“Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Others will do that for you.” — James Cameron quote.

  • James Cameron says Avatar was inspired by his dreams.
  • Our dreams are one of the most potent sources of inspiration.
  • There are many techniques we can use to tap into our dreams for inspiration.


Shakespeare said the “very substance of the ambitious is but a shadow of a dream.”

When our conscious minds close off, when we fall asleep, the deeper parts of our psyche come out to play. It’s here we can tap into the primary source of inspiration: the subconscious mind. This is an excellent way to find inspiration for writing novels, screenplays, designing games… whatever create project you’re working on.

Dreams are sequences of ideas, emotions, and images that arise from the subconscious and play out before us in our sleep.

Many of the world’s best artists, writers and directors have been inspired by their dreams.

  • They include:
  • Christopher Nolan’s Inception
  • Stephen King’s “Dreamcatcher”
  • Salvador Dalí’s Persistence of Memory
  • The Beatles’ “Yesterday”
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Poetry.
  • Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life”
  • Carl Jung’s “The Red Book”
  • And James Cameron’s Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time.

James Cameron is one of the most commercially successful directors ever. He’s inspired billions of people around the world with the likes of Avatar, Titanic, Aliens, and Terminator 2. And when Avatar 2 hits it will likely break even James Cameron’s own records.

Recently, Cameron has been speaking about his inspiration for Avatar 2. And his revelation is a real eye-opener, because his inspiration didn’t come from some divinity or some superhuman talent. It came from his dreams.

It’s said that talented artists are few and far between, that talent is something you either have or you don’t have.

Horse crap.

Talent is something absolutely anyone can achieve. Why? Because the human mind comes pre-loaded with all the talented you could ever desire. The question is: How do you tap into that talent?

For James Cameron, the answer came from his dreams.

When conceptualising his movies, James Cameron says he would be inspired by his dreams.

“The Terminator came from a dream of a kind of death figure, a chrome skeleton emerging from a fire. A lot of the root imagery I had in Avatar came from dreams I had when I was still in college of a bioluminescent forest,” Cameron told FemaleFirst.

Cameron’s wide range of movies and genres come from a diverse dreaming mind. His alien movies were inspired by nightmares. In an interview on the Terminator Blu-Ray Cameron says that Terminator was inspired while he was feeling dissociated from humanity and was sick in bed, drifting from sleep to deep thoughts.

These deep thoughts and subconscious visions are chief sources of inspiration. And we all get them.

So why do some people struggle to find inspiration?

In Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less,  Alex Soojung-Kim Pang says that most people’s minds are simply too busy and too stressed to be creative. Creativity requires flexibility. To be creative, the mind must be free to explore different angles, to look at the picture from a different angle. That’s why many of the best creative ideas come when we’re taking a long walk or engaging in some other relaxing activity.

When we are relaxed, inspiration comes easy.

So how can we relax the mind so we can start to use our subconscious and our dreams for inspiration.

One way to make the mind more creative is with meditation.

Exercises like meditation give the mind a way to relax so that our deeper thoughts and subconscious, dream-imagery comes to the surface.

Ideas like Avatar come from the deeper parts of the mind. And for those ideas to come out, the mind needs to be relaxed.

This is something even the most stressed-out person can achieve. We can all train our minds to relax. And when we do we will naturally be more creative, and we will find that we naturally create inspiration in our dreams.

Here are 5 ways to relax the mind so you can be inspired by your dreams like James Cameron.

5 Keys To Relaxing The Mind So We Can Be Inspired By Our Dreams

  1. Indulge in the other people’s creativity

All creative works—whether a book, movie, game or anything else—are inspired by other creative works simply because the mind cannot work in a vacuum.

As original as Avatar is, it’s easy to see how it was inspired by outside sources like the works of Edward Rice Burroughs (John Carter, Moon, Tarzan) as well a Hinduism and Buddhism.

(This article reveals the surprising inspirations behind Avatar)

Indulging in other creative work is both relaxing and inspiring. So read, watch, play, visit art galleries, and indulge in other people’s creativity. This will stir the imagination while also relaxing the mind.

Ultimately, a love for creative works leads to a healthy, Zen-like flow of creative ideas perfect for when you’re writing a novel, directing a movie, designing a video game or whatever creative work you’re currently working on.


  1. Let Go So Those Dream-Visions Flow

Speaking to Fast Company, James Cameron said, “It sometimes takes me three or four days to get into a head space where I can [get flowing creatively].  If I get interrupted at any point I have to start over.”.

While we need inspiration in order to come up with creative ideas, the mind needs space and a relaxing atmosphere in order to release those deeply-held dream visions.

To be inspired by your dreams, always make sure that your mind is relaxed enough to actually let go. Otherwise those creative ideas will stay stuck in your unconscious where you will not be able to access them.


  1. Try Meditation Or Yoga An Hour Before Bed

One of the best ways to let your subconscious ideas out is to relax your conscious mind. And two of the best ways of doing that are yoga and meditation.

Simply focusing on your breathing for twenty minutes, or practicing a few yoga Asana (poses that are used in yoga, such as “Downward Dog” and “Warrior”), will deeply relax your mind so that your dream ideas can come out and inspire you.

Read my guide to using Yoga for creativity on THE DAILY MEDITATION to learn more about this.


  1. Do these 2 things when you go to bed

When you go to bed at night, make sure to leave a notebook by your side. That way you can immediately write down your dream ideas when you wake-up. Also make sure that to tell yourself that you are going to remember your dreams. The conscious intent of deciding to remember your dreams makes a big difference. So, tell yourself you will remember your dreams.


  1. Use this secret dream technique

What many people don’t know is that actors and writers use dream work to intentionally influence their dreams. This can be a powerful way of communicating with your subconscious. So how do you do it?

I learned this technique while learning acting at drama school. It’s called “Dream Work”. In this technique we intentionally focus on very specific imagery that is related to the dream we wish to have. If, for instance, we’re writing a sci-fi novel we might like to have a dream in our fantasy world. To do this we meditate on imagery from that world before going to bed. This guides our dreams towards our chosen subject, so we can then experience a dream as though we were in that fantasy world or (for actors) as though we are the character we are writing.


These 5 techniques are powerful ways of influencing the subconscious mind so that we can be inspired by our dreams.

For motivation, check out this video of the best art to ever be inspired by dreams.

The Best Movies Inspired By Dreams


Top Mind-Blowing Movies Inspired By Dreams


Categories: storytelling

Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *