I’m completely stuck on this project… All my inspiration has vanished..! That blank page is slowly killing me: what on earth do I write next?
When you notice yourself thinking these kinds of thoughts, don’t throw out your half-written masterpiece.
Instead, take a nap.
The dreaming mind is gifted at combining unexpected associations and generating original ideas and solutions. Many stories of creative inspiration arise from dreams or the hypnagogic period where images spring to life before our eyes as we hover on the cusp of sleep. In Naomi Epel’s wonderful book Writers Dreaming, horror writer Stephen King explains how his dreaming mind comes up with suitably chilling solutions to his plot problems. Vampire writer Anne Rice tells how her lucid flying dreams show her how it must feel to be a flying vampire.
Lucid dreamers have an advantage in that they can ask the dream directly for help as soon as they become aware that they are dreaming. They can engage consciously with the images and experiences their dreaming mind comes up with, and co-create the dream, guiding it towards a solution to a particular project. Working in tandem with your lucid dreams is like working with a creative genius at your side!
My PhD research explored exactly this function of lucid dreaming, and to test it out as I went along, I drew on my lucid dreams for creative inspiration in all areas of the novel writing process: I summoned my novel characters in lucid dreams and asked them questions, I plucked unusual lucid images and fed them into the book, I initiated experiences I couldn’t have in waking reality, like the heady mingling of the senses known as synaesthesia, where colours can be tasted on the tongue. I searched for ideas and plot development tricks in my lucid dreams, and wove my experiences into the novel.
Breathing in Colour
“Your child is missing – presumed dead.”
Hours after receiving the phone call that every mother dreads, Alida Salter flies to India to search for her backpacker daughter. The discovery of disturbing collages in Mia’s hotel makes Alida suspect a connection between the disaster which fractured their relationship thirteen years ago, and Mia’s recent, mysterious disappearance.
Mia is no ordinary girl. Growing up with the sensory condition synaesthesia – where she sees the world in a kaleidoscope of shapes, colours and smells – she has gone through life with the vivid imagination of an artist, but for years she has shouldered an overwhelming burden of guilt.
It has been a difficult relationship, but now comes the toughest test of all… Alida must find the courage to trust her maternal instincts, or lose her daughter forever.
Stupendous. Simply incredible. I found one of the book’s characters, Mia (a child with synaesthesia), totally intoxicating – whenever she appeared, it was like peeking into another’s dreaming, sharing their dreamspace, letting loose sensory boundaries, floating in light. Mia was like mind candy, the kind that explodes in your mouth, blows out your taste buds, but leaves you wanting more. A beautiful, marvellous novel, which I hope will have a sequel.
Robert Waggoner, author of Lucid Dreaming, Gateway to the Inner Self
Clare Jay’s prose is compelling and her debut is impressive. She is a remarkable new talent. Breathing In Colour is lyrical and emotive, it draws the reader into the narrative with urgency. Expect big things from Clare Jay in the future.
Cherie Federico, Editor of Aesthetica magazine
Her husband’s dreams are her family’s nightmare…
When Olivia’s husband Carlos begins having violent nightmares in which he leaps, fighting, from his bed and rampages through the house, her family’s idyllic life in Lisbon is shattered. Things escalate when Carlos unwittingly injures Olivia and Leo, their seven-year-old son.
But what is causing the warm-hearted, gentle Carlos to have such explosive nightmares?
While Leo retreats further into an imaginary world, it’s a question that sends Olivia – desperate to protect her son and rescue her floundering family – into the depths of her husband’s childhood, where she uncovers a secret so shocking it has held Carlos in its powerful grip for almost thirty years.
When I was writing Dreamrunner, I was also pregnant, so birth was my story deadline.
There was no time for procrastination, no time for plot hiccups or blank page syndrome. I needed to know what it felt like on a deep, emotional level, to have one’s normally gentle husband leap from the bed and rampage around the house attacking furniture. Fast asleep, but dangerously violent. How did it feel?
In a series of dreams, some non-lucid, some semi-lucid, others fully lucid, I found out just what it felt like to be the innocent bed partner of someone with a violent sleep disorder.
These dreams were disturbing; not only because of their violent content but because I would sometimes even wake up moving my limbs in my sleep – something I rarely do. After one dream I woke to find myself actually sitting upright in bed, reaching a hand out to the bedside lamp and feeling incredibly disoriented.
In sleep disorders like RBD (REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder) the normal paralysis function of the body is over-ridden, which is why people can physically enact their dreams even though they are asleep. People have driven cars while asleep, jumped out of windows and injured themselves, swam in lakes.
My dreams were somehow showing me how this was possible.
I was fascinated to see the way dream actions can become waking ones, but I was really relieved when those experiences stopped. They were unsettling. Still, they allowed me to write the novel with a new understanding of sleep disorders, or ‘parasomnias’, and I was under the skin not only of the bed partner, but of Carlos himself, who was suffering from these violent nightmare enactments.
You have truly written the “ultimate Parasomnia novel”.It was a heartwarming story. You have certainly served the sleep medicine field very well, and in particular the area of Parasomnias, by raising vital awareness about this seemingly obscure – but in fact highly prevalent – set of sleep disorders that can wreak havoc on personal and family lives. I will be singing the praises of your novel.
Carlos Schenck, MD, author of SLEEP: The Mysteries, the Problems and the Solutions