Dreams – Great to Journal, Not Good as Your Story

One of the first lectures in my first Creative Writing class in college was to never write about your dreams. Well at least if you do write about them, don’t turn them into the class for a critique and certainly don’t send it as a story to the college literary magazine for possible publication.


Well, the professor said because we don’t always know what our dreams mean, or are aware of the symbolism because we’re so close to the dream. I heard, blah blah blah. Because I was barely 20 years old and I knew everything (sigh, I wish I was still knew everything). Here’s how I learned this particular lesson because I was too arrogant to actually listen to my professor. I had a story due and had no idea what to write. I decided to sleep on it. I had this great dream that seemed to me like some awesome mysterious fable and I knew when I woke up this story was going to rock the world of my class (I know, I know, keep in mind, I was 20 at the time). I was pumped, I was energized and I wrote my heart out. It was a story about secret passages leading to a hidden cavern. The heroin died by drowning and every time someone entered the secret passage by canoe she haunted the cavern with her eerie moans. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

I turn it in.

No one says anything. Seriously, the lack of a response was disturbing. The professor did reiterate that it is a bad idea to write out our dreams so literally. I do believe she sighed afterwards. They just didn’t get it, but surely the crew at the literary magazine would, so I sent it to them. When I didn’t hear anything, I just assumed they didn’t get it either. Because it couldn’t have been my story…my brilliant story.

A few months later I was at a writing conference and saw a fellow student who also happened to be on the literary magazine committee. I asked him what was up about my story. And he asks, “the one with the sexual imagery?” A flood of images clouded my mind turning my cheeks bright red and I realized I just wrote surreal porn and shared it with my teacher, my fellow students, and the entire committee of the school’s literary magazine – truly a Freudian nightmare. In this case a canoe was — well — NOT just a canoe. Not my proudest moment.

Dream journaling can be inspiring; can help you work things out; and can help you with images as dreams can be amazingly vivid. Dreams can help in writing and I would never discourage anyone from writing about them in.your.own.private.journals. But, like my very experienced and insightful professor from 20 plus years ago, I suggest that’s all you do and don’t write the dream out verbatim as a story.

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