Dream Interview Part I: Writers and Dreamwork May 29, 2012
Writing this blog has introduced me to some wonderful people. Shirley Showalter is one whose inspiring site is filled with fascinating information and practical tips for memoir writers. Recently she requested an interview, and what began as fodder for one post quickly grew into material for a few more! Here’s my answer to her first question.
Q: You say on your website: “My life is a dream; my dreams are my life.”Also, you’ve recorded over 4,000 dreams since 1989 if I remember correctly. I can see how helpful it would be to be guided by dreams as a writer. But many of us, myself included, do not remember our dreams very often. Can you provide suggestions on how to become more conscious?
A: As of today, the number of recorded dreams is 4,355! I know it sounds like a mind-boggling undertaking, but really it’s just been a day-by-day, step-by-step thing that I did several times a week when I had the time and energy, or when I felt the need, or when I remembered enough of a dream to be curious about it. Of course, I didn’t work on every one of these, and I’ve had several in between that I never even recorded, plus lots more I simply couldn’t remember.
At first I was worried about not capturing them all in writing so I could keep coming back to them. But our psyches are always trying to communicate our soul’s purpose and desire to us via our dreams, and I learned to trust that if the messages were important enough, they’d return in other dreams until I “got” them.
All my books but the first, which was an outgrowth of my dissertation, are essentially memoirs, and dreamwork has been invaluable to me in this endeavor. Writing has always been a deeply satisfying means of expression for me, and when it’s combined with working on my dreams it’s my fundamental “practice” that brings enormous meaning to my life and helps me tie up all the disconnected threads of my personal history.
Especially helpful in this regard is the fact that since my college days I’ve had a habit of jotting down my day-to-day activities and appointments on calendars, and I’ve kept them all. Likewise, when I started working on my dreams I dated and numbered them. Having this dual, inner world/outer world record of my life to return to when writing my books has been invaluable.
So my first suggestion to memoir writers about how to become more conscious would be to keep some kind of written record of what’s going on with you both inside and out, including a dream whenever you remember one. It may not feel important now, but years from now having this information could add powerful layers of meaning to your writing.
Having a regular practice of some sort is also essential to becoming more conscious. You’ve simply got to take time every day to pay attention to your inner life, even if it’s only a few moments a day. The major obstacle to this, of course, is the extreme busyness of life in today’s world, so it’s imperative to carve out at least 20 or 30 minutes every day when you won’t be distracted by kids, telephones, music, computers, or television so you can write undisturbed, or do whatever else you’re drawn to: writing, of course, but also body work like dancing, massages or yoga, or regular talks with a wise friend or psychotherapist.
But as far as I’m concerned, regular meditation is the Queen of consciousness-raising. Initially, I was reluctant to take the time to meditate so I made a deal with myself. I could only start writing if I meditated for at least 20 minutes every weekday morning first! This worked wonders and also brought more balance to my life, because I left evenings and weekends free for my husband and children. More next time.
The photograph is of two perfect peonies from my mountain garden!
Order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at www.larsonpublications.com
Birthing a Book May 8, 2012
In response to queries about my new book—where I got the idea, how it’s progressing, when it will come out, if it can be pre-ordered, and so on—I’d like to share some of the process and answer your questions in this and the next post. I know you come here for the psychological content, but I assure you I’ll weave some of that in along the way. It won’t be difficult, since I always look for, and usually find, psychological meaning in everything! Plus, the book’s about psychology!
While certain basics never change, the details of the process—from the conception of a book, to the writing of it, to its publication—are as unique as each book. When I started writing my first psychological book , The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, in the fall of 1989, I had just retired from college teaching because of a restless discontent with my work and a deep knowing that I had something to say that was vastly different from anything I had written professionally. With no expectations for what would emerge, I followed my heart and for three or four days a week wrote a series of memoir-type essays via which I searched for meaning in my life’s most interesting and puzzling experiences. Essentially, I was re-mything my life from a Jungian perspective.
I’d been recording and working on my dreams for over a year, so I was delighted to discover that my unconscious self supported my writing by providing material at night that often inspired the next day’s work. Six months into this project I was sitting in front of my make-up mirror one morning when a fairy tale wove its way into my awareness via a spontaneous session of active imagination. This story provided the focus that pulled all the essays together and a year later I sent a proposal and three sample chapters to ten publishers. With a hint from a dream and a suggestion from a Jungian writer, one was based in California. Three days later Lura Geiger of LuraMedia called and told me she wanted it, and my new creation entered the world in 1992!
My next book, Dream Theaters of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work, underwent a very different gestation. Shortly after Bridge was launched I was again filled with restless discontent, so one day I began to explore ideas for a book to help others understand their dreams. Within a few hours I had an outline. Three months later the completed manuscript was also accepted by LuraMedia and it was published in 1994!
Encouraged by my previous successes and motivated by a powerful longing for answers to some pressing questions, in 1993 I began researching and writing the next book. Fifteen years later I had five manuscripts in my computer! Each had a different title and focus and none felt finished, but they were all related to my passion for understanding how gender and family issues, plus my religion, spiritual experiences, and psychological development had influenced my search for self-discovery and spiritual meaning. By the summer of 2009 I had a new manuscript with a new focus that combined elements from all five. After another rewrite based on suggestions from three experts in their fields, I signed a contract with Larson Publications in March of 2011. That book will be formally launched this summer with the title, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World.
Honestly? The others were deeply satisfying, but this baby feels special! More about it next time.