How to capitalise on the power of dreams

Creativity isn’t confined to the waking life – many musicians, artists, and writers have spoken of how ideas have come to them in their sleep
By Neil King
Wed 18 Dec 2013 02:22 PM

You might be surprised by how influential dreams have been in the creation of some of the world’s most notable artistic, sporting and business achievements.

Dreams provided Paul McCartney with the song Yesterday, Mary Shelley with the book Frankenstein, and Jack Nicklaus with the perfect golf swing.

The iconic flag paintings by Jasper Johns came from inspiration while sleeping, as were the plot for RL Stevenson’s story the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan.

The structure of benzene came to German chemist Kekule in his dreams, psychologist Otto Loewi won the Nobel Prize after dreams showed him how to prove his theory on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses, and Madame CJ Walker is cited by the Guinness Book of Records at the first female American self-made millionaire after building a cosmetics company on products which were devised in her dreams.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Significant numbers of studies have been carried out on the subject of sleep and creativity, with the results one particular study suggesting some sleep states are conducive to fluid reasoning and flexible thought.

Another study showed that participants were more likely to display enhanced humour while sleeping, to the point where they would create new jokes as well as paraphrase existing ones.

But for many people dreams disappear as soon as they wake, leaving them with little to no recollection of what their minds were creating, taking away any chance of capitalising on any potential revelations.

Which is where dream diaries come in.

The theory is that with the use of a simple pen and notepad, you can access the many wonders your sleep might produce.

It’s up to you how you do it, but the established basic method of keeping a dream diary is as follows:

•  Keep your notepad by your bedside and within easy reach. Dream details usually fade quickly after waking, so it’s important to record them immediately.

•  Keep a consistent format. Date each dream entry in the same way, and have a new page per dream.

• Be aware of how the dream is happening. For example, write in the present tense if it occurs in the present tense, and write in first-person if it’s happening in first-person. This will help put you back into the moment of the dream.

• Write every possible detail you remember, whether it’s the narrative, the location, colours, sounds, objects, characters, quotes, emotions, and so on. What are the significant images or symbol? What is the landscape like? Am you happy or sad? Who else is there with you?

Use drawings if you need too – not everything can be described in words. Consider keeping coloured pencils by your bedside.

• Don’t worry about spelling and grammar, just get the dream on paper. Title it, and make any footnotes of immediate thoughts, associations, patterns, etc that you notice.

• Whether straight away or later on, analyse the dream. Highlight symbols, characters or themes that stand out, extract ideas that mean something to you or you believe you could expand upon, and formulate a significance to the dream.

By aligning your dreams to your waking life, you may find breakthroughs to problems that have been holding you back, new ways of looking at issues or relationships, or new questions that you’d like to look at more closely.

Being an unorthodox approach to creativity, certainly in business, some people may feel dream diaries have no place in their company. But for those who embrace it, there could be award-winning ideas waiting to be unlocked from the chasms of their minds, or revelations about their leadership styles.

On a more simple and likely note, however, dream diaries can serve another function – especially for start-ups.

During those early days where time can be precious, thoughts can be incoherent, and pressures can be intense, a dream diary can help remind you what you’re really thinking while at your most relaxed.

Away from the meeting room, away from the investment pitch, and away from the drawing-board, your sleep state can allow you reflect without a number of other voices trying to be heard.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll write a best-selling novel as a result, too?

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