Friday, August 18, 2006

Dreaming and Stories

I've been writing a lot (for me, anyway) this week. And I hit a snag. I knew exactly what needed to happen, I just couldn't figure out the where or the how. Just before I went to sleep last night, I got a nibble. Unfortunately I was beyond tired - been getting by with 3 or 4 hours of sleep and lots of caffeine the past several days. So, I made a note in the text & went to bed. And I dreamed the scene in its entirety. Though it's morning now and the dream's a little foggy, I had to laugh at the last little exclamation point my dreaming mind sent. In the dream, I was looking at a newspaper. Normally I can't read in dreams - usually a sure sign/signal that says "hey! you're dreaming!" If I'm lucky I don't wake up and the dream shifts into lucidity. Regardless - yeah, yeah, I'm rambling here - the vital info was the headline on the dream newspaper!

In many ways, the dreaming mind is the last great frontier. We still know so little about it. Why do we dream? - is it just an info dump to clear the brain's hard drive of the daily junk, a way of assimilating the vast amount of information gathered, or something else? I dunno and the scientific community hasn't reached consensus, either. What is clear is that, across cultures and epochs, dreaming has been ascribed a level of respect and interest that has at times included the belief in divine origination. Even the oldest known recorded story (Gilgamesh) focuses on a dream & the interpretation of that dream. Whether or not the dream actually happened is irrelevant. The fact that it was included in this ur text shows the power and respect given to dreams.

Okay, so flash forward. Dreaming in the modern world? Big deal, right? Nope, we don't really think dreams are moments of divine intervention any more - or most folks don't. So what's going on here? Lots of writers, scientists, musicians & artists have gotten inspiration, problems solved, & occasionally whole ideas from their dreams. Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein by a dream. Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also came from a series of dreams. Stephen King has also cited dreams as inspiration for some of his story ideas. And there are tons of other examples ranging from sewing machines to physics that I won't go into. So, I say again, I got some info from a dream. Big deal. really is. My location problem been solved, and I've been reminded of something I've kinda neglected the past few years. And that's really, really awesome. Time to finish the story!


At 2:08 PM, Blogger Christian said...

Congratulations! Dream revelations are so cool when they happen. Almost everything I've ever written contains at least an image borrowed from a dream, and I've occasionally been blessed enough to have entire stories "revealed" to me. It's like a direct download from the realm of the Muses. Only problem is, there's no way to make it happen. If there was a pill you could take that would give you story dreams, I would be a complete junkie.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Wow. That's freaky. But anything freaks me out. I try not to remember my dreams.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Great thoughts on dreams. I dreamed of bodies being slashed into pieces by a serial killer last night. Don't know why since I'm writing about drowning in the Arctic sea. Then again, maybe I don't want to know.

FABULOUS picture with this post! Thanks for sharing!

At 12:21 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Mental Note:

Refuse all offers by Elizabeth to have crit group meeting at her house.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger angie said...

I wouldn't worry, Mindy. sounds like Elizabeth's getting all her aggression and anxiety out in her dreams - much better than going psycho in the waking world!

It is a cool image. It's a painting of Vishnu dreaming the Universe into existence.

Seems like I go through cycles of having lots of dreams I remember & then several nights where I don't remember a damn thing. I'm in a heavy dream recall cycle right now - kinda cool, kinda not.

At 6:48 AM, Blogger M.E Ellis said...

Dreams are cool. They fascinate me, especially when finding out from dream sites/books what a part of your dream means.


At 11:11 AM, Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

When I was a kid I was a fan of The Great Brain series. in it, there's a book called Me And My Little Brain, in which the younger brother is stuck trying to sort out a problem. He remembers his brother telling him if you go to bed thinking about a problem, you'll wake up with the answer.

This is why I always keep notepaper beside my bed when I'm actively writing a ms!

At 11:21 AM, Blogger angie said...

Actually, that's true, Sandra. It's called dream incubation & can account for most of the dream discovery examples I listed above. Mary Shelley was trying hard to come up with a scary story for the "contest," Robert Louis Stevenson had long thought of writing a story about man's divided nature, Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr was trying to figure out the structure of the atom. All these people were very focused on trying to figure out a specific problem. Almost seems like the dreaming brain is free to make connections and allegories that the waking mind can't. Very interesting stuff. And I love it when it works out for me!


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