Sunday, February 8, 2009

Perchance to Dream

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on..."

RHYS: Sorry to be waxing so Shakespearean today. At least it proves that I did occasionally pay attention in English class!But my blog today is on dreams.

Recently I haven't been feeling too well, battling a stomach complaint, and one of the things that has happened is that I have difficulty sleeping. I fall asleep just fine, then wake at midnight or one o'clock wide awake and not able to sleep again. So my sleep pattern has become horribly disturbed.

This is hard to accept for me, who has always been the sort of person who zonks out the moment my head touches the pillow and wakes again when it's light. And because my sleep has been disturbed, I've been doing less dreaming. I'm currently writing a new Molly book and I've been finding it hard going. I wondered why, as I have such a great story in my head, until it occurred to me that maybe the lack of dreaming may have something to do with it.
So I'm wondering--does a writer or other creative person need to dream to create? Do all creative people dream all the time and vividly? My theory is now that we need that brain rewiring, cleaning and debugging before we can create. We may also need those dreams to pre-plan where we are going with the story,

I have always had incredibly vivid dreams--always in color and with the five senses often involved. I taste food, enjoy scents, hear music , even better than a great movie, or even more terrifying if it's a nightmare. One of the best courses I took at college was one on dream pschology. It was in Germany and taught by an eminent German dream psychologist. So ever since then I can interpret my own (and my friends') dreams. Of course most dreams are only the brain reexamining and processing events of the day, or descrambling crossed wires, but certain symbols are pertinent and recurring dreams always mean something.
I often dream the stress dreams--rushing to catch the train, trying to pack my clothes before I miss the flight or finding myself in school with an exam I can't finish. It's funny that the stress dreams are always school and not college. I geuss college was an all around good experience for me. But if I'm dreaming something odd and different, I talk it through and often find that I use the words to tell me what's wrong. An example: a friend said she kept on dreaming she ran into Marks and Spencer(the big department store in England) and she wanted to buy something but they were closing and the shelves were amost empty. She asked what it meant. I told her that she'd given the clue by choosing Marks and Spenser as her store. She'd always wanted to go go art school. Her parents had sent her out to get a job instead and she'd always regretted it. Hence she dreamed of going to a place where there were "marks" which we say instead of grades in UK. But she's worried she's left it too late.

So if you have a dream you want interpreted, ask me.And fellow Jungle Reds--do you dream a lot and vividly? Do you think that is something common to all creative people,ANDhave you ever dreamed a good plot that you've later used?

JAN: I dream A LOT and vividly. Sometimes I dream really loud sounds that wake me up. My brain switches right into wild dreams even as I doze off. I have to meditate with my eyes open so it doesn't happen.
Last night I dreamt I was making YOUTUBE videos for a living. It was a lot of fun, but I have yet to incorporate a dream into life or even a plot.

When I was a health reporter, I interviewed a Harvard brain researcher who was convinced that we used our dream cycles to process the trauma and emotion in our life. And that was one of the reasons people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) couldn't process their trauma -- because the trauma itself interrupted the dream cycle. So that could also support your theory on creativity, Rhys. The brain needs to rest and mend to process life and create.

ROBERTA: First of all Rhys, I'm very sympathetic to the sleep problems. I've had them for a

while, and lately of just the variety you describe: wake up at 2-3 pm and lie there for hours. I've had several people recommend melatonin and I'm going to try it.
On to dreams: As a psychologist I was always listening for them. I was not taught to interpret certain dream figments as having meaning in themselves, but to explore the patient's thoughts and associations around the dream. In other words, the dream might reveal thoughts/problems/feelings that the person was not aware of in conscious life. And as Rebecca Butterman would say, the more we know about ourselves, the less we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
I have two unpleasant recurring dreams. One involves driving a car backwards downhill out of control. Haven't had that for a while and hope not to!! The second (I had a variation of this last night) is a golf dream. I'm trying to hit the ball off the tee, but I can't get my tee into the ground, or the fairway is extremely narrow or even a tunnel. I think it's very much like those school anxiety dreams but a different setting. I only wish I would dream a good plot--I could use one about now!

HANK: Oh, Roberta, I've never ever had a golf dream. (And I must say those have a bit of Freudian overtones...but I'll leave that to the experts.)
Yes, the school dreams: classes that disappear, tests I should have known about, rooms that I can't find. Also about TV, with the time ticking by and I had no implement to write my story for the news with. Once I woke up in the middle of the night, stressed and terrified, having been dreaming that I was writing on my notepad with a fingernail since there were no pencils. For years I was plagued with those.
Then one night I had a dream that I was in a play. Curtain up--and I had no idea what I was supposed to do onstage. I didn't know the words or the steps. And then, in the dream, I said to myself: This is a dream. So no probelm. And besides, I know the words and the steps. I never had the dream again.
Now, I dream in beautiful color about a house I didn't know I had. It's the same house every time, with secret gorgeous rooms full of wonderful things. And I could describe it to you perfectly.

HALLIE: It's so nice to know everyone else has those anxiety dreams. The play. The exams. The class I'm taking but I don't know when it meets or where. Last night I dreamed that, in addition to having two magazine articles and a novel to complete, four weeks of travel to take, and my daughter’s August wedding to plan, my husband and I had sold our house and needed to move. I had no trouble interpreting that. It’s the too-much-to-do-so-you-might-as-well-give-up dream.
Once I had a great dream (I can’t remember what it was about) and woke thinking: I can use that in a book. I wrote it down and in the morning there was a piece of paper on my bedside on which I’d scrawled “pink gravy.” Or at least I think that’s what it said

RHYS: It's interesting that I've also had the car running backward dream and Hank's dream of standing in the wings waiting to go onstage and suddenly realizing that I have no idea what my lines are. Sometimes this works out well and I step onstage and just seem to know what to say, other times I'm rushing around looking for the script. What a bunch of neurotics we are!

So has anyone out there ever dreamed a whole plot?


  1. *raises hand* Uhm. Actually, I have, Rhys. The dream was like watching a movie only more real, more vivid. I woke up, started writing madly, and two weeks later, finished the rough draft. Interesting that you should bring this up now, as I'm in the process of a last hard edit of that particular manuscript before submitting it to my editor for consideration.

    I'm also going to weigh in on PTSD and dreams. When it hits (I was a first responder for years and worked both the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City and the F7 tornado several years later), I have terrible insomnia, no dreams, and a complete lack of creativity.

    I find now that I don't dream as lucidly as I once did, nor do I remember the dreams themselves, but when I'm stuck in a plot or blocked on a character, I'll often wake up with an "Ah ha!" moment, write it down, and conk out again.

    I wish I had a dream for you to interpret, Rhys. The only reoccurring one involves me being chased up a mountain on a fire road by some unseen "evil" and the trees crashing down behind me. If I can reach the top, I know I'll be safe but I never do. I think I know what it means.

    And as long as I'm waxing full of hot air...*rolls eyes*...I finally managed to get Blogger to display my pen name rather than my real name. I'd been posting under it until now.

    - Silver, the writer formally known as Penny.

  2. Hey Silver: Amazing. I can't wait to read it.

    I knew we were cosmically connected. I was yanked into the newsroom to report the brekaing news of the Murrah Federal Building bombing as it happened. It's strange to think of you there, in the midst of it, as I was safely in Boston.

    Rhys, what do you think about Silver's fire road dream?

    And Hallie's--pink gravy?

  3. I meant "breaking," of course. Why is there always a typo?

  4. Well, Hank, since the first book in this trilogy is in pre-production, I figure the second (the one I'm polishing) will likely be picked up. Faerie Fire is hard to explain. It's a suspense with paranormal overtones, involving a senator's daughter who's psychic, a disgraced SAS captain, an Irish terrorist, and reincarnation. Oh, and faeries. *laugh*

    At the Murrah, I was the first forensic photographer on scene that morning. I was attached to the airport fire department at the time. Even 14 years later, April 19 is not a good day. I didn't write for almost two years after and it sucked.

    Typos? What are those? We never make mistakes. *gigglesnort*

  5. Silver, I can't imagine.

    Speaking of heroes, did you see Captain Sullenberger?

  6. Powerful stuff, all. Silver, I'd love to talk with you at some point. I think we've been in some of the same places at the same time (OK City, Moore).

    I dreamed in black & white as a kid and came to color as an adolescent, and slowly. For awhile, only key things in my dreams were in color. (Very Schindler's List), and then color became the standard.

    But I rarely remember my dreams. Those that I do remember are typically nightmares I wake up from. These days they're all about searches, though back-in-the-day I had the naked final exam dreams, as well.

    I've had wilderness wrong-turning dreams and disaster unstable floor dreams,and dreams where my dog alerts at the edge of a ravine and disappears over the side of it with a soft, horrible thump at the end of a long fall.

    About a month ago I dreamed she was attacked by another dog while working, and a week later she was, which was very strange.

    Sometimes, happily, I dream of following her in the dark and watching the scent she works as a stream of color slipping through cracks in doorways and curling in corners. Very prismatic and quite beautiful.

    And much preferred to the floor's-not-there dreams.

  7. Hank, hooray for 24/7 news coverage. Watched the event live. Dude! Sully is my kind of hero. If I weren't menopausal, I'd have his babies! Just sayin'...

  8. Susannah, we very likely were. I worked Moore as Resource Commander. We'll talk.

  9. Silver,
    I wish my dreams were as productive as yours.

    On the PTSD. Have you checked into EMDR therapy? I had a form of PTSD that manifested itself as a phobia and all symptoms are completely gone now. This after trying absolutely everything else. It was like a miracle.

  10. Heh. I didn't mean to hijack the thread. *bwahaha*

    Jan, each year downrange, it gets better. There are times, when I can't rein in my Muse, that I sort of miss the non-creative times. Even as I type, she's beating my imagination with a hammer. "Plot device!" she's yelling happily, having read the preliminary information on EMDR over my shoulder. And lo and behold, I'll probably end up using it in the third book in my faerie/reincarnation trilogy. The one that isn't plotted but for the main characters and how they meet. Now if she'd just bugger off so I can finish what I'm supposed to be doing!

  11. *HEADDESK* This is what comes from a Firefox update and not signing back into correct Google account. Uhm...Savannah is just another one of my many "personalities." Sorry for any confusion.

  12. I don't remember my dreams very often, but there is one I've had off and on for many years. (Did I write this once before, or is that just a dream, too?)

    I'm in a one-story building in a wide open space, possibly the African plains. Everything is some shade of brown or orange. There are many doors in the building, none of them lock and they're pretty flimsy, like screen doors. Outside I see three or four lions walking around. One of them enters the house, I leave. Another one enters, I walk around, they leave, I go back in the house. This goes on until I wake up. There's no running and I'm not afraid, just wary. I'm never hurt and never think of shooting or harming the lions. So, Drs...what think? Can this woman be saved?