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How Dreaming at Night Inspires Famous Writers

Some successful writers believe that dreaming at night is the heart and soul of good writing – while others can’t remember their dreams at all!  Here’s a roundup of how dreams inspire some famous writers…and a dreamy question for you, fellow scribes.

First, a quip from the great writer Isabel Allende:

“You write a book and it’s like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean,” says Allende in Writers Dreaming. “You don’t know if it will ever reach any shore. And sometimes it falls in the hands of the right person.”

And it’s not just books! Your “message in a bottle” can be an article, blog post, comment on a blog post, or even a Tweet. Writers can send – and receive – messages all the time. (Of course, the downside is message overload!)

The following excerpts about how dreaming at night inspires famous writers are from the wonderful book Writers Dreaming: William Styron, Anne Rice, Stephen King, and 23 Other Writers Talk About Their Dreams and the Creative Process by Naomi Epel…

How Dreaming at Night Inspires Famous Writers

Maya Angelou on dreaming and writing: “I do believe dreams have a function,” says Angelou in Writers Dreaming. “I don’t see anything that has no function, not anything that has been created. I may not understand its function or be able to even use it, make it utile, but I believe it has a reason. The brain is so strange and wondrous in its mystery. I think it creates a number of things for itself – it creates launching pads and resting places – and it lets steam off and it reworks itself.”

Sue Grafton on dreaming and writing: “I have never seen any particular connection between the circumstances of my life and the dreams themselves,” says Grafton in Writers Dreaming. “I do believe that often our dreams carry our emotional states, so that you can look at a dream in terms of its overriding emotion…but I have not been able to see any direct connection between events.”

Stephen King on dreaming and writing: “Every now and then dreams come in handy,” says King in Writers Dreaming. “When I was working on It – which was this really long book – a dream made a difference….I just took the dream as it was and put it in the book. Dropped it in. I didn’t change anything.”

Maurice Sendak on dreaming and writing: “Dreams don’t ever directly influence my work in terms of plot, movement, or even idea. Never,” says Sendak in Writers Dreaming. “What dreams do is raise the emotional level of what I’m doing at the moment. They add color or counterpoint to the work, acting as an almost symphonic accompaniment to what I’m doing.”

Amy Tan on dreaming and writing: “The kind of imagination I use in writing, when I try to lose control of consciousness, works very much like dreams,” says Tan in Writers Dreaming. “The subconscious takes over and it’s fun. I discover things I could never pull up if I were really trying to. When I get into a dream world I can create fiction by going down surprising pathways.”

There are many more stories of how dreaming at night inspires famous writers; if you’re interested in reading more, I’m happy to post another article like this in a week or two. Just let me know below!

Is your progress or success as a writer affected by your dreams? I remember my dreams almost every night and I often talk and walk in my sleep. Just last night, I saw a nest of snakes on the ceiling above our bed – and two were slithering down to me. I leapt out of bed and ran, not waking up until I was halfway down the hallway. I don’t know if I’ll ever write about that nest of snakes…but it’s there, in my subconscious, waiting to be used…

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Do you dream at night – and does it inspire your writing?

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19 thoughts on “How Dreaming at Night Inspires Famous Writers”

  1. Thanks for this great selection of quotes. I just bought this book on the weekend, and am finding it fascinating. As a non-fiction writer I’ve never really thought about drawing on my dreams, but already I’m beginning to see some possibilities…

  2. This is great, thanks for the tips on remembering your dreams!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..8 Ideas for Blog Posts or Magazine Articles at Halloween =-.

  3. Here are three tips for remembering your dreams, from HowStuffWorks.com.

    1. When you go to bed, tell yourself you will remember your dreams. (Author’s note: In researching this article, I found that thinking about dreams before I fell asleep actually made me remember having them, so this step did work in my experience.)

    2. Set your alarm to go off every hour and half so you’ll wake up around the times that you leave REM sleep — when you’re most likely to remember your dreams. (Or, drink a lot of water before you go to bed to ensure you have to wake up at least once in the middle of the night!)
    Keep a pad and pencil next to your bed.

    3. Try to wake up slowly to remain within the “mood” of your last dream.

    I hope these tips make you better writers 🙂


  4. I hear you, Marly — my dreams don’t often inspire great writing, either.

    But I have had dreams that I’ve marveled at for, like, two days afterward…..I really have to start writing them down!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..10 Tips for Interviewing Sources for Articles =-.

  5. I dream at night, but never remember the dreams long enough so they don’t inspire my writing. And when I do remember them, they’re pretty boring.

  6. Thanks for your comments, JLEck and Angela!

    Phil, I think some people are just not night-time dreams — but they can still be successful writers, of course.

    My dreams are most vivid and memorable when I get a good night’s sleep. If you want to dream more (or start dreaming!), you might try getting a full eight hours’ sleep (or however much you need to wake up without an alarm clock, feeling rested).

    You could also look into how nutrition affects the brain, which could affect the dreaming process…I’m not sure if there’s anything there, but I do know that when some people eat certain foods or go to bed with a full stomach, their dreams are affected! It might be worth exploring.

    Sweet dreams,

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..5 Tips for Writing Great Conclusions =-.

  7. I sometimes stay awake so long that I doze for a moment. It is amazing what the mind will come up with when you are in that state;) Daydreams squared!

    JLEck’s last blog post..Rush Limbaugh: The Republican Frontman?

  8. That’s very cool, Dana. Your subconscious is a powerful thing, and I’m glad it’s so active 🙂

    I hope your writing went smoothly!

    Laurie PK’s last blog post..Published Authors on Dreaming, Writing, and Creating

  9. After I wrote my comment last night, I went to bed and actually had the most amazing dream! I woke up and on my morning run I kept going over it in my head, planning what to write. Can you believe that?! Time to get typing!

  10. After I had a couple of dreams that led to brilliant article ideas (which haven’t sold yet), I put a pad of paper and a special pen that provides its own blue light for writing in the dark by my bed…and haven’t had a “worthwhile” dream since. I remember my dreams almost every night, but don’t bother writing them down because they don’t seem valuable.

    Mind you, the very act of writing them down and reading them the next day would probably spark some ideas that I hadn’t thought of! It’s not necessarily the dream itself that inspires writing or creation…it’s what flows after the dream has been explored.

    Cool! Thanks for your comment Dana, it’s opened a whole new world for me 🙂


    Laurie PK’s last blog post..Creating Multiple Streams of Income for Writers

  11. Dreams play a very significant part in my writing. I have to sleep with my computer or at least a pen and paper nearby because a few times I’ve had very well developed plots come to me in vivid dreams. Quite a surreal experience!

    Dana’s last blog post..Birthday, Part One

  12. Laurie,

    I am one of those unfortunate souls who never remember their dreams. 🙁

    Interesting to note the authors that do, and how they use them, though.



    Tumblemoose’s last blog post..4 traits of successful children’s book writers

  13. My dreams do inspire me. I have had two dreams, one gave me the title of my future novel and the other a title for one of my character’s names. Now if only I could dream the “whole” novel, that would be great. LOL

    Ana V.’s last blog post..Why We Get Writer’s Block (And How To Overcome It)

  14. There must be a connection between this writer’s work and her dreams, if only from a creative aspect (and not content.) Last night I dreamed I was talking with Bill Cosby. He said he was Dr. Bill Cosby and I asked him “as in MD or Ph.D?” He smiled, and answered “Ph.D.” Myself and two other writers were interviewing him. I told him I’d met his youngest child Erin when she interned at a radio station where I worked, and asked how she was doing. He remembered when Erin worked at the station (it actually happned) and he (Bill) and I continued a pleasant conversation. He choose me for me the interview.

  15. Great, glad you’re interested! One never knows if one’s message in a bottle will reach the shore…

    I’ll post another article about successful writers and their dreams in one week from today.

    Thanks for your comment, c.a. — and I love your evil parent post! Your “evil” ways will raise up great kids 🙂


    Laurie PK’s last blog post..How Dreaming at Night Inspires Famous Writers