Sunday 5 August 2012

Dreaming (is free)

Have you ever listened to somebody tell you about the amazing dream they had last night? No matter how exciting and vivid it was to them, it's utterly boring to everybody else. How do you capture that elusive quality of a dream that made it so compelling while you were living it?

I remember my daughter - aged about three or four - who used to delight in telling me about her dreams. She once spent an entire car journey of over half an hour relating the adventures she and her friends had inside a vacuum cleaner (or Noo-Noo as I believe she called it at the time, in homage to the Teletubbies). More than thirty minutes without repeating herself - I was rather impressed!

But what do your dreams tell you? There are many books and websites that claim to help you interpret your dreams and decipher what it is your subconscious is trying to tell you. I'm not entirely convinced. For example, dreaming of teeth is supposed to signify concerns about your appearance to others, particularly in the case of menopausal women. I dream about teeth a lot (and I'm coming up on the dreaded 5-0 rather too rapidly for my liking), but I strongly suspect my dreams are the result of a childhood accident, and my dental hygienist actually went so far as to say she thought I might be suffering from a mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder!

I dream about "escape" a great deal. I'm always in the middle of some all-action adventure, usually involving bad guys. Being chased is supposed to mean I'm running away from something in my life, rather than confronting it and I should face up to my fears. Maybe - I don't know. But they are exciting dreams, if sometimes scary. Perhaps that's why my writing generally has a theme running through it - as I discussed in an Authors Electric blog last year, there's a dark thread that pervades all of my writing, whether it's fantasy or mainstream thriller, there's always an edge: by accident or design, people are never where they are supposed to be.

The first novel I ever wrote was as a result of a dream. Back in my early teenage years, I was able to lucid-dream, to be dreaming and yet be aware of the fact. I got into the habit of stage-managing my dreams, being both director and actor, and playing out different scenarios in an environment that was as good as real. Sadly, I've lost this ability, but I can sometimes still re-enter the same dream and carry on where I left off.

I think all writers do this to some extent. Certainly many of my writer friends write out their dreams or are at least inspired by an event or character in a dream - whether they are exorcising ghosts in the process, I don't know. It'd be nice to think that the act of writing in some way promotes a better state of mental health. In fact writing is recommended as a method of stress-release by many psychologists. Maybe that's why we dream? And that's why we write?


Rick said...

It's interesting that dreaming and its place in writing is making a comeback in writing discussions and not in others. I enjoyed your thoughts on this since I do believe that vivid dreaming is a critical component of vibrant creativity.

Debbie Bennett said...

Hi Rick. I just wish I could capture that vibrancy every time. Somehow, it fades with my memories and I wish I knew why!