the creative potential of migraines and dreams

I’m prone to headaches. Too much tension? Headache. Not enough fresh air? Headache. Sudden change in the weather? Headache. Perfume section in department stores? Headache. Sometimes, the headaches evolve to migraines. Luckily not that often, but when they do it’s sudden and brutal and I need to lie downย immediately either in a dark room or with a scarf or similar wrapped around my head.

Yesterday I woke up with a headache and because I procrastinated on the medication, the pain suddenly skipped up the scales, whistling merrily as it went and trying to explode my head, which was my cue to lie down again and pull the blankets over my head. My youngest sister was kind enough to drop the blinds and bring me an extra blanket. (I don’t know why headaches always make me feel cold – something to do with the draining of energy? hm…)

And as I lay there, drifting somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, not thinking and not dreaming, trying to relax, words formed in my head and without any conscious effort at all, my brain dictated the whole text of the introduction to the (academic) project I’m working on at the moment to me. It’s not like I had started writing it already, or even thought about how to phrase my ideas. I’m still very much in the research phase. I have made a few mental notes on things that need to be made clear from the beginning, the emphasis on the approach I’m taking and so on. But I hadn’t written a single word of the intro, not on paper and not in my head. And yet, there it was. And it was good. It was clear, it was structured and it was to the point – but it also held passion and conveyed the importance of the issue and drew the reader right in.

Unfortunately, my brain chose to compose that text while I was prostrated and in no condition to emerge from under the blankets, so I couldn’t capture it. The same goes for dreams, by the way. I don’t always remember my dreams, but when I do, they are always long, involved, detailed, colourful and usually follow a loose storyline. I’ve dreamed the most amazing adventure stories and mysteries. I usually don’t remember them past the first two minutes after waking up though, and even while I try to write them down, they slip away so that I usually end up with mad scribblings, half of which are illegible and the other half doesn’t make sense anymore.

This morning, I tried to recapture the introduction my mind presented to me yesterday. I can’t. I use similar phrases, I try to use the same structure but it sounds forced and boring and pedantic. I’m sure I can improve it a lot, but my question is this: Why is my subconscious so much more brilliant than my conscious mind? And can somebody please remind me to take a dictaphone to bed when I have the next migraine?

Do you have amazing ideas in dreams and in a half-conscious state as well? How do you hang on to them? And do you think it’s possible to access that effortless creativity when awake?


About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on January 10, 2013, in day-to-day and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Anna Scott Graham

    Sorry to hear about the migraines; my eldest suffers from them too, such a debilitating state.

    Like you, my subconscious seems to, at times, articulate very concisely. Sometimes I wake with the faint grasp of that brilliant intrigue, more often it’s slipping through my sleepy fingers. Once I did stir to such a dream, wrote it down, and it became my first indie novel. Otherwise I smile at that hazy, artsy intellect, and grab the dregs that remain. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah, that’s probably all we can do. My dreams are so much more colourful than anything I can imagine when I’m awake though – it seems such a pity.

  2. I think it’s sometime possible to keep ideas from dreams by having that pad by the bed everyone talks about and instead of writing in it, to fling it on the floor. Quite often stumbling over it in the morning will prompt you to remember why you flung it there. Of course it doesn’t always work and if the pad is large, you stub your toe….
    Re migraines, I’ve had them since I was nine and a sympathise utterly and recognise all the situations you name, especially the perfume department. Those glossy magazines that have a ‘sniffy’ advertisement in them can also cause a problem – I lift them off the shelf and instantly know that was a bad idea. And I would add in sports as well, with dehydration as being a primary cause.
    In latter years I have had a great many less bad heads: I gave up dairy products which was a huge help, and these days when I feel a headache coming on, I take two anti-sickness pills, a pint and a half of cold water, followed by a diet coke or a coffee. If I have to resort to proper medication, I feel I have failed somehow. Don’t ask me why. It’s mad. But I put off taking those pills for as long as I can. And weirdly, I get hotter not colder when I have a migraine….

    • Wonderful idea about flinging down the pad! I could throw out my old teddy, no danger of stubbing my toes there. Poor old teddy though… ๐Ÿ™‚
      I’m sorry to hear that you suffer from migraines. Such beastly things. I’m very lucky that I don’t get them too often, I don’t know how I’d cope if I had them more regularly. It’s very interesting about the change in diet helping with headaches, I hadn’t heard that before. I’ll read up on it.
      About medication… I used to not like taking any, for the rather stupid reason that I wanted to be tough and not cave in to my own body, but I’m so over that. If a pill or two can help me to not be in pain and spend half a day lying in bed without being able to do anything, I won’t even think twice about taking it. Also, it helps if I take it straight away, as soon as I get the first signs of a headache. And very strong, very sweet tea. That helps as well.

  3. I usually come up with writing ideas when I’m walking my dog. My dog is a handful so I never write down these ideas and by the time I get home, I have a few words of the idea but have lost the brilliance. I blame my dog entirely for this. And I’m sorry to hear about the headaches. I suffer from them quite a bit and they are not fun. Take care

    • Yep, that’s exactly it! You kinda know what the words were about, but the brilliance is gone. Have you ever tried taking something with you on the walks to record your voice? It takes a bit of getting used to, especially if there are people around, but it’s a great way to hold on to those elusive thoughts.

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