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Your Brain on Dreams: A Writing Prompt

August 30, 2013

Your brain hates to lie. You know this. The tension between wanting to keep a secret and the impulse to spill the beans, is spelled ‘s-t-r-e-s-s.’ But your brain is absolutely compelled to tell stories and there may be some gold to mine in this fact for you as a writer.

Your brain is constantly recording images, sensations, new information and events throughout your day. At night, when you enter REM sleep, all those pieces of stimulating information need to be sorted and filed—some to short- term memory, some to long- term, and so on. It’s a left brain job that can’t be done  without whole-brain help. To record these new sensations the  brain must make the images into stories—hence you dream. Your dream is your brain converting life to memory in the form of a narrative—however crazy!  So. Your dream in which your uncle becomes your brother, and in the dream this seems normal, and then he takes you to lunch and in the dream, lunch is on an island near Madagascar…is a neurological filing system at work. Brilliant!

What if you wrote a story in which the entire narrative were being revealed piece by piece, each night, to the dreamer through a dream? Does he start trying to take naps during the day to get to the next chapter? Does he refuse to wake up? What does he discover that could only be revealed through dreams? Is his brain trying to divest itself of a secret so great it can only be whispered in the dark?  Is he having a recurrent nightmare? Give it try. See what you can dream up!

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