Sunday, February 27, 2022

If You Can Dream It, You Can Write It

by Craig von Buseck @craigvonbuseck

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

Everything that exists was once an idea. In more romantic, Disneyesque terms, everything that is, once was a dream. The idea or the dream is the starting point for building the thing. 

This concept is just as true—and perhaps even truer for the writer. 

In the building of Disneyland and Disney World, Walt believed so strongly in the concept of “dreaming” in the creative process that he melded the worlds of the left-brained mechanical engineers with the right-brained creatives on his staff. By doing this, he set a new standard for amusement park design and building. He coined the term “imagineers” to describe these creative mechanics.

By bridging these worlds he freed analytical mathematicians to invent the animatronics for the inspiring Hall of Presidents, among dozens of other ground-breaking rides at the Disney parks.

Dreaming God’s Dreams
We know that dreams can be both part of the conscious world of making plans for the future, but also remarkable stories that play in our head when we sleep. I’ve always been a dreamer in both ways. The fact that our minds create worlds and scenarios in our subconscious minds should be an encouragement to any writer that your conscious mind is capable of truly remarkable creativity as well!

The Old Testament uses the Hebrew word Ḽalom, referring to either an ordinary dream or one that is given by God. The New Testament use two different Greek words referring to dreams – the word onar, referring to message or oracle dreams, and enypnion, which can refer to both oracle and non-oracle dreams. The Bible also speaks of “night visions” or “visions in the night” referring to message or oracle dreams. 

God gives us both types of dreams as a gift both of restorative sleep and as another means to communicate with us. The fact that you dream should build your confidence of the creativity available to you within your brain.

Once again, if you can dream it, you can write it.

Let Yourself Dream
When I teach writing techniques I explain that the key to effective writing is:
  • Prewriting
  • Writing
  • Rewriting
  • Rewriting again (and sometimes again and again).
One of the vitally important parts of prewriting is giving yourself time and room to dream of what your book or article could be. The dreaming process then leads to outlining and plotting.

I am convinced that the dreaming process in large measure separates good from great writers. Good writers go through the mechanics of outlining, plotting, and scene preparation. Great writers do all of those things, but FIRST they unleash their imaginations to dream of what their book could be – and then they take notes to capture those thoughts.

Dreams in Lincoln’s Top Hat
Among American presidents, there are a few truly great writers/communicators, including John F. Kennedy and Ulysses S. Grant. Most historians and literary experts agree, however, that the greatest writer to ever occupy the White House was Abraham Lincoln. 

Despite his very busy schedule as president, Lincoln purposely sought times of solitude to think, to meditate, and to dream. In these times, as important and moving ideas and words came to him, he captured them in a series notes. As creative and compelling thoughts came to him, Lincoln would pull out a pencil and a small pad of paper from his coat and jot down notes. Then he would tear out these small scraps of paper, fold them and place them inside the inner brim of his top hat. 

Lincoln would ruminate on these ideas, especially as he was preparing a major speech. There would come a tipping point for the president when these individual ideas began forming into a full expression. At that point he would take out the various slips of paper and start the process of sewing them together into a full speech or text. This is how the Gettysburg Address, among other great Lincoln compositions were crafted.

Dreaming Breaks You Free from Writers Block
Those who struggle with writers block would do well to remind themselves that they can and do dream. If that is you, I encourage you to do this exercise of dream acknowledgement:
  • During a one week period, place a notebook next to your bed to record every dream that can be remembered first thing in the morning. Write out as many details as you can recall.
  • If in the course of a day you remember other details be sure to write them down as soon as possible. You can also record a voice memo with your phone to capture the thoughts.
  • At the end of that week, review all your notes and allow your mind to spend some time thinking about and remembering the dreams from that week. In the midst of this review you may remember some dreams from the week that you haven’t captured. Write these new memories down as well.
  • On the first day of the new week, using the same notebook, write down 5 to 10 of the most important and/or memorable dreams you can remember from your life.
What is the purpose of this exercise? On the one hand it is a reminder to your conscious mind of the amazing creative capabilities of your subconscious brain. On the other hand, it is a priming of the pump for the release of your creativity. Feeding your mind with its own creativity helps to transfer that power from the subconscious to the conscious.

Linda Ronstadt tells the story of a recording session she participated in with the great songwriter Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. In the midst of the session the musicians ran into a part of the song that was not working. Not one of these professional session musicians could figure out the problem so they decided to take a break. Everyone left the studio except Brian who remained at the piano. Instead of playing the song, he started playing a boogie-woogie piano riff. 

Ronstadt sat in the recording booth and watched Wilson pound out this different tune for several minutes. Suddenly Brian stopped, looked over into the booth and announced, “I figured it out.” He had solved the problem that the other musicians were not able to untangle by freeing his mind to creatively flow through that boogie-woogie riff. The musicians all returned to the studio, amazed at the solution shared by the great Brian Wilson.

It is the same for all artists. While mastering the craft, grammar, and structure of writing, we must never forget the joy of dreaming and the ecstasy of creative expression. Each of us needs to allow ourselves to dream. For me, dreaming is often unleashed by hikes in the woods or in the mountains; by watching an inspiring movie, listening to a brilliant concert or song, or entering into musical worship. You need to find out what works to unleash your ability to dream.

As an artist, do what you must do to free yourself to dream creative dreams and then to write your best work!


Dr. Craig von Buseck is an award-winning author and the Digital Content Manager for the Parenting section of His most recent book is Victor! The Final Battle of Ulysses S. Grant. Learn more at


  1. Thank you for this profound start to the week! For me, dreaming, thinking, and reading are just as important to novel-writing as hands on the keyboard, and I find ideas are generated by exercise. I believe it was Henry David Thoreau who said, "The moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow."

    Bookmarking this post.

  2. Thank you Craig for this encouraging message. :-)

  3. Sometimes we forget to dream and use our imaginations. Or we get pulled into the downward spiral of imagining "vain things" as the Bible calls them. This too will affect our future. Thanks for reminding us to dream big and dream positively!