I’ve been meaning to write about dreams for a while now, but after last night, it seems especally apropos.
So, with my writing, a lot of my character and plot development happens after I’ve gone to bed, but before I’ve gone to sleep. Yes, I tell myself stories.
On the flip side of this, I get a great many of my ideas for stories from dreams. I’m not alone in this; in his book “Counting Sheep“, Paul Martin recounts that such authors and poets as Mary Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Paul McCartney, and Robert Lewis Stevenson all gleaned inspiration for their famous works from their dreams. Robert Lewis Stevenson, is particular noteable. As Martin writes:
Stevenson’s acts of creation were assisted by characters in his dreams, whom he referred to as his Brownies or the Little People. Stevenson’s Brownies must have visited him mostly in hypnagogic dreams rather than ordinary REM dreams, given the technique he used to encourage them. He would lie in bed with his arms at right angles to the mattress. This enabled him to slip into the twilight zone populated by his Brownies, but if he sank into deeper sleep his arms would fall onto the mattress and wake him up. When Stevenson the writer was hard pressed from money, his Brownies would usually come up with the goods, delivering to the author ‘better tales than he could fashion for himself’. God Bless those Brownies, wrote Stevenson, ‘who don one-half my work for me while I am fast asleep’.
Martin, Paul. (2002) Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasure of Sleep and Dreams
Of course, as Stevenson notes, dreams are only half the work–and perhaps the easy half. After coming up with characters and plot, it is then up to me to figure out motivation, put it into words, and make it coherent to the rest of the world. Damn coherency.
The other issue comes with feasibility–what are the chances of me being able to write a convincing, entertaining story?
For instance, a while back I had a dream about a woman in the military. (Strike one for feasibility–everything I know about the military comes from TV and movies.) She was a commander over a small group of soldiers with unique abilities. (strike two; I think this came from watching too much anime, because my first thought upon waking was the story would be better told in anime or magna form. Still, I can’t get it out of my head) A new soldier is assigned to her unit, a man known as a “shell”. He can do anything anyone asks of him, but they have to ask. He cannot use his powers on his own accord. The commander is protective of him, but the second in command is suspicious, considering him to be a spy for the enemy. When the second in command confronts the commander confronts her–in the middle of a battle, none the less, she screams at him–“He is my brother!”
Anyway…a good story, I suppose, for somebody else to tell.
And yet, I can’t stop developing the characters, their personalities and powers (the commanders powers, as per my dream, a purely defensive. She can block and repel any attack).
Last night, as I was going to bed, I was thinking about this story, or a prequel to it. The commander had been badly injured, and was in the hospital recovering when she had a dream–a city was violently reclaimed by the forest that had been cut down to make way for human development.
The next day, she discovered that an enemy city had been destroyed overnight, in just such a way. She didn’t say anything about her dream, but can’t shake the feeling that she was the cause of the destruction.
That night, in her dreams, she is visited by two individuals wearing the uniform of the enemy. She asks them about the city, and they laugh, saying that she doesn’t understand what she can do. She asks what they mean, and they in return ask her what she most wants out of life–not what her family or the military wants from her, but what she wants. (A question I couldn’t answer for her; I don’t know enough about her–I don’t even know her name)
And so, I fell asleep.
And dreamed about what I most want out of life.
And woke up, first happy, then with an increasing feeling of melancholy because of the unlikelihood of it happening–especially in the way portrayed in my dream.
When I started writing, I intended to share what I dreamed about last night, but I don’t think I can. I’ll just say that on the periphery–the parts of the dream that weren’t central to the plot (if any dream can be said to have a plot) there were penguins, an apricot tree, a velvet painting, and a townhouse with the floorplan of those built by my grandparents.
I’ve been having panic attacks all day long. It’s not too surprising. Yesterday was, well, it wouldn’t have been too stressful for someone who didn’t have to watch every penny. For someone who does…
It’s been hard to make myself leave the house even long enough to take the dogs for a walk. There are other things I need to do, like take books back to the library, that just seem beyond my grasp right now.
I’m wondering if going back to school was the right decision, and even if it really was my decision. I don’t like being pushed into things, but am too much of a whimp to push back. So I generally go along, and then, when I think I can get out of doing whatever it is someone else wants me to do, quit.
And that’s why I’ve never accomplished anything in my life.
Actually, that’s not true. I had to fight to go on a mission. I’m glad I went, I’m glad I stayed for the late transfer. (LDS missions for young women are 18 months, with transfers, where you could possibly change the area of service and/or your companion every 6 weeks. Because of this timing, the transfers are either 3 weeks before your 18 month mark, or 3 weeks after. The sister I went to Canada with went home on the early transfer. I stayed for the later one) But still…when I got home it didn’t take me long to realize that the Canad Winnipeg Mission didn’t need me, I needed the Canada Winnipeg Mission.
I’ve tried to channel some of this anxiety into my writing, but with utter failure. Yes, I want my characters and my readers to feel tension, but trying to write it when having a panic-attack day…well, it’s like pouring oil onto a fire.
I’m jumping all over today. I hope you’re following.
The dream I had before waking up this morning was…well, odd, even for a dream. I was listening to/watching a music video for a country song. I don’t HATE country music, but I don’t remember the last time I chose to listen to it. Well, except for some of the old-school singers, like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson or Patsy Cline. Anyway…
The song was a woman who had called to talk to someone about her life. She was saying that everything was good, that she had moved on, and found a new love. The chorus of the song went “I just wanted you to know. Tell Joe.”
Like I said, I don’t listen to country music, so I don’t know if that’s a real song or not–it’s very possible that I was really hearing it from the clock radio of one of my neighbors. If that’s the case, I’m super embarrassed.
Assuming it’s not, though…
I am starting a new chapter in my life, one that I’m terrified of. Maybe my subconscious is telling me that while it is going to be hard, everything will be fine.
Part of me wants to say that I don’t know who “Joe” is, but I do. I hope it was just a convenient name that rhymes with “know”, but more likely, I’m being told to let go of a good friend and crush, who moved away and recently dumped me from his Facebook friends.
I hope that as I start school, as I get into my new routine, things will get easier. They should, right?
Last night, I had a dream.
I dreamed that I was working in a bookstore. I noticed an author browsing near his own works. There was a kid looking at the books the author wrote, but he didn’t have enough money to buy one of them.
The author noticed the kid too, and not only bought the kid one of his books, but signed it as well. The kid’s mother was appreciative, and told the author that she was trying to write too. She asked for any words of advice.
The author said “There is a difference between telling a story and being a storyteller.”
This being a dream, everyone nodded knowingly, and then I woke up.
I don’t know what it means, or even if it means anything at all. Perhaps I’ve just been feeling guilty that I’ve been neglecting my blog and/or writing.
It’s been so hard to concentrate, lately. I feel like I’ve been drowning in a sea of bad news, and yet I don’t have anything in particular on my mind, and therefore don’t have anything to write about.
I’ve been trying to focus on the good, for instance, as I write this, Sis and the Bro-in-Law at the courthouse finalizing E’s adoption. They will take him to the temple to be sealed as a family for time and all eternity on Saturday. It’s strange–with G, the six month period that Utah state law dictates for an adoption to be finalized seemed like it took forever, but with E, it feels like it snuck up on us.
I guess right now, I need to be focusing on my family and on my future. One’s a lot scarier than the other.
I wrote a super-depressed post last night, and scheduled it to be published during the time when Max and Lulu would be at the groomers today. I’m happy to report that I don’t need to put that super-depressed post on my blog, as I woke up happy and ready to face the day. For a few hours, anyway.
I woke up thinking about the white space on the printed page, specifically, the margins. The way the human mind (especially mine) works never ceases to amaze me–I was dreaming that I was exploring the desert with some of my friends, and our car got stuck. We decided to walk out (which, by the way, is about the worst thing you can do in such a situation) and were picked up by BLM worker, who took us back to his house, where his wife wouldn’t let us go home. He also had a red-headed little boy who kept throwing stuff at us–I woke up enough at that point in the dream to discover Max decided he wanted to sleep by my head and was kicking me in the ribs.
So, to get back on topic, I don’t know why I was thinking about margins when I woke up. But, when I was out with the dogs on their morning walk, I remembered two books I read just as I was starting to take design classes. The combination of those two books, with the classes I was taking left me a deep desire to become what used to be called a typesetter–someone who designs the inside of books.
The first book (actually, I don’t remember the order I read them in, but this is the book I want to talk about first) was called “Joseph Smith: Scientist” and I think it was self published. At least, my brief search to find it somewhere other than my local library was futile. It was an interesting book, if a bit outdated. I think it was written during the ’50s–well after Einstein, but it still discussed the ether as if it were a valid scientific theory. But what struck me is that all the text, including the block quotes, and the quotes pulled out to elicit interest in that particular chapter were all right aligned. It looked sloppy and cheap, and, for me, anyway, made the book hard to read.
The second book had margins of about 1/8 of an inch all the way around. It was about a man who was wrongfully condemned to work in a prison mine, (I don’t remember what it was called) so it could have been a conscious choice on the part of the publisher to elicit the cramped, uncomfortable in which the main character was forced to work. The result, though, again was that it made it hard to read. I had a nagging feeling that someone had taken a paper-cutter to the book and sliced off most of the margins.
Frankly, though, it’s a bad sign that I can remember the margins of a book but not it’s title years after I read it.
If I was going to tie this back to real life, I’d say something along the lines of “Things left undone are as important as things done”, but that sounds too much like a stoner trying to be profound, and I always try to avoid sounding like a stoner trying to be profound. Of course, this leaves me with the uncomfortable situation of not knowing how to close this post, and just abruptly ending. Like this.