Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dream a little dream

by Rick Blechta

Dickens Dream by Robert William Buss, 1875
What we see in our “mental movie theaters” nightly is one of the strongest forces shaping our lives. A particularly vivid dream can stick with someone for a lifetime. One I had many years ago while still in my teens remains as vivid to me as the day I had it. In the dream I was flying over the playing field at my old grammar school. In writing this, I did a quick cataloging of those sorts of dreams and I have six of them.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this (our own Donis Casey wrote about this a short while back), but I occasionally experience what I like to call “novel dreams”, highly detailed, linear “stories” from which I wake and tell myself, “You should write this down. It would make a hell of a book.”

Of course, I never do. I might wake up enough to think this. I might even wake up enough to think about the dream in order to memorize the salient points of the story. Then I roll over, go back to sleep, and have most of those salient story points disappear into the great beyond by the time I wake up the next morning.

As a side comment, I’ve also taught myself to dream lucidly — a bit. For those not familiar with the term, it simply means that you are aware of the fact you’re dreaming as you’re in the middle of the dream. People who are adept at this technique can actually impose their conscious mind on their unconscious mind and somewhat direct the course of their dreams. I’ve only managed this a handful of times over the years, but I have taught myself to regularly wake up from frustration-type dreams whenever I have them.

About a month ago, I made a vow that the next time I have one of my “novel dreams”, I would wake myself up at the end, and this time I would get it all down, even if that meant completely disturbing my night’s sleep.

So, last Friday, it happened, and everything worked like a charm. The dream was just winding down, I realized from inside the dream that this was happening, woke myself up and grabbed my little digital dictation machine.

Rather than go downstairs, I snuck into our en suite bathroom and spent just over 6 minutes dictating the high points of the dream’s plot. Satisfied, I went back to bed, and even managed to drift off again after a half hour.

Only one problem: when I got up the next morning and switched on the dictation machine, what greeted me was a complete string of gobbledegook. It sounded as if I was talking in my sleep. Much of it was unintelligible, little of it made any sense, and what did sort of make sense was absolutely ridiculous.

My guess is that I never woke up enough. If I didn’t have the hard evidence of the recording, I would likely swear that I dreamed getting up and going to the bathroom to dictate my story.

Little flashes of the original dream are still floating around in my noggin, but nothing like the complete story. Even so, those bits and pieces are intriguing and might have been something worthwhile.

Undaunted, I’m going to try again. Next time, though, I will get out of bed, go downstairs and write it all on the computer, fully awake. Unless I can somehow manage to “sleep type”, I should get a proper read on whether these dreams are anything worth mining for story ideas, or some half-baked thing that’s created by my unconscious mind to taunt me.

There are accounts of authors who have dreamed their books first (Robert Louis Stevenson with The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for instance), so I have to believe it’s possible. Has anyone else accomplished this or tried to do it?

I’ll let you know how my noble experiment is progressing.

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