Weekend Edition – Writers Who Dream Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

To sleep, perchance to dream …

Image by @alijardine on Instagram

Image by @alijardine on Instagram

Do you ever wake from a dream and, for a moment, have trouble discerning which is more real – your nighttime vision or the four walls around your bed? I have always had vivid dreams. They play out on the darkened stage of my inner eye like movies, complete with soundtracks, dramatic camera angles, and sensible sequences of events. When I was a child, I would regale my mother with detailed retellings over the breakfast table. Most of the time, I think she was amused; but sometimes I am sure the nature of my reveries perplexed or even worried her.

I do not claim to have any special dream interpretation skills, but I do enjoy exploring my dreams with an eye for stories and themes. I am not alone in this pastime. Margaret Atwood, Stephen KingMaurice SendakMary ShelleyCharlotte Bronte, and even E.B. White have each found inspiration in their nighttime adventures. Sometimes the influence is direct as characters develop and stories unfold while the writer sleeps. Other times, the dream’s contribution to the creative process is more subtle – a deeply evocative feeling, a single image, a sharp yearning.

Although it is not easy to access, I believe that our subconscious holds worlds beyond our reckoning. When we dream, we slip into these alternate realities, submerging ourselves in another time and place, even another’s skin. For a few brief hours, we can journey into a netherworld where nothing is as it seems and anything can happen. Our imagination is free to play with the rules of the waking world, bending and breaking them at will, letting us explore an entirely different existence.

I have kept dream journals on and off since I was a child. I have found that when I am actively pursuing my dreams, snatching at their ghostly tails as I scribble in a bedside notebook, my nighttime garden flourishes. When I fail to give my dreams much attention, they wilt and fade. It seems that we have a symbiotic relationship – my attention feeds them and they feed my creativity.

Do you remember your dreams? Do they influence your stories or creative process? Have you ever kept a dream journal?

What I’m (thinking about) Writing:

Don't be scared of success.

Don’t be scared of success.

Dan Blank published a post yesterday titled, Preparing for Success (and finding more time to write). The post offers helpful and actionable advice to help writers set up the support systems and processes that they need to grow their writing businesses. I nodded my head in agreement as I read through his recommendations for getting help, optimizing systems, and integrating tools into the daily workflow. Even though I have not fully implemented such things in my own business, I see their value.

There is, however, another, more emotional side to preparing for success.

There are two things that keep a writer from pursuing her dreams: the fear of failure and the fear of success.

We all understand the fear of failure. That’s an easy one. You worry that your work won’t be good enough, won’t be recognized, won’t be accepted. You worry that all your long hours (and years!) of effort will turn out to be for naught. You worry that people will criticize you, or – worse – pity you.

But, what about the fear of success? That’s a strange one, right?

Most people don’t like change, even positive change. Success, though ostensibly a Good Thing, comes with a healthy serving of change. If we were to succeed, our routines would change, people’s expectations of us would change. We would be adrift in an unfamiliar set of circumstances. Though we would be making progress in the direction of our dreams, we would – in essence – also be starting all over again since we would suddenly have to grapple with all kinds of new obstacles and challenges. Our “lizard brain” (or, amygdala) doesn’t like the risk associated with change. It will try to “protect” us by maintaining the status quo and it will do so by using fear to dissuade us from trying anything new.

I don’t know the cure for this kind of thinking, but I have a couple ideas that might be helpful. First, be aware of what your lizard brain thinks about success. Pat it nicely on the head and let it know that you understand why it’s afraid, but – really – it’s all going to be okay. Second, try to find ways to experience success on a small scale. Prove to your lizard brain that success isn’t as scary as it might seem – one baby step at a time. Finally, take Dan’s advice and be proactive about setting yourself up for “success with success.” There’s immense power in taking the bull by the horns. Don’t feel like you have to let things happen to you. Instead, be prepared to make things happen for you.

Have you ever thought about the fact that you might be scared of success? What would success mean to you, your routine, your hopes and dreams? 

 

What How I’m Reading:

Knowing how the flower grows does not make it less beautiful.

Knowing how the flower grows does not make it less beautiful.

Next week I’ll have three books to share with you, but while I wrap those up, I wanted to share a few thoughts about reading like a writer.

As writers, we can’t help but read with an eye on the author’s craft. Even when we’re caught up in the swoon of book lust, there is a part of our brain that is always analyzing, critiquing, and admiring the literary aspects of a piece of writing. Non-writers sometimes ask me if this detracts from my enjoyment of the story. I thought about it, and the answer is an emphatic no.

The risk, I suppose, is that the analysis might pull me out of the story … that my dissection of the craft behind the story might somehow steal the writing’s soul. It makes sense that this would be the case, but I have only felt this feeling when my analysis has uncovered deep flaws in the craft. In those cases, I usually abandon the book anyway, so the loss is minimal.

When the book is a good one, I am able to lose myself in the story even while appreciating the work that went into writing it. It’s almost like my brain is partitioned into two sides that are able to process different information simultaneously, like a computer running two programs at the same time. One half of my brain experiences the events in the story as if they were happening to me; the other half makes mental notes about things like structure, character development, foreshadowing, dialog, and any number of other creative and technical aspects of the story.

Personally, I think being able to see and appreciate what went into a story enhances my reading enjoyment. There is also no better way for a writer to learn about the craft. There is a world of difference between understanding a concept and seeing an example of that concept at work.

Do you analyze stories while you read them? Do you go back and analyze them after you’ve finished them? How does this help you learn about the craft of writing?

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin blessed weird people

Here’s to dreaming and believing and embracing the possibilities even when we don’t know what they are. Happy reading. Happy writing. See you on the other side! 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit – Scared Dog & Cat : linein via Compfight cc
Photo Credit – Flower Plate: MuseumWales via Compfight cc

22 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Writers Who Dream Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Thank you for another inspiring post! I have very vivid dreams (and nightmares) and I do experience that split moment when I need to find the line between dream and awake as I wake up. It can be really weird.

    I have been reading like a mad rabbit for the past while as I can’t watch movies or TV shows now (long story). This is how my blog is turning into a book review fest lately! I have been reading mostly Star Wars and Buffy novels, in between personal development books too. It is interesting that you bring up the fear of success as it reminds me of the latest book I read, “Jump and your life will appear” by Nancy Levin, that deals with the process of making changes.

    On the writing side, I worked on 2 guest blog posts and next week will be the launch of this huge blog series I have been rambling on and off about, which is about character writing, diversity, Star Wars and fandom.

    Have a great weekend! 🙂

    • Curious (of course) about why no TV or movies. Wondering how that feels – spending more time between the pages than staring at the screen. I’ve been doing the same lately, and I kind of like the absence of digital entertainment in my life. 🙂

      • I can’t watch more than a couple of hours of TV at once, since I had a surgery end of 2011. I am able to binge watch TV/movies when I do something else while watching (tapestry, jigsaw puzzles or working on the laptop). I used to do a lot of my writing on my laptop while watching TV, but said laptop died a few weeks ago and I won’t be able to get a new one before a while. So, TV catch up is delayed, but I keep track of all I need to watch. I still spend a lot of time on the computer working on my writing and doing some video editing (it’s easy to fragment the process contrary to actual TV watching). 🙂

  2. I know I’m supposed to interrupt those really fantastic dreams I sometimes have to write them in my journal so I have a record of them but I’m not any good at that – I love sleep too much and when the dreams are great I don’t want them to end (like a really good book) 🙂 ‘Morning pages’ are awesome because sometimes images resurface and you end up writing some truly bizarre tales that may or may not be what the dreams were about anyway 😀 Great post Jamie!

    • TKS, Yolanda.
      I always try to capture my dreams at least in my waking mind. I lie in bed with my eyes closed, trying to trick myself into believing I’m still at least partly asleep and walking in the world of the dream. It doesn’t always work, and I’m convinced that the times I’m thwarted by the intrusion of “real” life, are the times when – had I managed to recall the dream – I would have discovered a gem of a story.

  3. As i write more, I find that I enjoy reading more. My understanding is enhanced. It’s a bit like having a massage when you are a massage therapist (which I have been). There are two parts – one part is just enjoying the massage, and the other part is appreciating the technique. I love your referred articles, especially Ripe Impulse (how was that Margaret Atwood quote at the beginning of it) and the article by the Minimalists on busyness vs focus. Wonderful stuff (again).

    • So glad you got a chance to read some of those posts, Sara.
      I really loved “Ripe Impulse,” too. Julie writes some beautiful pieces.

      And I totally get what you’re saying about understanding leading to greater appreciation. I think I most often hear of this in the context of musicians who get more out of watching another musician’s performance because they understand the level of skill and talent that goes into it. I ride horses and I find that my knowledge of the equestrian arts increases my appreciation for the amazing feats of horsemanship that I see at shows and exhibitions.

      Knowing helps us appreciate on, as you said, another whole level. I think that’s a good thing. 🙂

      • I do remember studying texts at school though – and sometimes I felt that over analysis did kill the love, so it’s a fine line!

    • Exactly. I’m always learning from the authors I read. Much easier to “get” a writing lesson when you can see it play out on the page.

  4. I enjoy rereading my dream journals. . . sometimes in crazy movie style too. It could be from a simple fragment of a day’s flashes of situations, problems, a movie, a thought, a song, etc. It comes to fruition in a movie dream. Sometimes I do analyze them with my daughter’s help and my best friend. I don’t know where some of them come from when they are truly bizarre. I just laugh and enjoy the movie! Sometimes I cannot read my notes on the nightstand as I write them as soon as I wake up. One time, in the middle of the night I was writing on a page I thought was blank. I have a pen with a lighted tip and it looked blank to me. THe next morning. . . I had written over a previous dream in a lighter colored pen. I was upset because I really couldn’t remember the dream from the day before . . . I’m in the dark with no memory of the dreams because the writings are on top of each other. LOL. Thank you Jamie! It’s a inspiration to see that others feel the same way about dream journals too. I figure when I retire, I have years of dream journals I can consider a story bank. LOL. One of my problems is getting the notes into the actual journal. Can you imagine a journal full of crazy unreadable writings because they are written in the dark or half asleep. LOL Thank you all for the inspiration. Jamie, I love your posts!!!

    • Thanks so much for sharing and for your kind words. So glad you enjoy the posts and get some inspiration from them. 🙂

      Dream journaling is so much fun, isn’t it? I love exploring my mind from that angle … a little (or a lot!) left of center, as they say. Definitely entertaining. I’ve also had the experience of making one set of notes over another. Oops! That’s what happens when you write in the dark. More often than not I now record my sleepy voice with my iPhone … but only if I’m alone. 😉

  5. Hey! I don’t have vivid dreams but sometimes they are strange and I so remember them. I don’t know if humans can interpret dreams but you’re right about the un subconscious part. I agree that whatever we dream about is powered by our hidden imagination to some extent.
    Good read! I’m going to check dave’s blog now!
    Excellent quote at the end!

    • Thanks!

      Dream interpretation is SO subjective, but I think if a person pays attention to her dreams for long enough, she’ll start to see patterns and be able to gain some insights.

      I hope you enjoyed the various blog posts. TKS for coming by!

      • I have always been fascinated by dreams. What they mean, how to tell them. So far I have had no luck but anyway.
        Oh the post was really nice 🙂

  6. Pingback: Links: Writing, Redefining Disability, Feminism and Cosplay | Natacha Guyot

  7. Reblogged this on Ms M's Bookshelf and commented:
    Whether you blog, struggle to get the novel that’s been buzzing around in your head for years down on paper, or just enjoy reading other people’s well-written efforts, you probably have a dream of doing more. I found this blog post to be an encouragement in that direction and hope that you do as well. Enjoy my Sunday Reblog from New Hampshire Writers’ Network!

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