How to Harness Your Dreams to Create Poetry
“All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.”
—Edgar Allan Poe
Dreams are the reservoirs of our souls. They nourish our minds, help us discover our passions, and help us process our lives. Dreams offer key information about ourselves through images, feelings, and symbols. And for many ancient cultures, dreams held prophetic insights and healing messages. Throughout history, these ancient civilizations honored the mystical power of dreams.
In Western society, scientists and psychologists are studying the mysterious function of dreams as an opportunity for self-growth, and their research reveals why dreams shouldn’t be dismissed or forgotten. Instead of forgetting about our dreams, we can remember them by keeping a dream journal. A dream journal is a valuable tool that can aid you in extracting the precious information your subconscious mind gives you when you sleep at night. A dream journal can also provide you with inspiration for your poetry. Below are effective strategies and steps for keeping a dream journal that will empower you to reach your goals and create more poetry.
JOT DOWN THE DREAM AS SOON AS YOU’RE AWAKE
The moment I open my eyes after a dream, images play on the projector of my mind as the dream slowly disappears from my memory. As dreams are fleeting, the best way to harness them is to jot down the images or events as soon as you awaken. Keep a notebook either on the bed or on your night table for easy access and scribbles. When you get a dream journal, I suggest you find one without lines because when you’re half asleep, you’re unlikely to write legibly. You need room to be messy and unbound. Remember this journal is just for you, so you can be uncensored as you recount your dream. Whatever strange or beautiful dreams visit you at night, write them down even if they don’t make sense. If you wait too long to capture the dream, you will most likely forget it. Also, try to be consistent with tracking your dreams—this may help you train your mind to better remember what you dreamt.
PROCESS YOUR DREAMS
Before you Google what that ocean dream meant, write down what it means to you. Freewrite about your feelings and your impressions. There are countless books about dream interpretation, but dreams are ultimately personal; our feelings are the best deciphering tool. If you focus on what you felt during the dream, you will have a better understanding of its meaning.
Processing your dreams through writing can be done later on in the day, especially if you don’t have time to do this in the morning. This step involves journaling as a tool for self-discovery. You can identify ideas and images to excavate later when it’s time to write a poem.
SCHEDULE WRITING TIME
I’ve written plenty of poems from fleeting dreams. If the dream is impactful, I’m often inspired to write a poem that same day. That way I capture the essence and feeling the dream gave me. Writing becomes a release of those feelings lingering throughout the day. We’re all carrying forgotten dreams that want to be remembered: dreams that want to become poetry.
If you can, schedule writing time the same day you experience a dream, preferably at night before bed. Writing about your dream around bedtime could help you dream about the same subject again or give you additional insights while you’re sleeping.
REVIEW YOUR FREEWRITING
After you’ve written a poem inspired by your dream, read your journal entries. Reviewing the uncensored material about your dream could spur lines or associations and propel your creative writing. As dreams speak to us in images, we can use that imagery to enhance our poetry and provide original metaphors and similes.
In his craft book Zen in The Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury indicates that most of his best material comes from stream-of-conscious writing where he lets his subconscious mind roam free for his first drafts. He believes the subconscious mind is an unlimited storage of information and source of inspiration, making intuitive connections and associations. Only after he’d written his novels would he realize how many creative ideas his subconscious mind had given him—including ideas for his bestselling novel, Fahrenheit 451. In Zen in The Art of Writing, Bradbury gives this insight: “I write all of my novels and stories, as you have seen, in a great surge of delightful passion. Only recently, glancing at the novel, I realized that Montag is named after a paper manufacturing company. And Faber, of course, is a maker of pencils! What a sly thing my subconscious was, to name them thus. And not tell me!”
EDIT AND REVISE THE POEM
Editing and revising the poem is the last step. This is when you can turn to Google, articles, and books about dream symbolism. For your poem to be unique, it’s important to leave outside interpretations until the end. You can definitely get inspiration from books, but turning to them too soon can distort your personal interpretation. Once you finish the poem, you can record it as video or audio and share it on Instagram or social media.
Dreams are beautiful gifts life gives us—and what’s even more beautiful is for your dreams to become poetry. I’ll leave you with a video I made of Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Dream Within a Dream.” I hope you sleep with plenty of sweet dreams that turn into creative material for your poetry.