The Roots of Influence and Inspiration - Part IV: Dream

Written by Sam Rawlings on Thursday the 9th of September 2010

This journal is the forth in a series of pieces I expect to write about those certain 'elements' of life that inspire and influence my writing. I think it's important to acknowledge these elements, as essentially they represent the root of our craft, they are the seeds that precede the fruit of our labour, the 'components' without which our thoughts, our images, our music, our words, simply would not exist.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings and in return I would love to hear all about the things that inspire and influence you. After all, "without sharing, the imagination becomes little more than an echo of itself."

All images by Claire Fletcher

Part Four: Dream

For as long as I can remember I have been powerfully affected by dreams. As a child my dreams would regularly tumble into dizziness, and upon waking I'd open my eyes to find the whole world spinning so violently that I'd often fall out of Bed.
    Recurring dreams were also common, the one that I remember most prominently is that of a giant come to gather me up and carry me away. Whether it was because of this dream that I so fell in love with Roald Dahl's The BFG or whether it was because of the BFG that I ended up having this recurring dream in the first place, it is impossible to say, the two are now so deeply entwined. Yet it is not only dream events, but also dream settings, dream landscapes, dream faces, voices, moments that have over the years repeated themselves inside my head as I've slept. In fact, at times, these recurring elements have come together in such a way as to form incredibly indelible images, dream memories even, which, manifest within my mind, have often turned out to be remarkably similar to actual settings, landscapes, faces, voices, moments that I've gone on to witness in real life, sometimes many months after the initial dream.

Inspired by Ray Harryhausen's work in Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, my interest in mythology was fixed at an early age, with Morpheus remaining one of my favourite figures.

'Morpheus (pronounced /ˈmɔrfiəs/ or /ˈmɔrfjuːs/; Greek: Μορφεύς, Morpheus, or Μορφέας, Morpheas, "shaper [of dreams]") in Greek mythology as the god of dreams, leader of the Oneiroi.[1] Morpheus has the ability to take any human form and appear in dreams. His true semblance is that of a winged daemon, imagery shared with many of his siblings.' ~ Taken from Wikipedia

'Abode: The land of dreams (Demos Oneiroi) was located somewhere in the underworld, presumably near the domain of Night and her children. Poets often referred to the two gates leading from the dream realm. One gate was fashioned of sawn ivory, the other of polished horn. False dreams were said to pass through the gate of ivory, while truthful, prophetic dreams winged their way out through the gate of horn. There was also said to be a wilted elm tree in Morpheus' domain, upon which the dreams fashioned by the Oneiroi hung, with the appearance of winged phantom-shapes.' ~ Taken from Wikipedia

'Attributes: Morpheus sends images of humans in dreams or visions, and is responsible for shaping dreams, or giving shape to the beings that inhabit dreams. Phobetor made fearsome dreams (etymologically related to "phobia" from the Greek φόβος "fear”). Phantasos produced tricky and unreal dreams (hence "fantasy", "phantasmagoria", etc.). Together, these attendants of Hypnos rule the realm of dreams.
Morpheus also had special responsibility for the dreams of kings and heroes. For these reasons, Morpheus is often referred to as 'Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams', in superiority to his brothers.' ~ Taken from Wikipedia

Random point of interest - "The drug Morphine is named after Morpheus for its ability to make one sleepy and dreamy.” ~ Taken from Wikipedia

Following on from what I was saying above, I have always been intrigued by the relationship between dream and destiny. Therefore, I remain fascinated by the presence of the two gates in Demos Oneiroi, 'False dreams were said to pass through the gate of ivory, while truthful, prophetic dreams winged their way out through the gate of horn.'

I've read many ideas concerning the relationship between dream and destiny, but one idea that has particularly stuck with me is this:

...first imagine a perfectly straight line, this is our ideal path. As we move through life, for various reasons our trails are forced to weave from left to right and back again, continuously crossing that ideal straight path.  In times of great resistance our trails are forced very wide and at times of little resistance it becomes barely necessary to weave at all. This fluctuation in the widening of our trails is an ongoing struggle; however, on crossing our ideal path, we are always given a sign. This sign may appear in the form of a coincidence, a recurring dream, a Déjà vu... but, no matter how it appears, you will recognise it, and though you may pause momentarily in wonder at the world's strangeness, you should also feel reassured, for if nothing else, you can take strength from the fact that you are heading in the right direction. 

Inspired by Morpheus, as a child I used to try and control my dreams. I would attempt this by thinking of a particular image over and over in my head until I fell asleep. I did this in the hope that when I eventually passed over into the world of sleep, I would inhabit that particular image.
    This desire to control my dreams has evolved into a quiet fascination, though rather than controlling my dreams in sleep, I'm now more interested in how to best relay my minds ideas onto paper. When we dream, we are able, unconsciously, to construct entire worlds inside our heads. We do this not only down to the smallest physical detail, but also with incredibly accurate characterisation. The way in which we are able to effortlessly construct full personalities, enormous landscapes...
    My thoughts then, have always been that if I can produce such reality of situation and character in dream, then surely I can do it on paper.

Though in reality the issue is much more complicated, writers essentially remain, like Morpheus, the shapers of dream. Stories, poems, music, art... creativity of almost all kinds are born from dreaming, from the imagination, the unconscious, have taken root in inspiration, and this for me is where the universe's magic resides ... within that chaos, that madness. As thin as the breathable atmosphere that blankets our planet, so is our grasp on reality equally as fragile. We exist only in a single second. In solid terms there is no physical past nor physical future, only that actual second within which we are conscious exists; the rest is all dream, memory, imagination.

It has been argued that we experience the world primary through five senses. Only so much can get in and we can only put so much of what we are feeling out. It is such a release then at night, when at last our minds are free to run without bounds. The closet thing we have to this experience in waking life is art - film, literature, paintings, illustrations, sculpture, music... These practices are proof of our imaginations, they are our reflections in water, our shadows, they are our inner lights breaking out from within the darkness. It is within these patterns of creativity that we give life to the impossible.


"It (Surrealism) was an artistic movement that brought together artists, thinkers and researchers in hunt of sense of expression of the unconscious. They were searching for the definition of new aesthetic, new humankind and a new social order. Surrealists had their forerunners in Italian Metaphysical Painters (Giorgio de Chirico) in early 1910's. As the artistic movement, Surrealism came into being after the French poet Andre Breton 1924 published the first Manifeste du surrealisme. In this book Breton suggested that rational thought was repressive to the powers of creativity and imagination and thus inimical to artistic expression. An admirer of Sigmund Freud and his concept of the subconscious, Breton felt that contact with this hidden part of the mind could produce poetic truth.” ~ Anon

"I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind." ~ Emily Bronte

"Dreams are necessary to life." ~ Anais Nin

"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living." ~ Anais Nin

"Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely." ~ Erma Bombeck

"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." ~ Carl Jung

Tags for this post: samrawlings, influence, inspiration, substance, part4.
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