Dream Interview Part IV: How My Dreams Influence My Writing


Here’s the final question Shirley Showalter asked me at our recent interview.
Question #4:  If you were writing a memoir, especially one about childhood, would you expect to write overtly about your own remembered dream about the Lone Ranger or would you use the dream work as a covert influence helping you to sort detail, which stories to tell, etc.?
My Answer:  This is a very insightful question. As I mentioned in response to your first question, my last three books were all memoirs, and in them I took both of the routes you’ve mentioned. The Bridge to Wholeness started out with my earliest memory of being lost and alone at the age of three on the shore of Lake Michigan because both parents had gone back up to the cottage, each thinking the other had taken me with them. That experience was so traumatic that I never forgot it. It very much had the quality of a dream and when I wrote about it I automatically approached it that way.
In other words, I looked for the emotions I had felt, (a lot of fear and questioning and imagining the direction my life might take), and examined the symbols (it was night, I was lost and alone, and I was determinedly walking toward a small light in the distance) and then looked for the metaphorical meaning.  I was surrounded by darkness (the unconscious) and the only direction I knew to take was toward the light, i.e. toward consciousness and enlightenment.
There could not be a more apt metaphor for the essence of my personality and purpose. Looking for personal meaning in the emotions and symbols that show up in waking life, is, to me, an extremely valuable way of making sense of our lives. So yes, even when I wasn’t writing about my dreams, my experience with dreamwork definitely covertly influenced my writing.
After treating a few other big early memories the same way, I arrived at the age of ten when I had my really Big Lone Ranger dream. Since it was the only dream I remembered from my childhood, and since it, too, was so traumatic, it felt necessary to write about it, so I did it overtly. By that time I had found my voice, and the rest of the book continued in the same way:  writing about important events of my waking life the way I write about my dreams, and occasionally sharing an important dream that helped me make sense of my waking life.
Then one day when I was most of the way through, I had a sort of waking dream in front of my makeup mirror in which I spontaneously made up a fairy tale. (I love the symbolism of a mirror as a medium for engaging the instinct for reflection!) I was so used to paying attention to my inner life that I knew this had value and meaning too. Sure enough. Once I had written it down I realized it was the story of my life up to that point, and it became the central metaphor for the entire book.
In sum, trusting my dreams and imagination has allowed me to discover my creativity and fulfill my purpose in life. This is why I say, “My dreams are my life, and my life is a dream.” This concludes my interview with Shirley. I hope those of you who are writers or are considering writing have found it helpful.
As many of you know, I’ve been at the Book Expo America in New York for the past three days and had a wonderful time introducing my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide. Advance copies are now available at www.larsonpublications.com.  The picture above was taken just before my book signing.  I’ll tell you more about  it soon.

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0 Responses

  1. Jeanie,
    A few weeks ago, I had a dream and you were a main character.
    Yesterday as I was reading your new book – “Healing the Sacred Divide”, I felt even more of the relevance of that dream.
    My dream of a few weeks ago: I was in the woods, sliding down a rather steep and muddy bank. I wanted to get my feet into the river below. As I slid down the muddy
    bank, I found a place to grab so I could gently and safely ease myself into the water.
    As I was enjoying my legs dangling in the river water, I felt the presence of someone. I turned to my left and you were standing on a grassy knoll. You were beautiful, smiling and glowing.
    Next I am standing beside you and I notice behind you is a large opening to a cave. I instantly realize it is your home. I feel in awe with the wondrousness of it. Inside the well-lit cave, I see your four-poster bed and other beautiful furniture. Your home is magnificent. I wondered out loud how you got the furniture in there. Then I notice the cave dwelling continues room after room. It is very deep. The home has everything you could want…all the conveniences of home…like a washer/dryer etc., kitchen, living room, reading room, bathrooms and all the furnishings are stunningly beautiful. It is very deep, large and spacious. By the end of the dream, the home was my husbands and my home. I felt in awe.
    When I had the dream, I remember one feeling and thought I had was … ahhh my husband and I are on a similar journey as Jeanie.
    Then yesterday as I was reading your new and wonderful book, I really felt the truth of that. Your book is so well written and such a wonderful guide! I felt deeply grateful for your work! I am working with your material and the questions you offer for us to ponder – to make it my own too – just what I needed right now!
    Thank you so much Jeanie for all you generously give to us! I read the prologue first and then jumped directly to the sections on Shadow work. The synchronicity is incredible! I also love the art on the cover. Excellent work Jeanie! It flows. I deeply appreciate how you take deep concepts and write about them in a conversational palatable way. You have taken heady material and given us a delicious nutritious meal. You not only did the inner work yourself, so you speak from a deep inner knowing (which I respect and deeply appreciate). I also suspect you trekked through a whole lot of deep, sometimes very difficult and dense material to create a clear path for us – just as my dream showed me several weeks ago, (your lovely and deep cave home).
    Thank you! I love it all and I look forward to reading more and learning more and integrating my lessons and growing – deep!
    Your grateful student, Sandy

    1. Dear Sandy,
      I experienced wave after wave of chills reading your beautiful and very heart-warming comment. First, may I say I am deeply honored that Dream Mother choose to use me as a symbol of the self-knowledge and spiritual awareness you seek. Second, I’d like to “second” your immediate response to the dream: to say that it is, indeed, about the journey you and your husband are taking to your own Wisewoman and about the depth and richness and beauty of your own inner life.
      Third, I’m thrilled that Healing the Sacred Divide meets your expectations and is providing the help and guidance you seek now. Fourth: yes, I have trekked through a whole lot of deep, difficult and dense material on my own journey. It’s unavoidable, necessary, and the only way one person can ever hope to clear a path for another.
      Fifth, I want to live in that cave!!!! And sixth, thank you with all my heart for sharing your own heart and dreams with me and my readers. It is a very, very special gift to me to know that my blog and book are making such a deep and lasting impact on another human being.
      Finally, you might be interested to know that I had a similar dream once, just a few weeks after I left college teaching for good to embark on a career of writing about the inner life. In it I was touring the exquisite home of a woman writer I knew and admired, found it to be everything I had ever dreamed of, and realized at the end of the dream that it was to be mine!! I love it that Dream Mother said the same thing to you!
      Warm wishes and blessings on your and your husband’s continued journey, dear friend. You’ll never regret it.

  2. Oh Jeanie, thank you so much for your blessing for our journey! I love it when you say I/we will never regret it! It took me/us many years to get to this place. I/we deeply appreciate it!
    I definitely understand your feelings when you say how deeply honored you feel that Dream Mother chose you as a symbol of self-knowledge and spiritual knowledge…woooeee…I would feel that too! That is so cool that you had such a similar dream as you started your new career writing about the inner life. I love it too that Dream Mother said the same thing to you! Wow! I find myself wondering who the woman writer was in your dream that you admired.
    And…I know what you mean about wanting to live in that cave!! Me too!
    And… more about your new book…I love the stories about God and Goddess. How creative, clever and what a great teaching tool! I deeply appreciate the accessibility of your scholarly and wise writing. I love your writing style and sharing. As a reader, I feel respected. I feel your generous hospitality, grace, wisdom and humility, which feel deeply inspiring and create such a teachable and enjoyable learning environment.
    Many blessings to you too dear friend (and deep precious friend of the inner world), on your continued journey and with your fabulous and important book!

    1. Thank you for your sweet letter, Sandy. The woman writer was someone I knew locally—just an ordinary person with no prior training—who took a creative writing class at the local university, wrote a young adult book for the class, and ended up having it accepted by a publisher. I think I admired that she had the moxy to just go for it and fulfill a dream.
      I’m so glad you like the “cosmic dialogues”! I thought they were kind of fun and instructive at the same time. I guess I was right! And it’s really, really lovely to know you feel respected as a reader. I so appreciate this input. It falls on eager, welcome ears!
      Love, Jeanie

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