Ask the Subjects :: In Your Dreams

So, just wondering; perhaps you are vivid dreamers….perhaps not.
Maybe you dream in colour….maybe not.
Are your dreams typically archetypal or styled to your own symbology… do you think your dreams will change and influence your work while inside your own private little Idaho?


When I was young, I dreamed of Frankenstein monsters and vampires and stuff like that (not always scary – I rarely have nightmares) but as an adult my unconscious has developed its own iconography. Work-related stress, for instance, triggers dreams of working in the CD Shop, a retail environment I left a decade and a half ago. Anxieties about place lead to dreams about travel. That kind of thing. (Not very interesting, I’m afraid.)

That said, there are two types of dream that have recurred all my life. One concerns toilets, the other a haunted house. The Toilet Dream is less about looking for a loo than finding a really distinctive loo–either the most disgusting toilet you can possibly imagine, or one so strange it’s hard to see how it could even function. In one dream I remember vividly, I descended into rough-hewn caverns where one stood on the lip of a vast crevasse, at the bottom of which stood golden statues with arms upraised. Go figure.

The Haunted House is more interesting in the sense that the house–always different–and the ghost that inhabited it used to scare the crap out of me, but slowly, over time, I resisted that fear, rejected the ghost, and slowly tamed the dream, so it no longer freaks me out. In fact, in one of the dreams I was acting as a tour guide, pointing out the places the ghost used to scare me. So that’s a positive outcome, whatever it means.

Sean Williams

I often have intense dreams that feel more like real-time life/memories, but while I am full of their emotions, tastes and tactility on waking, they seldom hold for long. Sometimes their loss hangs over me, like I have forgotten something on leaving home but can’t quite place what it was.

Many years ago – and for many years –  I had repetitive ‘Buffy’ dreams (yes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a series which I believe Sean will be bringing along for our viewing pleasure). I think they were anxiety dreams as I was always under attack, but I was also always in the Buffy role, rescuing someone else (and myself) from whatever threat arose. This resulted in me waking feeling unnerved at being in quite dangerous physical conflict but also quite hyped that I was playing the strong female role, protecting both myself and others. I rarely have those dreams now, which I kinda miss. Maybe they’ll come back in the lab.

Fee Plumley

It’s rare that a whole story idea will come to me in a dream, but I often use dreams to solve any problems I might be having, in a semi-lucid way. I usually have an hour or two awake in the night when I am thinking about work and after that I might dream about the book I’m working on. Practicing dreaming is important to me and I get quite annoyed with myself if my dreams are banal. A recent example involved flying over an island which was caught up in environmental crisis. Then I popped over to LA to visit a friend. Often simple wish fulfilment is illuminating.

Daydreaming is more important to me than night-dreaming, generally speaking, and my subconscious tends to be a very active participant in my work, if not the driver of it – I spend a lot of time staring into the middle distance. The higher order thinking, like critical judgement, comes in later, although it is probably 80% of the work. I find that being online a lot makes my daydreaming mind shut down a bit – it becomes hard to cultivate that idle emptiness when you have an infinite number of links before you – I ration my connectedness. I’m hoping there will be a payoff to the lack of internet in the lab.

I don’t remember significant dreams every night, and I don’t make a great deal of effort to remember them, though I have tried writing them down at various times in my life. I once attempted to make a map of their geography, which had some odd feedback effects. I have come to feel that a relationship of unquestioning trust is the best approach to my subconscious: a sort of, ‘you do your job, and I’ll do mine’ approach.

The more I chase the mystery of creativity, the more it feels like it might be an illusion, or a construct. I’m very curious about this, but maybe the unquestioning trust is a better approach. I suppose we call it faith, though it might equally be wilful ignorance. Because there’s always a fear that if you know too much about what’s going on you’ll lose the essential mystery of your own work, and with it the reason you keep coming back. Dreams play the very useful role of constantly reminding me of the inexplicability, and inexhaustibility, of my own mind.

Jennifer Mills

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