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Dreaming about Creativity Fish

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

I’m in a restaurant and a waitress presents me with a plate with two plump tropical fish on it, one purple, the other yellow. Both are gasping for air and she hints that she’s going to pit them against each other, like a fight to the death. ‘No way!’ I say. Standing up with the plate, I go quickly to where there’s some water in a jar and splash the fish with it. They start to react and as they do, the strangest thing happens – for a moment they aren’t fish but babies and me stroking water around their mouths and necks brings them back to life. Then they’re fish again. I see an aquarium I can tip them into, and as they go into it I know that both of them will survive.

When I associated around this dream, I saw that it was about my two current creative ‘babies’; my third novel and my nonfiction book, which I’m trying to write simultaneously. For many weeks before this dream, I’d basically ignored the novel as I was working on the nonfiction book really intensively. And I kept hearing myself saying to friends, I’m not sure I can write two books at once and be a mother and teach my workshops and weekend courses! But this dream clarified for me that I’m not willing to let it become an either/or situation – a case of letting one book flourish while the other dies. No way!

The day after this dream, I sat down with my neglected novel and had a fabulous time getting back into it again. I felt fresh and revived, and the writing flew along. Novel scenes are so much faster to write than doing academic-style research and gathering sources! It was a breath of fresh air. So there you go – an example of how dreams can help us understand how we really feel about something, and galvanise our creativity. Just wanted to share it.

Dreamwriting… and the Lucid Artist

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

What happens when lucid dreaming is introduced to the artistic process? After years of working with lucid dreaming scientifically as part of my PhD and also on a personal and artistic level, I believe lucid dreaming and the ‘waking lucid dreaming’ of the artist’s trance can be powerful tools for artistic transformation.

The dreamer is surrounded by the equivalent of a film of her unconscious mind at play – an unquestionably stimulating artistic resource – and being able to say, ‘I’m dreaming this’ opens up further possibilities for exploration and experimentation.

One thing I love about lucid dreams is that, as Kelzer observes, ‘lucidity does not seem to act as an inhibitor of the unconscious’ (1987). Even in the most determinedly controlled lucid dream, there are always uncontrollable elements, so that the spontaneity of the dream shines through – the sky turns a defiant lime-green, or a novel character melts into a puddle of warm vanilla custard. It’s this spontaneity that gives us our most original creations, the brightest, boldest ideas to take with us back to waking reality and turn into art. So lucid dreaming seems to be a naturally creative state which can facilitate artistic endeavours irrespective of whether dream control is used, but it can also be drawn on as an actively creative space where lucidity enables the conscious, in-the-dream performance of artistic acts such as sculpture or musical composition.

If you’re an artist, when you become lucid you could get stuck in and draw a picture/throw a pot, or announce your intention to find the ‘magic box’ of images, ideas, and inspiration. Mine turned out to be a treasure chest lolling open behind a tree (I had to shoo away two big guard dogs to get at it though) and to my surprise it was bursting with material – scraps of silk, twines of coloured wool, armfuls of slippery saris, thick ribbons all in a sumptuous tangle. Soon after this dream, I did my largest collage yet, ‘Spiral Energy’, using all of the above materials.

‘All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.’ – Pablo Picasso. Solution: start lucid dreaming while awake 😎

New year, new book?

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

People keep asking me: new year, new novel? And though I’m trying (for my own sake) to focus on short stories, something that looks suspiciously like the plot for a novel keeps sneaking up on me whenever I slip into daydreaming. There are couples, secrets, and revelations… But when will I find time to write it? Life with an active 18-month-old is hectic and we’re also gearing up to move countries in June, which takes some organizing. Still, I’m managing to devour books so theoretically there is time to write something big.

I’ve read some great stuff recently – Fingersmith, The Reader, The Post-Birthday World, The Help, One Day, The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite, and short story collections by Helen Simpson, Ali Smith, Carol Joyce Oates and Ann Packer to name but a few. There’s so much brilliant writing out there and it never fails to excite and inspire me. I find myself thinking, that would be such an interesting subject to write on – I could do something like that, only different… The thing is, with novel writing it’s a question of narrowing the field down to what you really, really want and need to write about, as they’re so time-consuming. Someone suggested I write three or four detailed plots and then take my pick, and it’s a brilliant idea except I just don’t seem to work that way; the same cast of characters keep appearing in my mind’s eye and at some point soon I’ll just have to sit down with a pen and listen to them.

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