Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brainstorming Lucid Daydreams

While brainstorming story lines with a friend, he started talking about his dreams and how they are fodder for some of his stories. He mentioned how the glimpses he gets of what seem to be a continuing saga, he tries to interpret as a progressive timeline. He senses it is progressive because, in at least one instance, the subsequent dream started where the prior one ended.

I went on to tell him of two dreams that I had as a child, neither of which were progressive, but rather repetitive. The first was being chased by a rock monster something on the order of Fantastic Four’s The Hulk. I started having this dream in the first 10 years of my life and I always woke up frightened, gasping for breath, and heart pounding. After several years of having this dream, I awoke one morning and decided I’d had enough. I told myself that the next time I had this dream, I was going to pick up a pebble from off the ground, fling it at the rock monster, shatter it to smithereens, and then I would laugh as hard and long as I could. For the next month or so, every night after going to bed but before falling to sleep, I would run through the exact scenario of what I would do. Well, about a month later, sure enough, the rock monster came for me. I did exactly as I had told myself I should do. And sure enough, the rock monster shattered and I laughed. I never again had that dream.

The second dream was much more pleasant. I dreamt I was flying. At first, because of being influenced by 1950’s TV Superman show, I flew in the same fashion as he did—leaping into the air, flying belly-down and head lifted, looking forward. But, then over years of time, while awake I realized that such a posture was actually a strain on the neck. I tried to imagine what comfortable flight might be like. Then I started having dreams of being in standing position and just gently “floating” off the earth. I was able to control lift, direction and velocity merely by willing it. Then I started having favorite spots to visit during flying. Before falling to sleep, I would image those scenes so I could enjoy them during my sleep. They typically started off from a hillside overlooking a valley village like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. From there I would investigate the aerial view of the town and then zoom out to just outside of earth’s atmosphere.

My friend observed that my being able to condition my dreams sounded to him like lucid dreaming. By definition, lucid dreaming is not only being aware that you are dreaming, but also being able to control what happens in the dream. I’m not sure that was the case with me. After waking, I knew I had been dreaming, but while dreaming, it was all very real to me and I was not aware it was only a dream. But his observation made me wonder if it was possible to somehow have "productive" dreaming sessions.

I recommended to him that he try the following method to expand his stories—“Rather than letting your dreams take the driver’s seat, use periods where you can be alone in a quiet place, and while awake, to just sit and imagine progressions in the story-line. Write down ideas that seem worthy of adding to the story. Some of these ideas may actual be progressions or they may be mere glimpses of other parts of the story. Approaching creative writing in this manner puts the author in the driver’s seat, and the sleep-time dreams riding shotgun, or maybe even in the backseat in a kiddy chair. One observation, though: Our rational minds tend to look for logical progress, sensible solutions. In writing stories, it may actually be advantageous to do what our dreams do—come up with wild and bewildering progressions. Although these may not be incorporated exactly as imagined, they may help us find alternative paths. In this regard, using a wall and sticky notes to “throw mud on a wall” (the mud of our musings), may be helpful instead of using a linear journal.

We then moved on to discuss the purposeful planning of stories. I mentioned that while “creative juices” are good, knowing how to control and direct those is part of the science of writing. In this vein, the author becomes the ring master of his circus performers (his dreams and inspirations). I then played two videos of an accomplished author that discussed how to tame those wild animals. (Video 1, Video 2). So to me, lucid day-dreaming may actually be more productive than the hit-and-miss lucid dreaming we hope for. It can be enhanced both by moments of quiet reflection and by brainstorming using storyboarding techniques.

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