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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 down 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?


on a summer night

evening star

shimmering into sight

from the dusty mauve

from the grey-blue emptiness

from the velvet vastness

through the lingering heat and the songs of the crickets


single spark in the fading daylight

guiding my thoughts towards my dreams


the bracing sea

Suddenly you are snatched out of time and for a few moments, in which you don’t dare breathe or move and stare unseeingly into the distance, you become acutely and physically aware of the unreality of everything around you.  In that space of time your mind is suspended above the humdrum chatter that usually fills your brain and everything you are touching, everything surrounding you, everything in your mind is totally, absolutely unreal. Made up. A story you tell yourself so as not to have to look too closely at the stark, painful truth: that you are alone. That you are not doing what you want to do. That you are not living like you want to live. That you will die without ever fulfilling your full potential. That you’re not even trying to fulfill it. That nobody will ever know you. That you are alone.

Dreams are dangerous

Dreams are dangerous.
Don’t be tricked.
Don’t get caught.
Don’t believe the self-proclaimed prophets that offer salvation in rainbow-coloured hearts, that haunt the dumps for empty shells of dried-up wisdom to sell them to the desperate.
They will tell you to don’t let go of your dreams.
They are fooling you.
They are deceiving you.
They are killing you.
Don’t believe them.
Dreams are dangerous.

Dreaming is easy.
It’s easier to dream of travelling than to set out into the unknown. It’s easier to dream of having the perfect job than to work for it. It’s easier to dream of having a romantic relationship than to really have it. It’s easier to dream of being happy than to be it.

Dreaming is safe.
It doesn’t require action, or devotion, or sacrifices, or perseverance.
In a dream you cannot find out that travel isn’t always fun. You don’t have to apply yourself to being successful and then find out that the perfect job is not always perfect after all. In a dream, you don’t have to understand the need to compromise and learn and fight to make a relationship work. You don’t have to take the bitter with the sweet and realize the importance of joyfully bearing the dark days between the bright ones.

It’s important to have dreams.

But it’s more important to have a life.