Creativity · Writing

The Semi-Dream State

I love to dream. Dreaming is my escape, my own personal streaming service, where anything and everything can happen. It’s also the breeding ground for most of my short stories.

I’ve always been a dreamer, and not just in the ‘head in the clouds’ sort of way. I remember having vivid dreams all my life, sometimes a little too vivid for my liking. One of my recurring dreams when I was a kid…although it was more nightmare…was of mannequins invading my house. Pasty white, faceless, peeking down from the attic door and into my room at night. Funny thing is, they only moved when I wasn’t looking, much like the Weeping Angels on Doctor Who. Maybe I was sharing those dreams with a future writer of the show.

Over time I got to where I could – on occasion – lucid dream. That’s when you are aware that you’re in a dream and you can have some control over what transpires. In my case, I’ve been able to back up in my dreams and make different decisions and change outcomes. Other times I’m simply a passenger being carried along by whatever weirdness my unconscious mind can conjure up.

My favorite time to dream is when I’m in that semi-conscious state. You know what I mean, when you’re laying in bad, either in the evening or early morning, and you’re right on the edge of deep sleep (coming or going) and your mind drifts back and forth across the boundary line. I find that’s the best time to think about a story I’m working on. I let it play out in my mind like a movie. I watch the characters to their thing up to the point where I last left off, and more often than not, my mind picks up the loose threads and continues to weave them into the tapestry.

I can’t tell you how many times this semi-dream state has rescued me from a jam. I’ll get to a point in a story where I’m not quite sure where to go and my protagonist isn’t giving me any clues. So I’ll lay down at night, get comfortable, and start thinking about the story while I drift off. Most of the time, something clicks and the missing puzzle pieces appear.

If it isn’t at night, then it’s in the morning. I’m one of those weirdos who has a fully-functioning internal clock, so most mornings I’m awake, or semi-conscious, well before the alarm goes off. I like this because it gives me an opportunity to lay there and let my mind wander as it looks for those loose threads.

And I always keep a pad of paper and a pen on the bookshelf next to the bed. I’ve made the mistake of drifting off completely before writing down the next scene and, well, it disappears like a wisp of smoke. Luckily, I can usually find it again in a few days, but why take chances?

If you haven’t tried this, I recommend you give it a shot the next time you’re stuck on a story. When you lay in bed that night, let your story play out in your head. Don’t force it, don’t overthink it, just be a passive observer. I bet you’ll find what you’re looking for.


2 thoughts on “The Semi-Dream State

  1. When your mind is wavering between wakeful & unconscious, do you hear a sound? for me it always felt like I was suddenly falling, and I’d hear something like diving underwater. That sound let me know I was past the threshold and no longer awake.

    It doesn’t happen anymore. I miss it.

    1. I don’t think I hear any sounds, other than my dogs snoring under the bed, but I do sometimes feel like I’m sort of drifting, weightless. When I realize this I usually feel a sudden jerk, then I’m back on the wakeful side of line.

      For you, it just may mean you aren’t as in touch with your unconscious as you used to be. I hope you can get that back.

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