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May 12, 2010


The other night I watched NOVA's What are dreams? on Netflix.  During the program Dr. Deidre Barrett of Harvard talked about problem solving and dreams: "Just say to one's self, 'I want to dream about X tonight,' as you're drifting off to sleep, and in my research I find that about 50 percent of people can do that, if they just practice that for a brief period of time. And about half will get an answer that is really gratifying to whatever the issue is." 

I used to do that frequently--half day-dreaming and half problem-solving to put myself to sleep.  Sometimes I would have dreams that brought to life the characters or settings I was working on, and although they seldom related directly to the plotline, they did give me new insights.  During the past year or so, though, I've rarely remembered my dreams.  If I dream of characters or plots, I'm always seeing them from a distance and revising as I dream.  Something will play out, and I will think, "No, that's not right." and replay it a different way.  It's not nearly as enjoyable or useful as those dreams I used to have.

After the program, I decided I'd experiment and think about the scene I'm working on as I went to sleep.  I actually did dream about it and remembered the dream.  Score!  But, editing mode was kicking in even then.  One of the men in my dream threw a spear, and I thought, "He wouldn't throw that, he'd jab with it."  Fine.  Rewind.  He jabs.  The other man's shield cracks.  Dreaming brain complains, "Isn't his shield bronze?  It wouldn't crack."  And so on  . . .

Anyone else have experience using dreams to problem solve?  Anyone else have a control-freak editor in their dreaming brain?

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