Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have come up with the plot for Dr. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde during a dream.
I may never hatch the Great American Novel in a dream, but I recently discovered the importance of dreaming to my creative process.
I’ve always been an on-the-nose dreamer. There are few hidden messages in my dreams. If, in my day job, I’m trying to solve a gnarly problem related to the worldwide web, I will dream of battling a giant spider web (get it?). If in real life I’m trying to stop eating sugar, I’ll dream about diving into a pint of Chunky Monkey. And so on.
My dreams, while challenging, invariably end on an upbeat note. I may spend the night outwitting shotgun-toting bad guys, but somehow, the dream always ends with my escape. I’m quite the REM-state John McClane, with the requisite nine lives.
But then came the day when I temporarily stopped dreaming, thanks to the Happy Blue Pills. And all of a sudden, it became much harder to get the creative juices flowing. The words came more slowly. I had no energy for writing.
At the time, I had no idea what was causing my writer’s block. I was getting plenty of sleep, right?
Then one night, I forgot to take the sleeping pill. That night, I dreamed for the first time in weeks. And for the first time in weeks, I woke up thinking about my story. And I began to write.
Phew! It seemed miraculous. That was the morning I poured all the little blue pills down the garbage disposal.
I did a little research, and found little hard data to back me up on this, but my theory now is that nocturnal dreaming is essential to the creative process.
So I’d like to know from other writers and creative types: do you dream at night? A lot? Do dreams help you solve story problems directly, ever? Do you dream in color (which used to be considered the hallmark of creative people)?