Every artist has bad days, a bad month, or even a bad year.
In these periods, it may seem that creativity has abandoned us. No matter what we try, we can’t think of a fresh angle, so we circle back again and again into a stale routine. Or we feel empty, tired, and thoroughly uninspired. How can we re-fill the well with original ideas?
One way of doing this is through lucid dreaming.
When I was writing my first novel, Breathing in Colour, I was stuck on the voice of one of the main characters, a teenager called Mia. I knew she needed to be different in some way, but I couldn’t get it right. Every time I tried to write in her voice, it came out wooden and rigid; nothing like what I wanted.
Then I had a lucid dream where I was lying on a beach and I knew without looking that the sand in my fist was luminous orange, because I could feel the orangeness through the pores of my dream skin. When I awoke from this unusual lucid dream, I did some online searching and discovered synaesthesia, a sensory condition where musical notes might be experienced as having different flavours, or colours felt as sensations on the skin.
After that lucid dream, I knew that Mia was a synaesthete. I began to have lucid dreams where I deliberately tried to experience synaesthesia, to help me write in her voice. The result was multi-sensory imaginative writing which I had never produced before.
In lucid dreams, we can experience sensations and events that we have never experienced before in waking life.
Take floating, for example. Or flying Superman-style. How often in waking life have we jumped into the air and floated effortlessly upwards? The closest experience would be going to the bottom of a swimming pool and pushing up lightly. And as for flying like Superman, many of us have done it virtually, by projecting our imagination into simulated computer games, but who has actually felt the sensation of flying alone through the sky unaided by equipment? In dreams, we can do this and feel our skin tingling as we zoom along. Such experiences can be translated into art or expressed through music.
Lucid Dreaming for Deeper Creativity
- Try something new: in dreams, we are less inhibited. When we become lucid, we can try out any art form with full conscious awareness but without fear of failure. A new dance routine; an oil painting; rock music; the Tai Chi form; parachute jumping; spontaneous poetry. We can practise a business talk or a kick-boxing manoeuvre.
- Ask the dream to help you and it will respond. In one lucid dream I asked: ‘Show me something creative!’ and spotted a big treasure chest lolling open behind a tree. Inside were colourful materials – ribbons, wool, glitter, shells, silk strips and so on. This lucid dream inspired me to do a collage using these materials for the first time.
- Observe the dream as it creates itself. Simply standing still when you become lucid and watching the dream as it continues around you can be an awesome experience. It’s like watching a film of your mind at play (REF thesis).
- Give an initial impetus. If you want to guide the dream towards a specific creative project, make a verbal request when you get lucid (How should my finished sculpture look?) and then relax, wait and see how the dream responds.
- Work on a nightmare. When people with creative blocks tell me that they only have a ‘dream scrap’ to work with, I always say: Well, that’s OK because you can get a lot out of a dream scrap. If they tell me they ‘only’ have a nightmare to work on, I know that this will generate deep creativity for sure. A nightmare is compressed creative energy. Free that energy in a lucid dream or work on it while awake and your art will transform.
- Stay flexible. If you try to force waking life creativity, it often responds by shutting down. It can be the same in a lucid dream. Go with the flow while keeping your goal in mind, and the rewards will be rich.
What if all this sounds great but lucid dreaming doesn’t come easily to you? My Lucid Writing technique is a waking version of lucid dreaming and can help people to access deeper levels of creativity while awake.