Saturday, February 12, 2011

Follow Your Dreams

For starters ~ No! This is not going to be some Polly Anna blog about chasing your dreams and you can accomplish anything (my intestines are knotting just thinking about it). No, this blog entry is literally about dreams ~ as in falling asleep and having dreams (intestines settling).

Maybe it's the changes in the weather; maybe it's my obsession lately with mortality. Who knows? It could be . . . oh, never mind. Whatever the possibilities, I've been having some very strange dreams as of late. In some I've had the starring role, others I was a minor character, and in some I had the wonderful position of an omniscient observer. One dream involved a UFO coming through my apartment wall, another had a killer fighting a cop, and one had me climbing a hill in San Francisco (I haven't been in San Francisco in over 30 years). As different as these dreams (and others) were, the one thing they have in common is they'll all make great stories (there's more to it than climbing a hill in San Fran, but I'll keep that a secret for now).

Turning dreams into stories is no great shake. Most creative fiction writers I know have used dreams for story fodder. If any of you have read my short story "The Blue Light," that was based on a dream that wasn't even mine (if you haven't read it then get your butt to a bookstore or and order Edging Past Reality). A friend from my writers' group came up and told me about a dream he had. In it a man walked into a room to find pictures of models wearing lingerie. What made it unusual is that all the pics were taken below the neck so none of their faces appeared. That was all the catalyst I needed. The following week I read the story I came up with to my fellow writers (of course giving my friend credit for the idea). He was so touched that he came up to me after the meeting and told me he'd never tell me another dream again. Looking back, that's the only dream that wasn't mine that I ever used for a story. In EPR there are at least four (more likely five or six) stories that originated in my dream state.

One of the smarter things I used to do was sleep with a pen and pad of paper next to my pillow. Waking up from a dream I would quickly jot it down before forgetting the details. But as I got older and sleep became such a rare and valued commodity, I got lazy. I'd wake up from a dream, 'that was interesting' and go back to sleep thinking I'd write it down in the morning. Funny thing about that. By morning the details would be faded beyond recognition, and that was if I could remember the dream at all. More likely I'd wake up, think 'I know I had an incredible dream, but what was it?'

At one point I reached what I liked to think of as an okay compromise with myself. When I woke up from a dream I would concentrate on the details, forcing myself to remember. One of two things happened. Either I'd concentrate so hard to remember that I couldn't fall back asleep again, or if I did enjoy a couple more hours' slumber, I'd forget enough of the details that the dream no longer made enough sense to build a good story.

So even though I have my bouts of insomnia, when I awaken from a dream that has real story potential, I will lay there and concentrate on all the intricate details until I'm conscious enough to get up and start tapping the keys on my computer.

Coming soon: some stories that are really gonna rock!


  1. Hi, David,

    In the years that I taught Creative Writing,
    I would always list dreams as a resource.
    My suggestion: keep a pen and notebook on your nightstand. When you wake up with a particularly vivid dream, jot it down. In the Bible, dreams were considered prophecy. For writers, they are a good source of interesting material.

  2. David,
    I dream in novel form, or maybe it's screenwriting. Always a good story, but like what happens to you, it either doesn't meet my immediate needs or it fades too fast to remember all the details and although I say I'm going to write it down when I wake up, I never can find that pen and paper.

  3. hi jacqueline ~ a very good suggestion, but as i get older it takes my eyes longer to adjust to the light. by the time i sleepwalk my way to the computer, i'm set to go. : )

  4. hi laura ~ i'm jealous. i'd love to dream in novel or screenwriting form.

  5. The only night I took a pen and paper to bed was when I was having contractions..I'd wake up note the time and how long they lasted. When I woke up in the morning my paper looked like it was written in Russian...

    What amazes me about dreams is that they are so realistic and make perfect sense...until you wake up totally and realize most of them make no sense whatsoever.

  6. hi bethie ~they might not make sense at the time, but they can turn into great stories.

  7. They do...if one possesses the talent to put them into a story and lucky for us, you have that talent. I don't. The ones that blow my mind are when there are people in them that one knows so well, shares history with, and has a relationship with..and when we wake up, we realize they are someone who doesn't even exist.

  8. i find that amazing too ~ also when i'm someone else

  9. I tried keeping a notepad and pen next to my bed years ago and the couple of times I woke and wrote down dreams all I had the next morning were wavy scribbles that looked sort of like seismograph thingees! I don't sleep as soundly now so I think I'll try it again. Thanks for the suggestion, David!

  10. thanks mike. that writing as soon as you wake up does take practice, but it gets easier.