How Do Dreams Help You Defeat the Creative Block Monster?

Paula writing closeup_smallWelcome to our Saturday post on Creativity. This week I feature a post on creativity and dreaming by guest columnist, Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, Story Muse and Dream Coach. How do you use dreams to enhance your creativity and defeat your creative block monster? Please share in the comments! And enjoy!


The process of creating is related to the process of dreaming although when you are writing you’re doing it and when you’re dreaming, it’s doing you.
— Robert Stone

Creative block and blank pages are no fun, especially if you have deadlines looming.  After 20 years of personal dreamwork, and more than ten years of teaching dreamwork to writers, I know that dreams are a great source of inspiration AND a wonderful weapon against the Creative Block Monster. Your spontaneous sleep dreams will often provide new ideas and insights.  Or you can incubate a dream, asking a specific question about your writing project before you go to sleep and see how your dreams answer.

But the first challenge is remembering those spontaneous or incubated sleep dreams.  One of the easiest ways to strengthen dream recall is by being alert to those dreams that come to you in that period between waking and sleeping and between sleeping and waking.  Use the time of falling asleep or waking up to catch images, thoughts, lists of words, or even the tune that is running unendingly through your head.

Strengthen your dream recall muscle by recording whatever shows up in that half drowsy state, even if you only remember one image, like a boy in a sailor suit.  Give the feeling, image, or song a title.  Sometimes, this process will trigger the memory of a dream earlier that night.

weaving-scardamaliaBe patient with yourself.  Just as with writing, different people have different dreaming styles.  Some people are active and busy dreamers, remembering several dreams in one night, especially around the full and new moons, while others will only occasionally remember a dream.  Practice, though, does make a difference.

If you have trouble recalling your dreams, date your paper or the page in your journal for the next day and write an affirmation that you will dream and upon waking, remember your dreams.  Keep the paper or journal close to hand so you can stay in a relaxed twilight state upon waking.

When you do wake from a dream, don’t move.  Let me repeat—don’t move!  When you move your head after a dream, something about the change in gravity seems to whisk that dream back to the Land of Nod.
Remaining still, gather your dream back to you.  I usually do a replay of my dream at least two or three times to make sure it has completely registered before I rollover, or sit up to record the dream in my journal.

Here’s how to record your dreams:

1.   Give your dream a title.  This sharpens the dream image and your emotional response to it.  Enter the title and page number on the Table of Contents page of your journal or at the top of your paper.

2.   Record the dream in as much detail as memory and time allows.  Do not worry about grammar and punctuation (no inner critic here, please).  Record using present tense!  Number the pages for easy reference.

3.   Enter any significant symbol, character, or setting in separate sections of your journal. Over time, take note of repeating images or themes.

4.   Go back through the dream and underline any words or phrases that you respond to strongly or any images that strike your fancy.  You can journal more about these, or use cuttings from magazines, brochures, photos, etc., and paste them into place.  Add to the images with pencil or crayon.

5.   Pay attention to the people in your dreams.  They could be great characters for a story.  Many popular novelists, like William Styron (Sophie’s Choice) and Stephen King, have used characters from their dreams.

6.   Look at your dreamscapes.  You can use them for setting or mood.

Creative Block has a hard time defeating you when you record your dreams, because the dreams in your dream journal are a rich resource of creative ideas, images, metaphors, setting, mood, story line, conflict, and character that can be mined and referred to over and over again.

Dreams have been an important writer’s tool from Dante to Poe to Stephen King and Isabel Allende.  And best of all, they are a tool that is free and accessible to everyone, and the more you work with your dreams, the easier it will be to defeat the Creative Block Monster.


Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, Story Muse and Dream Coach, uses dreams, tarot, rituals and journals to help you discover your personal, creative, or business story, and deliver that story to the world.  She is a speaker, writer and the award-winning author of Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom.

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  • Zita Christian says:

    I’ve had the good fortune to work with Paula on several writing projects. Her insight into my dreams has been nothing short of amazing. Ever so gently, she blasts through the cookie-cutter dream dictionary interpretations and asks the questions that give me multiple “ah ha” moments.

  • Marj Hahne says:

    Since taking a couple of dream workshops with Paula, I’ve been able to mine (often with her emergency intervention) my dreams for what feels like divine feedback–information my monkey mind can’t deny because it’s so undeniably precise even in its metaphorical/symbolic language. It’s so reassuring to know that I can directly and immediately access information that I tend to misguidedly think is outside myself.

  • Beth Barany says:

    How wonderful Marj that you can directly and immediately access information that you tend to misguidedly think is outside yourself. Dreams are such powerful messengers from our deeper (higher?) self! I know there is truth in my dreams though I don’t lately remember them… The alarm wakes me. Paula would I’m sure suggest to not use an alarm to get the full benefit of our dreams. 🙂

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