Dreaming and creativity: Uses and influences of dreams in a group of 26 writers
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This study consists of a qualitative analysis of radio interviews with 26 American authors conducted by Naomi Epel, a California dream researcher. Epel's interviews are a substantial contribution to anecdotal literature concerning connections between dreams and creative writing. Her sample is biased, having been selected on the basis of personal preferences, but highly professional. The authors are widely published. The sample is diverse in terms of genre and, to some extent, ethnicity. The data are readily available (Epel, 1993). The purpose of this dissertation was to analyze Epel's data in a rigorous and systematic way that would add to knowledge about the functions of dreams for creative writers; the process by which writers transform their dreams into creative products; and influences of the creative process on dreams. The data were analyzed using a modified grounded theory method based on the work of Glaser and Strauss (Glaser, 1978; Glaser, 1992; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Open coding was used in combination with research memos. The research methodology chosen and its implementation through a computerized database program developed by Marie-Anne Demuynck permitted the systematic organization of this body of anecdotal literature into an outline of dream functions, transformation, and influence. It was found that dreams provided starting points for creative work and that dream reports were incorporated in creative works. Visual imagery and primary process material predominated in these two groups. Dreams provided authors with new experiences and with solutions to creative problems. Dreams helped authors resolve ambivalence and set priorities. Writers treat dreams as just one of many sources of material and work with dreams by accessing feelings and sensations. They transform dreams into creative products by reproducing dreams literally and by fictionalizing their content. Authors dream about creative material and attribute dreams to anxiety around the creative process. The study findings support the call of researchers for additional research into specific fields of artistic endeavor, primary process and creativity, and home (non-sleep-laboratory) dreams.