Dream a little dream … and go from there


I was going to write something about where I get my ideas from because a lot of people out there have done that recently, but it really depends on where I am, what I’m doing, and what the idea ends up becoming. So I think I’ll focus on one of the best places I get my ideas: my dreams.

When I was a kid, I had very vivid dreams. The earliest I can remember, occurred after I had my tonsils out. Actually, it occurred after my stitches ripped open and I was rushed back to the hospital for emergency surgery.

In the wake of that experience, I had a dream in which I actually died in the process of that surgery, but I still woke up the next morning.  Only, in the world I woke up in, I dreamed of this one.  It’s hard to explain.  Essentially, I dreamed that this world was nothing but the dream of my sleeping self in another world.

Pretty multidimensional/existential for a four-year-old, eh?

I had insomnia, the kind where you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.  I’d lay there and rehearse my dreams, or tell myself stories until I eventually got back to slumber town.

When I dreamed of falling, I woke up several inches off the bed.  What I know of dreams now tells me that the sensation of falling in the dream was so intense I felt that I was still falling when I woke.  I wasn’t actually levitating 🙂

A visit to a Christian book store led to me reading a comic book about an African missionary.  The barbarism with which the artist depicted the rituals of the native tribesmen made such an impact on me that I dreamed of the scar-faced man, had nightmares about him really.  You know the ones, where there’s a man standing at the foot of your bed, staring at you?

I often had out of body experiences (OBEs) when falling asleep, or waking.  I remember these distinctly.  I was like a balloon, tethered, but being flung around (or was I trying to escape?).  That’s how my young mind interpreted it, but when I later delved into meditation and eastern spirituality, I realized that this is classic OBE.

I didn’t keep a dream journal then, but many of my childhood dreams and nightmares have stayed with me nonetheless.  I often dreamed of being abandoned: driving in a van with my family and then one by one, everybody but me disappeared, and I was too small to drive the van (couldn’t reach the pedals).  Stuff like that.

I actually dreamed in story sometimes.  Full, 3-act drama.  If my dreams stayed with me long enough, I wrote them down, but often the delay meant I lost critical pieces.  I’d tell my dreams to my friend Margaret at recess as a way to keep some of them alive.

I started to record my dreams (among other things) when I went away to university for the first time.  I have a number of story ideas that have emerged from those journals.

In university, my room mate, Sandra, enlightened me regarding another aspect of my nocturnal life.  I talked in my sleep, and often sat up and did things as well.  Once, she reported that I sat up in bed, said, “It’s really not that bad … ,” reached around to open the closet door (right beside my bed), looked frowning into the mirror on the door, looked at her, then closed the door, and went back to sleep.

I had night terrors too.  Once I dreamed that something (what I can’t remember) was escaping from me.  I reached up to snatch it back, and when I woke up, I’d torn down a mobile that was hanging in the window.  I dreamed of insects (or other things) crawling on me, or of not being able to find something important.

The first time I went to camp (Southerners read cottage) with my boyfriend (now husband), I sat up and started searching the bed frantically for something.  I kept saying, “I can’t find it.  Help me find it.”  That kind of freaked Phil out, but it wasn’t the most bizarre thing I did while I was sleeping.

When we were living in Married Students’ Residence at Laurentian University, we had a 1-bedroom apartment.  In the middle of January, I got up in the middle of the night and opened all the windows. Phil woke up at 4 am shivering, realized what I’d done, and rushed to close the windows before the radiators burst.  It was a very cold night.  I had no memory of doing that.

One of my favourite courses was one regarding the Surrealists (writers primarily, but artists to a lesser extent).  I really fell in love with the way the surrealists let loose with their subconscious and tried to capture the world of dream on the page.

Since I started working full time and sorted out my depression (that’s another story), my dream life has been less vivid.  I dream more of stress and work-related issues (repetitive loops of action) or of terrible things happening to me or someone that I love.  I still have insomnia, but it’s more troublesome because I can’t afford to sleep in to catch up, and I don’t like what sleeping pills do to me …

I’ve started reading before I go to bed and have noticed I’m having more creative dreams.

I don’t necessarily want to start sleepwalking, having night terrors, or fall into depression again, but it would be nice to have the old story-dreams back again.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

An interesting book about writers and their dreams:

A selection of dream/depression/creativity links:

A dreamy soundtrack:

  • California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and the Papas, 1966
  • Dream a Little Dream – Mama Cass, 1968
  • Dreamboat Annie – Heart, 1976
  • Dream On – Aerosmith, 1976
  • Dreams – Fleetwood Mac, 1977
  • Dreaming – Blondie, 1979
  • Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics, 1983
  • These Dreams – Heart, 1986
  • Don’t Dream it’s Over – Crowded House, 1987

There are hundreds more, but these are my favourites 🙂

How have your dreams influenced you as a creative person?  Have your dreams/sleeping habits  changed over the years?  How has that affected your writing?

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