Dreaming and the Creative Writing Process

The clock by my bed read 3:30 a.m. when I jerked awake. I fought to untangle my legs from the sheets while trying to clear the fog from my brain. Why did I wake up? I wondered. I shuffled into the kitchen to make a cup of hot tea and as I inhaled the fragrant steam, a story formed in my mind.

Grabbing a pen and notebook, I settled into my favorite comfy chair and watched the story appear on the paper. My hand was doing the writing, but the words flowed from an inner place in my mind that I didn’t realize was even there.

Most writers have experienced something similar. I wanted to know how the process works, so I did a bit of research. I discovered that dreaming is a known quantity in the creative writing process.

In her book, Writers Dreaming: Twenty-six Writers Talk About Their Dreams and the Creative Process, Naomi Epel says many “famous authors . . . all discuss the nature and significance that dreams play in their writing.” Dreaming and writing are not only a natural combination, but an effective one as well.

Many writers try to get into a semi-dream state in order to create. Carol Gift Page described this process in a class she taught at writer’s conferences.

Donald M. Murray, in his book, Write to Learn, asserts that writers don’t know what they know until they write it. He says the best way to write is to blurt an idea out onto the page no matter how tangled up or mangled it may appear. Then he instructs writers to begin to shape it into something beautiful using the tools of the craft.

My ideas seem to lurk in my subconscious mind waiting for the right moment to jump into my conscious stream of thought. Most often this happens while I am sitting in front of a computer, but sometimes it happens in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.

Jesus Christ is the Creator creating through me. He creates the stories and I obey by writing them down. In Psalm 45:1 God says, “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” (NKJV) The dream state is when He is able to by-pass myself and my own thoughts to place His ideas into my imagination.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose imagination is stayed on Thee.” (RSV) When we allow Jesus Christ to harness our imaginations, we’ll have the ideas He gives us. Then, when we use our minds to focus on the details, the whole project is brought into subjection to Him and Jesus is glorified, which is the real reason for writing.

The next time I wake up with a story pushing for release, I’ll know where it came from. And I’ll rejoice that I am being used for the Father’s plan. God gives the inspiration, and he expects me to do the work of crafting it into good writing. Then he will work out his plan for the piece. I can trust him.

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About kathryngraves

Kathryn has a B.A. in Psychology and has been a pastor's wife for over 25 years. She and her husband are the parents of two grown sons and a daughter-in-law. She is a writer and speaker whose goal is to help others discover the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ Jesus. Her publishing credits include CBN.com, Drama Ministry, a story in an Essence compilation book, and Kansas/Nebraska Baptist Digest. She is available to speak to women's groups.

4 thoughts on “Dreaming and the Creative Writing Process

  1. I love it when that happens, don’t you? Freewriting helps me when I’m blocked, too. I prefer a pen and notebook pad for my freewriting. And I just start writing until I find my message. Great post!

  2. Very interesting post! I hadn’t considered the important of dreams. Best of luck in your writing and thank you for sharing

  3. Oh, yes, I relate! Often I’ll wake up with ideas and words running through my brain. Puzzle pieces falling into place. This also happens when I’m having my quiet time with God in the morning. I keep a pencil and paper handy and jot down what God seems to be telling me. What a glorious experience! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Amen! I’m so thankful for God’s guidance and inspiration in my life. Thanks for the reminder, Kathryn!

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