Does it work when Julie Cohen tries to train her dreams?

 It’s my pleasure to welcome to the Dream a Little Dream blogathon today Julie Cohen, whose novels are as smart and sassy as she.

Here’s Julie’s fab post:

For years now, I’ve been attempting to train my dreams. I’m a big believer in the power of the subconscious. It can bring buried anxieties to the surface when it’s time to tackle them; it can also solve problems in ways that your conscious brain would never think of. In an attempt to harness this power, I often make myself think about a particular problem before I go to sleep, as I’m relaxing and close enough to sleep so that it won’t keep me awake, but will tick over in my head as I slip into dreams.

It doesn’t always work. I don’t always remember my dreams, and when I do, they’re most often about completely random things or mundane anxieties like going out in my pyjamas in public or worrying whether I’ve remembered to close the window in the rain. But every now and then, especially when I’m deep in a story, this technique comes up trumps

When I was writing my second book, I couldn’t get hold of my heroine. I knew she had some sort of major problem in her past, but I couldn’t work out what it was. Without this key, nothing that she was doing was making any sense. Then one night, I dreamt that she was standing on a stage, holding a microphone. She raised the microphone to her lips and she told me, out loud, what her problem was.

And it was perfect. It fitted the story, her behaviour, her situation, her relationships with the hero and other characters. Everything. 

With my latest paperback, The Summer of Living Dangerously, something similar happened. I couldn’t quite work out the relationship between the heroine and her ex-husband, which is a relationship that’s central to the story. I was staying alone in a cottage in Dorset at the time, trying to write as much as possible, and I went for a long walk in the afternoon and wore myself out and had to go to bed early. I thought it was wasted writing time. But I dreamed a scene that night between my heroine and her ex-husband, before he was her ex-husband, before she even realised she loved him. They were in a summer field, surrounded by long grass and flowers, drinking warm red wine.

That dreamed-of scene became, to me, the heart of the novel. It gave me my title and even influenced the cover design.

So dreams can be very useful. I always think of the story of how Lewis Carroll awoke from a dream with one perfect nonsense line in his head: “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.” And he had to write the entire poem, “The Hunting of the Snark”, to figure out what that line, the last line, meant.

If it’s good enough for Carroll, it’s good enough for me. Now I just have to sell that book about going out in my pyjamas in public.

 To be in with a chance of winning a Julie Cohen book, comment and tell us your most embarrassing dream. Julie will pick a winner. Or, I suppose, you could send in a pic of you wearing your pyjamas in public …

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Does it work when Julie Cohen tries to train her dreams?

  1. My most embarrassing dream is unprintable! And I don’t wear pjs. But my second most embarrassing dream involved being interrupted by the receptionist of a place I was reviewing while I was about to get close and personal with The Fella….

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  2. When I was of primary school age, I frequently dreamt that I was sitting in class, duly paying attention to the teacher. I would then look down and see that I was – not naked as many other people dream – but sitting up in my half of a wooden bunk-bed; my duvet in a lumpy mess and me dressed in my very flowery, high-necked, hand-me-down nightie. I would look up to see all of my class mates pointing and staring at me and then move to pull my duvet to cover my modesty, only to find it had vanished, along with my nightie! Perhaps this denotes that as a child I felt I had no privacy due to sharing with my other two sister!

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  3. As a hypnotherapist, I am obviously a convert on the power of the subconsious. I too have experimented with using dreams to gain the solution to problems, even before I became a writer. Putting a piece of paper with your dilemma written on it can help focus your mind before sleep, as can rereading your manuscript up to the point of the bit you need to know before sleep. I’d love to read your book. Mx

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  4. Ooh my most embarrassing dream made me cringe for a long time! I was driving in a car round and round a roundabout, and couldn’t turn off it, when all of a sudden I realized I was start naked. Groups of people were gathering on the grass verges, pointing and laughing at me. Looking back it was fairly innocuous, but at the time, I was young and terrified.

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  5. Forgot to put my dream in! Lol. My most embarrasing dream was sunbathing topless and recognising my then boss looking down over a wall at me. Mx

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