dreaming is a way of it deciding what to keep and what to forget.
  • Emotions — Dreams could be tied to our emotions. If you’re feeling happy, you’ll have a more positive dream and if you’re stressed you may have a nightmare and so on. With less to think about at night, your brain processes slow down and your emotions come to the fore.
  • Emotions II — Conversely, some believe that your dreams are usually the opposite of your emotions. If you’ve had a hard day for instance, you’ll have a happy dream to lift your spirits.
  • Completely Random — Some say that rather than having any sort of function, dreams are just completely random impulses that happen while we’re asleep and aren’t meant to make any sense at all.
  • Memory Reboot — You may have only briefly glanced at something while awake but when you’re asleep your brain will investigate it further.
  • Freudian dreams — Freud claimed that when you were awake, your unconscious (urges, desires, wishes and dreams) was suppressed but when asleep, your primal impulses gained the chance to express itself and that is what dreams are made of; our unsuppressed and unconscious desires and dreams.

Personally, I’m down with Swiss Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung’s ideas about why we dream, he said that dreams reveal more than they conceal. Jung rejected Freud’s theory of dream interpretation that dreams are designed to be secretive, disbelieving that dream formation is a product of discharging our tabooed sexual impulses.

Jung’s dream belief states that dreams are a natural expression of our imagination and use the most straightforward language at our disposal: mythic narratives. His dream theory is still thriving in contemporary psychoanalytic circles.

“This mythic world of Jung’s is the realm of the archetypes, which are the universal energies of every human who is not only in conflict with society but also with him or herself.” — Ryan Hurd


If driving conflict is one of the most vital components of storytelling, then imagination is the foundation on which all stories balance — great storytelling lies first and foremost within the mystical realm of an author’s imagination, followed by their skill to execute their vision to story.

What comes out is what’s on the inside.

Reading a story is like entering someone else’s secretive world; a rare revelation into an author’s mind —hidden parts of their soul and snippets of their dreams spill onto the page for us to devour. What comes out is what’s on the inside. I’m certain that someone like Wayne Dyer once said something similar, only he was referring to our reactive impulses toward the outer world.

The thing is, the same is true about our dreams and words — written, spoken or otherwise — and every facet of our manifesting lives, experiences.

The Writer’s Dream World

I have dreamed of circumstances and events that have come to pass. I’ve dreamed of a love and a tender touch I may never feel. I’ve received visitors and messages from the long and recently dead; and I have dreamed of scenes and characters that are now forever inked in my books.

Dreams are a precious gift to a creative soul. As writers, we can learn to use the mysterious time during our sleep to connect with our creativity and the deepest parts of our imagination.

Did you know that some of the world’s most prolific writer’s have dreamt of their most famous creations?

Author of Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelly famously dreamt of monsters the evening before she sat down to write the book which became the blueprint of Gothic horror. And authors like Steven King, Stephanie Myers, H.P Lovecraft, Charlotte Brontë, and Robert Louis Stephenson have reportedly told of their slumbering bouts of inspiration that made it into their creative projects.

But why are dreams so creative?

From How sleeping and afternoon naps make you more creative:

“Sleep and dreams are some of the most researched aspects of neuroscience and psychology, but still some of the least understood. The ideas behind dreams and creativity come from the function of sleep in memory and the fact that, while we are asleep, our brains are free from the usual sensations and can, frankly, go crazy.”

Is it just me, or does the notion of getting a little a crazy in a way-too-serious-world sound appealing — even if only in our dreams?

Prince might have agreed. I wonder if his dreams influenced his very unique and fearless creative gifts he gave to the world; his very memorable legacy…

Aside from getting dream-crazy with funk-rock musicians, our dreams can open our minds to major creative breakthroughs and new ways of thinking. They are a manifestation of our experiences, inner-most thoughts, desires and troubles; and with a little TLC, they can help us tap into our imaginative minds to create scenes and characters in our fictional worlds.

Create With Your Dreams

Our dreams are fleeting. In general, the more time that has passed since you woke up from a dream, the more difficult it will be to remember what that dream was about. Keeping a dream journal is a great way to record what happens in your mind while you are sleeping so you don’t forget those little creative dream-nuggets when they come calling.

Keeping a Dream Journal will:

  • Help solve creative problems
  • Help you control lucid dreams
  • Help you to better understand your thoughts, creative ideas and emotions
  • Improve and strengthen your memory in general
  • Provide new perspectives and insights on a current creative project
  • Offer you actual scenes for your book
  • Provide a sense of creative direction

It can be helpful to fall asleep with your intentions set firm by talking to your inner-self and asking for creative direction. We often take our final thoughts to sleep with us, so choose them intentionally.

Whether you jot down a few quick takeaways during the night, record a detailed dream scene, or even sketch down your visions, you’ll be surprised at what your subconscious mind reveals and how you can incorporate your mystical dream elements into your creative work. It’s like turning an internal hidden lock and working with another part of yourself that is very much available to you.

Dreams can help you write better stories.

You’ve just got to trust yourself and your dream messages. Added bonus? By keeping track of your dreams for creative purposes, you may even discover something new about yourself. Maybe, you’ll even want to get your “Prince” on and get a little dream-crazy while you’re at it.


Originally published by Publishous on Medium