Wednesday, August 30, 2006

layers of creativity

Last night, one of the final evenings of August, I slept with the window open to enjoy the cool air. With fresh air and the gentle sound of a fan to lull me, I slept quite soundly. At about 5:30 the paper delivery car pulled up underneath the window and abruptly cut me off from a deep, dreamful sleep. Often I awake slowly as the dogs become more and more restless. But this morning's alarm was like a sharp knife slicing a layer cake. I could peer directly into my dream state. Like an extravagant cake, my dreaming mind had layers.

In one story, I was dressed in a Victorian green velvet gown. I was planning to sail to England to meet a mysterious person. In a second layer, I was frantically running through the airport trying to meet all the requirements for flight to England. I didn't have a passport and the people who could help me get one were inept. When I made it to the gate I was still missing something - a doctor had to check me. The doctor had left for dinner so his assistant looked at me. "Anything wrong with you?" he asked? "Nothing, except a bad case of airport rage." By the time I got back to the gate, I was in tears. The attendant handed me a beverage in a heavy green glass bottle. After remembering those details, I realized that I had also been dreaming about playing in the dark green grass of my childhood back yard. By the time I recalled this, the story had faded.

If our unconscious mind can create three parallel stories that seem related by story and/or imagery, why do we struggle to come up with a simple creative idea in waking life?

Immediately after recalling this dream layer cake, I thought about my work this week. I have been trying to come up with an idea for the next Schedule of Classes cover. Another unit on campus markets the interim semesters, so we need a compelling image or saying that can be used in advertising. Sometimes I enjoy creating these covers, but this time I can't light any creative spark.

How is it that we can be lavishly creative in our dreams but struggle to come up with one idea while awake? I suspect it has something to do with the criticism we place on our waking ideas and the criticism we imagine - or actually hear - from others. While asleep, our creativity can play like a child in a lush back yard.

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