I often dream about the stories I’m working on. Sometimes it’s on purpose. I’ll lay in bed at night and think about the story so far, the characters, who they are and what will they do, and then I drift off and dream about what happens next. Other times, it’s completely involuntary. I sleep and dream, and somewhere along the line the story makes its way into the steam and I imagine scenes or characters interacting. It’s random.
If I’m lucky, I remember enough of it when I awake so I can continue writing. More often than not, I’m left with vague impressions of what transpired in the night, but it’s still enough to fuel the next scene or perhaps take me all the way to the ending.
Some writers like the dream state for story ideas and working out roadblocks. Robert Olen Butler (a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer) wrote a book about this phenomenon. He believes that all writers write from the dream state, even if we don’t realize it. In a way, I sort of agree with him. Imagination and creativity are not far removed from dreaming. We can’t really control when the ideas happen and we don’t really know where they come from. Things pop into our heads out of nowhere and we run with them.
The unconscious mind is a tricky place and even the people who study it don’t really understand how it works. I’m confident that our dreams and our stories all come from the same source; the same font spews out these random images and words and we don’t question it. Perhaps that’s the muse the ancient Greeks used to worship. We don’t need to make offerings to any supernatural entities…we just need to feed our heads.
And we do this how? Through reading, watching the world around us, from the news or a movie, from conversations with friends and strangers.
I’m not sure how ethical it is, but I find it fascinating to simply sit quietly in a restaurant and listen to the conversations going on around me. I rarely hear all that’s said, but I hear enough to have some fun with it by filling in the blanks. I mean, no one is getting hurt and it’s a public environment, so I don’t think I’m breaking any laws.
I also find that listening in on conversations helps to understand dialogue. No one speaks in proper English (or any language for that matter). Speech patterns are strange and random, with weird pauses and breaks, misspoken words, slang, and of course, cursing.
But I digress.
Dreaming, to me, is just another way of priming creative pump – the font – and helping the creativity to grow. I also find that the more I read, the more I dream. I’m sure that’s not a coincidence.
So tonight I’ll dream and hopefully think about the story I’m working on. I’m ready to move forward on it and I need to see what happens next.