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Sleeping On Your Stories

Have you ever had a difficult time selecting just the “right” story to illustrate a presentation?  Here’s an approach that has helped me to make a selection.  Try sleeping on it.

Time spent dreaming can often be put to productive use.  Many are familiar with how a vivid nightmare gave Robert Lewis Stevenson the premise for THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.  I have also experienced dreams that provided ideas to work through my own creative writer’s block.

However, the “sleeping” mind can also be used to work through problems.  The flow of logic may be different, but dreams can be very useful in determining solutions…and what are our dreams but another version of storytelling?

The procedure I use is quite simple.  Approximately 30-minutes before retiring for the night, I go over the details of the issue before me.  I focus on what I consider to be the strong points and the weaker points.  I’m not judging them; merely making note of them.

Then, I go to sleep.

When the process works, I awaken to find that I’m considering an approach that I hadn’t considered before.  Most often, this is because my logical, daytime mind would judge an approach rather than allow it to develop and see where it goes.  My dreaming mind is content to allow the solution to unfold.

The results frequently fascinate me.  For instance, if I can’t come up with a story that is appropriate for a presentation, and I have been unsuccessful at modifying an existing story to make it “fit” my presentation, my expectation is that I will need to locate source material that will work…and that it will be someone else’s story.

What usually happens is that I recall an aspect from my own life that I had forgotten.  I will awaken in the morning wondering why that event had played itself out in my mind.  After all, it had been insignificant enough or old enough to be stored away in the mental version of dust-covered recesses.

It is usually later in the day, often when I am not thinking either about the dream or the presentation that needs to be completed, that my mind will put the two items together.  Yes, I have an “Ah-ha!” moment.  At that point, the real work of constructing an outline can begin.

I won’t pretend that this method works every time.  In fact, I will often have to attempt the process two or three times before I receive an insight that bears a favorable result.

Oh, yes, I should also mention that I’m not one of those people who sleep with a writing pad or an audio recorder next to me when I have inspirations in the middle of the night.  Yes, there have been many times that I recall having a night dream that seemed inspired…and it has disappeared upon awakening.

Still, if I pull myself into consciousness and write down what I was thinking, I find that I am unable to go back to sleep.  Since that often happens around 2:00 in the morning, that can really wear me out.

Also, I vividly recall jotting down a sentence about a dream that had inspired me as if it had been a revelation from a Divine Being.  I drifted back to sleep knowing that I would reawaken in the morning with the groundwork for The Great American Novel firmly established.

What had I written?  “The pink bubbles are coming out of the radiator.”

If you feel that you can use that idea for your own epic masterpiece, consider it my gift to you.

Thank you for reading.