Do creative people have more vivid dreams?

When I went to an acupuncturist, he asked me about my dreams. I told him I have lots of vivid fascinating dreams, complete with backstory, in full colour. I didn’t tell him they were sometimes stylized (if I’d been reading graphic novels) or, on rare occasions, set to music with rhyming dialogue. ( I know, weird).

He said it wasn’t normal for people to dream vividly every night. I’d thought my dreams were normal.

And perhaps they were for me.

According to David Watson, a professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,  “There is a fundamental continuity between how people experience the world during the day and at night,” he said. “People who are prone to daydreaming and fantasy have less of a barrier between states of sleep and wakefulness and seem to more easily pass between them.” In other words, creative people tend to have vivid dreams. See the full article here.

Now, it seems,  video game players might be able to control their dreams up to a point. Jayne Gackenbach, at Grant McEwan University has been doing research into dreams and gamers. She found that lucid dreamers and gamers tended to have better spacial skills. Both groups had a high level of concentration.  According to a 2006 study, people who frequently played video games were more likely to have lucid dreams and to be aware that they were dreaming.

“A second study tried to narrow down the uncertainties by examining dreams that participants experienced from the night before, and focused more on gamers. It found that lucid dreams were common, but that the gamers never had dream control over anything beyond their dream selves.

The gamers also frequently flipped between a first person view from within the body and a third person view of themselves from outside, except never with the calm detachment of a distant witness.” See the full article here.

I’ve been reading a book on current knowledge about plasticity of the human brain. It looks like game players have been rewiring their brains specfically for this ability. The more you do something the more this sinks into your brain and becomes second nature.  So keep reading, keep day dreaming and keep dreaming. It is all tied into creativity, even if we don’t understand how or why, just yet.

I’ve used scenes from dreams as leaping off points for stories. Do you experience vivid dreams? Ever had a dream where everyone is talking in rhyme?

40 Comments

Filed under creativity, Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, Writing craft

40 Responses to Do creative people have more vivid dreams?

  1. KylieQ

    I’ve never heard of anyone dreaming in rhyme before! I was in a car accident a few years ago and my mind has completely blocked out all memory of the accident. But I remember a few nights after it happened, while I was still in hospital or maybe just after I came home, I dreamed about the accident and woke up knowing I’d seen the whole thing in detail but by the time I woke up, it was gone again. My mind has obviously decided the memory is too traumatic and buried it somewhere. I’ve never dreamed about it again and still don’t have even the slightest flicker of memory, even when I drive along the same road. It fascinates me to think that this memory is still in there, just buried where I can’t access it except that one time in a dream. The mind is such an amazing thing.

    • Sonja Anise

      That’s really interesting. It reminds me of this story I read in a book by Oliver Sachs called “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”. A man was under the strong influence of PCP when he murdered his girlfriend. He was taken to court but had no recollection of the incident whatsoever, not even hypnosis could retrieve anything. He was admitted to an asylum for a few years. Eventually he was was granted the privilege of riding his bike on weekends. He was riding down a hill when a car hit him. He sustained serious injury to his brain & immediately began to have vivid nightmares about the murder, all of which were completely accurate. It is really crazy how the brain works.

      • Farzana

        I think that is a form of retrograde amnesia as the injury probably hit a part of the his brain which had been hit in the earlier accident, triggering the memories of the accident from before

  2. Wow, Kylie, it is amazing what the human brain can do.

    You’re right. Maybe you’re better off not remembering the accident.

  3. I’ve never had a dream where everyone is talking in rhyme…I wonder if I would join in if I did? But I do use the dream state as a launchpad for stories. Sometimes all it takes is a single object or utterance to jump start a new storyline. It’s amazing.

    • Wendy, I sometimes feel guilty because my dreams are so rich and interesting. Like you, I often use them for springboards for stories.

      My Shallow Sea series arose from a dream. I was at World Con in 1999, sharing a hotel room with Mariann de Pierres. I woke up with the wonderful dream about a diver in a Venice like place. It evolved into the series.

  4. I have vivid dreams with full-color and sound pretty much every night. They are usually so interesting that I drift back to sleep after my alarm goes off to “see the ending”, which tends to make me oversleep. Sometimes on the weekends I spend hours half-asleep just drifting through different, crazily original movies. I usually wake up mentally tired, like I’ve been working on a project for a few hours. I’m a writer, so hopefully that means I’m a little creative. Last year, I had an intensely vivid dream from which I hashed out my entire storyline for the the novel I’m working on!

    • Strummerdundee,

      That sounds like the kind of dreams I have.

      I was watching a program where they bombarded the ‘creative’ part of the brain with electrical impulses which causes people to hallucinate. I suspect creative people have more electrical impulses in this part of the brain and it is more active in the semi-conscious and sleeping state.

      Having said all that, I enjoy my dreams!

  5. Anna

    I decided to google this due to my dream last night. I have had extremely vivid, colorful pretty much cinematic dreams for as long as I can remember. And YES! I have had dreams set to music or song, I’ve always just chalked it up to me being very artistically based or having grown up around musicals, song…dance, etc. Speaking to my friends about this, I’ve discovered that not all people have such awesome dreams, but both of my parents have had dreams similar to mine for much of their lives. I consider it a blessing. Best dream I have had to date: Giving President George W. Bush a piggy-back-ride through my old college friend”s fraternity house…and he kept changing from the Will Ferrel SNL Bush and the cartoon Bush. Still makes me giggle.

  6. Pingback: Turns out Vivid Dreamers are more Creative. |

  7. I was reading Shakespere before bed recently and several of my dreams that night were beautifully narrated in perfect rhyming couplets- fast and fluent for hours at a time (actually only minutes in reality but this is even more testament to what our brains are capable of). I woke up with a whole new faith in the awesome power of the subconscious.

  8. Keyada

    I came across this article when looking up vivid dreams.

    I’ve been having vivid dreams the same as you since I was little. I remember every single dream I’ve ever had. I keep dream journals and write every detail down. I dream of songs, musicals, complete stories, people I’ve never seen or met and many other things. Some of my dreams are stories in continuation of dreams I’ve had years ago. Many people said that I should consider publishing them. Last night I dreamed of a musical about a modern day queen and her lazy musician. Her musician fell in love with an illusion of a woman in his mind. The song he sang was heartbreaking; about a woman in his fantasies that he was certain existed. She didn’t though.

    In reference to what you were saying about gamers, I’ve also been an avid gamer since I was younger. The brain is so complex, and especially with dreaming, it can be hard to understand. I know that people like us are rare though, and I believe the dreams we have are our inner creativity letting loose. It’s a gift.

    • Keyada,

      I feel blessed with vivid dreams. Looks like you do, too. Have you considered crafting your dreams into stories?

      • Keyada

        Rowena,

        I have, actually. I’ve been debating on where to start or how. I was thinking of taking some creative writing classes at some point to help boost my confidence and hone my skills in writing. Some of my dreams, I don’t need to turn into stories because they’re already their own. Have you created any stories from your dreams? Do you have any dreams that sometimes seem like short films or full length movies even?

    • Keyada,
      For me, dreams do prompt stories. The dreams won’t be entire stories, but the image or events will be so vivid and the emotion so powerful I can’t stop thinking about them and fromt his a whole chidlren’s book, or even a two book fantasy series arose.

      Doing some writing workshops is a great way to test the waters and see if you are inspired to write. Belonging to a writing group who write the same genre as you helps.

      I have a page of writing tips on my blog. Lost os useful things there for you.

      http://rowena-cory-daniells.com/writing-craft/

      Best of luck.

      R

  9. Nai

    Rowena,
    I don’t really do anything creative at all in my life. I am a college student majoring in science, but my dreams have always been vivid to the point that I have the same storyline dream for years, which I find weird. Ive never had a rhyming dream, but music, dancing, historical,modern, futuristic, horror are themes that seem to happen in my dreams often. Last night, I had this detailed dream that could definitely be a movie. I have had this one dream before but something weird happened…..I changed the ending. As i have gotten older it seem to be like a game to myself and my mind self how fast i can figure out that I am dreaming. I use to awake up as soon as i figured it out but now its like my mind has trained my body to still sleep and let the dream play out. Ive always thought I was strange because of these dreams.there always extremely vivid and detailed. so vivid that when i dont have a dream, I usually dream of a dark space that I do nothing in and have nothing in.

    • Nai,

      My guess is that revcisiting dreams is the mind’s way of working through something. Authors often revisit themes in their wrirting because a topic bothers them.

      As a child I’d dream over and over that I was being dragged out into the surf by a rip and no matter how close I got to shore the sand would disolve under my feet. Now I dream that I’m at the beach, in the water and I can ridde the waves into the beach, even climb out. Very symbolic.

      Maybe you have the potential to be creative. Creativity is about bringing diversified things together and often doing this unintentionally. So maybe one day, your mind will just click and everything will fallinto place and we’ll have the Unified Field Theory. LOL

      Cheers, Rowena

  10. I have been writing a lot lately. Especially since it is NaNoWriMo time. Coincidentally, my dreams have been long, deep and super vivid.

    I always had super long lucid dreams as a kid. And I read a lot too, plus my parents encouraged my siblings and I to share our dream every morning, so I’m sure that helped to bring my dreams to life.(make them become vivid and lucid.)

  11. Sattar

    From my experience with vivid dreams, I found out one strong correlation between one particular state of mind during waking and the vividness of my dreams during sleeps. At the time of this writing, I’ve been having vivid dreams every night for like two weeks or so. The only thing I’ve been doing differently for the last two or three weeks is to practice mindfulness and concentration. During the mindfulness practice, I’d try to completely silent my mind and focus my attention on the present moment. I’d practice this from morning right until before I retire at night. Now I begin to notice that my mind becomes less noisy and more focus, and my dreams become more vivid. However when I stop practicing this concentration and mindfulness and let my mind wonders just like before, my sleeps become sort of dreamless ( I’m not sure whether I really don’t have dreams during the sleeps, or the dreams are just vague, or I cannot remember those dreams). This is not the first time I experience this. I’ve been experiencing this changes in vividness of my dreams for years and I can assure you that it is strongly related to the clarity of your mind. For your info, I’m not a gamer, and I haven’t played any video games for maybe more than a year.

    Sorry for my English

    • admin

      Your English is very good, Sattar.

      The meditation you do sounds like what I do at Yoga. I find I can go to bed with a plot problem and my subconscious mind will sort it out while I sleep.

      • Sattar

        You are right. Maybe dream is the way our subconscious mind sort things out while we’re asleep. Those dreams that I have, tend to replicate the sensation or feeling that I have during the day. Maybe, by having a clear and focused mind, our day-to-day experiences make very strong impressions on our subconscious mind that they can be replicated in our dreams.

        • Rowena Cory Daniells

          Sounds like we want different things from our dreams, Sattar. I want inspiration for stories and you want clarity!

  12. Mike C

    Ok, i have very vivid dreams all the time. I also remeber them in detail after waking most of the time. Lots of times I meet people in the dreams who while they do not look like people I know are in the dreams those people. The strange thing is there are times that the people I meet are so real and have such complete personalities that I do believe that they do exist some where, and are having the same dream. Since our brains give off electrical signals could those signals be intercepting others signals?

  13. Kelly

    This article is great to see! I did a search about vivid dreams because I have had them since I can remember dreaming. I still remember very vivid dreams from when I was a child. There was one in preschool where my friends and I were dressed up as the Flintstones and were trapped in a maze. I mentioned this dream to my friends and my mom on the way home from school and still remember that conversation. I also dreamed about a doughnut shop where everyone inside had a human head but a large, skeletal body and I could see all the food they ate go through their bodies. So scary for anyone, let alone a little kid! I also have had several times where I’ve been in a scary dream and wanted to wake up, but as I’ve tried to wake, it was as if I was trapped in the dream; my body would feel frozen although I was in my room and bits of the dream seemed to materialize around me in real life. For example, when I was nine, I dreamed I was a mummy and as I was trying to wake, I was frozen and my bed around me looked like a stone coffin, though my room looked normal! These kinds of dreams still happen, but only every six months or so.
    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found I can control my dreams. I’m a composer and sometimes I dream about the musical I’m writing. The performers will be performing a song and I’ll think (as I’m in the midst of the dream) ‘yes! That’s the song I’ve been trying to write! It’s perfect! Don’t forget this song when you wake up!’ Unfortunately, I often forget it when I wake up and am mad that I can’t remember the song though I remember telling myself not to forget it! So frustrating!
    Anyway, I have vivid dreams EVERY SINGLE NIGHT that I can control to a certain degree and remember when I wake up the next morning. They don’t always seem very helpful, but occasionally I’ll have something happen that day that feels like it was foreshadowed in my dream the night before; not sure if this is the case or if my subconscious ‘remembers’ a dream that didn’t really happen…it’s true, the human brain is an amazing thing!

    • admin

      Dreams are really bizarre, Kelly. I think if you’re creative, you dream more and more vividly. I’m not at all surprised that you can control your dreams and your music comes through.

  14. Jocie G.

    I’ve always had vivid dreams. Most of them fade away after a few days, but a few linger with me for years. I’ve never dreamed the same thing twice. My dreams always have a dark streak, like the dream I had when I was four where the entire world depended on me to wake up all of the disney characters. For me, the line between ‘nightmare’ and ‘dream’ is very thin. My family has always thought I was strange because I could remember my dreams in such perfect detail, and that they were always so disturbing. After dreams I wake up exhausted and I just want to go back to sleep. My husband told me once to just change my dream while I was asleep. He’s always been able to control what happens in his dreams, which makes sense to me now since he’s a hardcore gamer. I used to keep a dream journal when I was a kid. It would give me peace of mind, knowing that they were just dreams. Although, I stopped after a while, my mom found it and showed it to my dad, and then the dreams would start to scare me again. There was a point where I would be awake til two in the morning, fighting sleep because I knew I would have a horrible dream. I was actually afraid to sleep. Now I dont sleep alone, the dreams dont scare me as much. Sometimes I’ll wake up and be terrified, but I just touch my hubby’s arm and I feel better.

    As I get older, my dreams get darker. A common theme of my dreams is saving people too stupid to understand they were in danger. Always stopping to rest when we needed to run. We always get caught and I wake up before we get killed.

    I’ve only had one, maybe two, happy dreams that I can remember.

    Isn’t that weird?

    • admin

      Hi Jocie,

      You’ll have to take up gaming to train your mind to be able to lucid dream. Then you’ll be able to direct your dreams before they get too scary.

      Saving people who are too stupid to realise they are in danger is a dream I often have!

      Cheers, Rowena

  15. C. Pietsch

    I’ve had sections of dreams with rhyming dialog between characters. And I’ve had dream images, that when I woke up and told people about the visuals and happenings, the descriptions verbally ended up being obvious rhymes. Like holding a wake on top of a lake, with the minister holding a rake and the viewers all eating cake.
    I’ve had such vivid dreams that I could see the transparent glossy shine of ceramic tile overlying the specific hue of a turquoise-aqua, complete with gold veining in the background of the bathroom setting.
    Maybe some people are afraid of vivid dreamers. Someone once told me it was a sign of impending insanity!

    • admin

      Hi Golden Sage Man,

      I think you’re lucky. I have dreams of this level of colour intensity, music and dancing etc. I think it is a sing of a rich internal world.

      More power to you!

      Cheers, Rowena

  16. Elise

    I usually have very vivid, detailed dreams and my mum asks how I can possibly remember such a long story. Sometimes i’ll have up to 3 different dreams a night and remember them. Colours, smells, atmosphere etc. Not nice when they’re unpleasant, cos that is something you wouldn’t want a vivid memory of, lol. Sometimes they’re affected by films I have watched or by worries I have or of past jobs etc. Other times they just make absolutely no sense. I have an anxiety disorder so I find a lot of my dreams are anxious ones. Situations where I don’t feel at ease or im nervous.

    • admin

      Hi Elise,

      Sorry to hear you have an anxiety disorder. It’s one of those things that no one can see and other people don’t understand how challenging it is to get up and get through the day. And then to have it shape your dreams so that they are anxious is a shame. I have vivid dreams like you but at least they aren’t worrying.

      Feel for you. Rowena

  17. Jessica Joy

    It’s great to know I’m not weird. I’m the only one I know who dreams entire stories , I have characters, plots, climaxes, everything that makes literature literature. My favorite was a reoccurring dream for nearly a decade that I would walk down a wooded path, wearing white. The woods opened to a clearing and in the center was a small hill with a tree and an unreadable gravestone. It was my souls true name in the worn stone, but it was faded and I never found out what it was. On top of the grave stone was a leather bound book. Every time I had the dream The story is the book would change. It was the story of two soul mates through history and the future, different cultures, different names and different faces but the same souls. One day I intend to write the book I read in my dreams.

  18. Pixie

    Im really glad I came across this page. I have very vivid dreams too and came up with a plot for a novel from two or three of them… but havent gotten very far with it as yet!! The one question I want to ask is… I read someone talking about going back to sleep to “see the ending”. I do that a lot because the dream is so damn interesting I want to know how it ends, but it never ever seems to work. I dont really want to control my dream but I do want it to finish. Does it ever work for any others?

    • admin

      Hi Pixie,

      Apparently computer games players are able to lucid dream, meaning they can be sleeping and dreaming yet guide the dream. Does this happen to you?

      Cheers, R

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