Remember the dreams you have at night—they might be just the fuel your creative life needs.
by JP McLean
Do you dream when you sleep? I understand most people do, but not everyone can remember their dreams, or they lose the details rapidly once they wake.
When I was a kid, I suffered from nightmares. My younger sister teases me to this day about tucking into her bed in the middle of the night after I’d woken from a dream, terrified. I still have the occasional nightmare, but thankfully I can snuggle up to my husband now.
I usually remember my dreams, or at least the more vivid ones. Sometimes, I’m able to pick out events from my waking hours that contributed elements to my dreams. Last night, for example, I woke to the sound of torrential rain falling. Later, I dreamed about wading through waist-high water (although why I waded alongside Eric Braeden, a.k.a. Victor from The Young and the Restless, is still a mystery—I haven’t watched that show since my university days).
Some nights my dreams are jumbled nonsense, an endless parade of oddball events that goes on for what feels like the entire night. Despite that all-night feel, I’ve read that dreams last from only seconds to thirty minutes, but tell that to the bags under my eyes after a marathon nonsense-dream night.
When I run into a roadblock in my novel, I’ll take the problem to bed with me and ponder it while I drift off to sleep. More times than not, I wake up with the solution.
One of my favorite dreams is a recurring one I’ve had since childhood. In these recurring dreams, I can fly. Before you quirk a skeptical eyebrow at me, you might be surprised to learn that flying dreams are one of the five most reported recurring dreams. The others are falling, being chased, being back in school, and being unprepared for a test or an important event.
But it’s the recurring flying dream that holds my attention. It feels so real when it’s happening that occasionally I even experience that stomach drop that happens when you’re riding a roller coaster.
It was my fascination with these flying dreams that was the impetus to me becoming an author. One stormy west coast night, I thought I’d try to put into words the wonder that I felt while flying in my dreams. It took a few evenings, but after it was done, I wondered about the woman I wrote about who’d leapt off the deck and flown down the coast. Who was she? How’d she learn to fly? And how did she even know she could fly?
To keep my latest novel interesting, I threw in narcolepsy, a roommate who’s a hooker, a vengeful doctor, and a mysteriously disappearing chain of blood-red birthmarks.
The answers to those questions eventually turned into Secret Sky, the first in what is now a seven-book series called the Gift Legacy, which is about a secret society of people who can fly.
But my fascination with dreams didn’t stop there. My newest book, Blood Mark, which releases on October 19th, is the start of a brand-new series. Blood Mark tells the story of a woman whose dreams of the past become more and more real until she finds herself physically present in the dreams, able to touch and hear and interact with people and objects from the past. A recipe for chaos, for sure. And to keep things interesting, I threw in narcolepsy, a roommate who’s a hooker, a vengeful doctor, and a mysteriously disappearing chain of blood-red birthmarks.
Dreams have fueled my writing in other ways as well. When I run into a roadblock in my novel, struggling with an unruly character or plot problem, I’ll take the problem to bed with me and ponder it while I drift off to sleep. More times than not, I wake up with the solution.
I’m now outlining the next Blood Mark books. Some days it feels like I’m dragging the characters by the hair with one hand and fighting the plot with the other.
But I’m not worried. Sleep will eventually come, and with it, my dreams, which truly are my wings.
JP McLean (Jo-Anne) writes urban fantasy and supernatural thrillers which have received honorable mentions from the Whistler Independent Book Awards and the Victoria Writers Society. Reviewers call her books addictive, smart, and fun. JP is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. She is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener, and a voracious reader. She lives with her husband on Denman Island on Canada’s west coast. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking dishes that look nothing like the recipe photos or arguing with weeds in the garden.
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