The Lucid Writing technique

© Clare R Johnson, PhD

Inspiration. Creativity. Imagination. What’s the secret? How can we learn to access these whenever we want to?

For lucid dreamers, the answer is easy: ‘Wake up inside a dream.’

galleryMy PhD explored lucid dreaming in the creative writing process and I interviewed case studies who used their lucid dreams to help them develop art work, fiction and come up with highly original ideas. One artist, Epic Dewfall, told me how he walks into art galleries in his lucid dreams and looks at the pictures until he finds one he loves. Then he focuses on it in minute detail until he wakes up. Bingo! Fresh artwork direct from the creative unconscious.

In a lucid dream, anyone from business people to sculptors can access the creativity they need to move forward with a specific project. It can be as simple as asking the dream for help, or announcing the intention to find an answer to a particular problem and seeing what the lucid dream creates in response.

But what if someone tries night after night and still can’t seem to get lucid? Or they get lucid but can’t stay lucid?

Happily, there is a way of accessing the creativity of the lucid dream state while awake. This was one of the key discoveries of my doctoral work.

Lucid Writing

I developed the Lucid Writing technique as I drew on my own lucid dreams to develop plot ideas and imagery for my first novel, Breathing in Colour.

When I was deep into the creative writing, in what is known as ‘the zone’ where everything flows in a state of effortless inspiration, I noticed that simply conjuring up a vivid lucid dream in my mind’s eye would result in a spontaneous flow of dreamlike imagery. This imagery responded to thoughts and emotions in the same way as lucid dream imagery does: it morphed and changed into something new and all I had to do was write down what I saw, as fast as I could and with no judgement.

The results were startling – I had never written such vivid fictional scenes so quickly and easily. They seemed to arise directly from this creative balance of conscious and unconscious. Of course, afterwards they needed editing and shaping, but the ease with which they slotted into the novel was a boon. I learned to hold the threads of the novel lightly in my mind as I re-entered a lucid dream, and this resulted in a marriage of dream imagery with novel plot.

Leading a Lucid Writing session at a Gateways of the Mind conference in London

Leading a Lucid Writing session at a Gateways of the Mind conference in London

In 2005 I began teaching Lucid Writing and saw its effects on other people’s creative process. As people shared their experiences, it quickly became clear that Lucid Writing was not only useful for unlocking creativity and generating original ideas, but it was also an effective nightmare therapy due to its transformative power.

At a Yoga & Dreaming retreat in Portugal, I gave a Lucid Writing session to a lovely group while Atlantic breakers rolled in under a beautiful blue sky. Afterwards, a man shared his experience. He had worked on a recurring nightmare of a huge storm where a fleet of ships were swept inland and shipwrecked on the rocks while he stood on top of a cliff watching helplessly. In the guided visualisation, he had taken on board my comment that the dream imagery might transform into something else.

In his Lucid Writing he saw the fleet of ships lift magically into the air and fly right over his head to safety, averting disaster. For this man, this was a major breakthrough as he realised that even terrible things could change. Six months later on another course, he told me those nightmares had never returned and that his crippling creative block had vanished along with them.

How does Lucid Writing work? When deep, unconscious imagery changes, this changes our internal patterns of expectation (for example, expecting ‘terrible things’ to happen; or remaining in a victim mentality). We are liberated, and this frees up all kinds of energy, including creative energy.

Just as when lucid dreaming we are ‘awake while dreaming’, so in Lucid Writing we are ‘dreaming while awake’. These hybrid states of consciousness are wonderfully creative because our usual rational filters, judgements and critical thoughts are relaxed. The vast creativity of the unconscious is free to pour forth, and we have enough conscious engagement to guide it if we want to, or simply observe it with focused attention.