Writing has been important to me since I was a little child. I used to get moments of ‘possessed inspiration’. Moments that I needed a pen and some paper. When I put the pen down, words flowed out. Where a story just seems to present itself. As if it comes from another realm, just like a dream.
Those moments have gone, unfortunately. Possession has transformed into structure. Reading Writing in the House of Dreams, written by Jenny Alexander, brought back those memories.
This is a Mindfunda Book Review of: Writing in the House of Dreams
by Jenny Alexander
Five Lanes Press 2014
Kindle $ 4.17 Paperback $ 13.99
Writing in the House of Dreams Introduction
“If you are a writer interested in dreams, you will find here a guide to the dream world and a toolkit of techniques that you will need to explore it, such as how to recall and record your dreams, how to incubate a dream and how to tackle nightmares” Jenny promises the reader on page 9.
What a clever way of targeting your audience, I thought when I read that. I know that I am one among many dream-lovers who fantasizes of having her own book published.
Writing in the House of Dreams is divided into three parts. It’s build up according to the hero’s journey. Jenny encourages you to cross the threshold in part one. She enthusiastically shows you around in your house of dreams in part two. Than she lures you outside in part three when she tells you that there is a landscape beyond. And finally in part four you need to take the jump into the Dream-space.
Writing as a Means to Cross the Threshold
“Babies in the womb display all the physical signs of dreaming, and so it seems that the dream is the first, before mother, father, family, culture. We are born out of the dream and emerge, still cocooned, into the magical world of childhood, where teddies can talk, fairies grant wishes and monsters hide in the shadows” (page 11).
Jenny is very clear about it. Dreaming is our natural state of being. Before we take our first breath, we are already dreaming.
“The call to dreams is a call to the soul. Writing fiction is similar to dreaming, but less intense. We enter the ‘writer’s trance’ and become, to some extent, our characters” (page 43).
The back ground story, that Jenny tells in an italic letter type, is how she has struggled with dreams. Having an exquisite dream memory and a traumatic past, she talks about a recurring nightmare. We find out that where her talented older sister she has looked up to all of her life, suddenly commits suicide. Jenny feels lost now that her role-model apparently had been lost herself. What to do now? She visits several therapists and non of them can really help her deal with a recurrent nightmare.
The tide changes for her when her therapist advises her to read Patricia Garfield’s Creative Dreaming.
Each chapter has some very interesting exercises to improve your writing skills. For example, in the introduction Jenny suggests that each person three “seed stories”.
“Three random incidents you remember from your childhood can contain the seeds of all the stories in later life”. And she shares exercises that will reveal those stories to you.
Writing the House of Dreams
Once you have crossed the threshold and have re-acquainted yourself with the world of dreams, it is time to explore your house of dreams. To not only make yourself at home, listen to the voice of the dream however soft it whispers but also to hear to the cries of the beast in the basement…
“Your dream is like a person sitting next to you on the bus journey through life. If you choose to ignore them and look straight ahead, you probably won’t even know what they look like, let alone what they have to say” (page 116).
Even though it is pretty basic stuff about the technique of dream incubation, Jenny is onto bigger realities. At the end of part two, she invites us to “The Landscape Beyond”.
Writing the Mythic Dimension
“We don’t dream in isolation. The dream is bigger than our personal unconscious” (page 142).
I think this was the moment that I fell deeply in love with this book. In my own mutual dreaming experiment (The Mutual Dreaming Model) and in the (online) dream groups I have facilitated, I have experienced that ether is something like a shared dream consciousness.
I dared to speak about it one time, at a Dutch Dream Convention, where immediately a concerned dreamer raised his hand and said: “but a dream tells you things only about yourself”. I felt lonely at that moment and agreed with him just to get rid of the “yes/no” discussion I knew that was going to follow.
So I was excited to read about someone who is gutsy enough to accept this asa given fact.
Myths and stories resonate with a particular area of your life. Jenny invites you to write about the Persephone situations in your life. Persephone, daughter of fertility Goddess Demeter was captured by the God of the Underworld, Hades.
There she became Queen. She learned the art of communication beyond the real of the living. Her mother wanted her back. But Persephone had already decided that she was going to eat 6 pomegranate seeds. She had children, she became queen instead of daughter and she had very important position being the Queen of the real of death.
At one point in life we all have been in hell. And we have come back from it. Somewhat more bitter, somewhat less trusting. But all who have been there know exactly to just listen to our own inner voice. Even when it tells us things we don’t like.
I especially like the writing exercise in this part that concerns six of your favourite stories.
Writing into the Dream Space
A dream offers a gateway to realms beyond all human experience.
“For dreamers and writers, this feeling that the ordinary world is not as ‘real’ as it seems means that the world of imagination feels even more ‘real’. Rather than leaving the ‘real’ world and going off into flights of fancy, we move easily between realities, which are all products of the psyche” (page 207).
Jenny invites you to explore the idea that Anne Baring (Dream of the Cosmos) has also written about in such an inspiring manner. Is there a dream that is dreaming you?
She shares some interesting ideas about her concept of the elasticity of time:
“Letting go of the idea of time as a line which travels in one direction has an interesting knock-on effect in terms of identity and the human journey”.
And my old friend synchronicity also appears in this book.
“As soon as you stop looking for cause-and-effect links on a line of time, you notice other links, things that are meaningfully connected, yet in a non causal way. Jung called this ‘synchronicity’.
I enjoy the exercise(s) at the end of each chapter very much. I will go back to all the exercises and see if I am able to rekindle that inspirational writing flow of my childhood.
I like the mythological approach very much. You can read the book as a personal record of Campbell’s Journey of the Hero.
I know that there are a lot of dreamers that long to write their own book, and this book offers so many practical exercises to get the writing juices flowing again.
I admire the vulnerability with which Jenny writes down her story. It is honest. Nothing is brushed away or sweetened up.
The information about dreams that Jenny shares, tips to remember dreams is for beginners. More trained and advanced dreamers do not need those tips.
Sometimes the personal stories in italic letters are a bit too long. I found my eyes sometimes scanning a story instead of reading it.
A very practical downside: it has no index. This makes it very hard to look up a certain concept you are interested in.
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