Dream A Little Dream…
This past week, I’ve been having some odd dreams. It’s probably in large part to lounging on the couch and falling asleep while watching Wire in the Blood, not the most upbeat show of all time. Most of these dreams I’ve pushed out of my head because they’ve only been remembered in tiny, little fragments of not much use besides having me wake up with a deeply disturbed feeling. There is something to be had for even that. Dreams reside in that weird space in our brains where magic happens. Our imaginations run rampant and all kind of thoughts come unbidden into the grey matter. Despite how small we’ve managed to make microchips, and all the depths we’ve plumbed in uncovering mysteries, there is a lot of unknown territory when it comes to dreams. I’m certainly aware of brain studies and all that sort of thing where brain activity is mapped on sleeping subjects, but does anyone really know what’s going on? That’s for the scientific folks. I tend to make stuff up, right? So why am I even talking about something so far out of my depth? Two reasons. For one, nothing should be out of a writer’s depth. You have an imagination and you have the internet and access to loads of information in those things called books found in those things called libraries if you come up short. As a writer, you should be prepared to do the necessary research to find out the facts you need for your story, game, whatever. Unless you’re writing a how-to book, the information should be verifiable and logical (or at least maintain a bulletproof internal logic). Verifiable is something where your mileage may vary and some facts are subject to interpretation in any case. The second reason is dreams are good source material for your writing. That’s what I’m talking about today, how dreams can inform your work.
We all have dreams. Some folks dream in color. Some folks dream in black and white. Some folks remember their dreams in vivid detail. Some folks lucid dream (which is maintaining a level of control within a dream) and others remember blurry fragments or awake with fuzzy emotions. Whatever type of dream you have, you can use that material. Heck, you can even set yourself up to predispose yourself to certain types of dreams.
We were all kids once (and some of us still are) and have invariably fallen asleep in front of a scary movie, and how many of us remember our mothers admonishing us for watching horror flicks because they’re going to give us bad dreams? Yep. You know it’s true. Scary movies can certainly live to scary dreams (especially in our adolescence when we’re less jaded) and we have awakened freaked out or screaming or otherwise less than refreshed. Rather than dismiss the dream and the emotion, it’s our responsibility to be a journalist of the fantastic and let those feelings wash over us and dissect them in a way. Ideally, you can write them down. These emotions are the real, unfiltered thing, and can enable us to better capture the feelings of fear, mastery, or killer spy confidence many of us don’t experience in real life. Movies and video games and books all offer us escapism in various forms and fashions, but dreams connect us to something outside ourselves. We are mining strange territory, unfettered by mundane constructs of reality and common sense. Being able to tap into these dream experiences allows us a wealth of feelings we may otherwise never experience firsthand. And while some dreams are mundane or recurring, a dream of flying (setting all symbolism aside) and remember how you felt when you flew can help anchor your writing in a sense of the real. You’re giving us the touchstone of your experiences (as imaginary as they may be).
So how does one capture these self-made flights of fancy? There are myriad ways, but the easiest is to have a journal–you can go call it a dream journal if you’d like to be artsy–and record your dreams in it when you awake along with your impressions of your dreams. You can also read books on lucid dreaming and learn techniques for not only remembering your dreams, but controlling your dreams to an extent. Like anything, how far you take it is up to you, but if you get in the habit of examining your dreams when you awaken, you’ll find they become easier and easier to recall over time. If you want to give your sleeping brain homework, you can meditate or mull over a particular puzzler before you go to sleep and leave your unconscious mind to sort it out. We all do this to various degrees anyway, when we say we’re going to sleep on it. So, expand your working hours to include all hours and consider this another tool in your arsenal. Remember, your results will vary. Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!