Once upon a time, when my doctor decided to try out a certain medication on me, she warned me of potential side effects. One of them: unusually vivid dreams. Naturally, my inward reaction was, How will I know the difference? Virtually all my dreams are unusually vivid. In fact, I know I’m under too much stress when I dream “normal” dreams, like being at work where people tread on me like a sidewalk.
I have, at various times, dreamed of such things as a mountain of embryonic monsters and a large neon tie-dye frog in a puddle. In dreams I have parachuted on horseback from the hatch of a low-flying spacecraft, taken my five-year-old self to the park and then to an ice cream parlor, and fallen down a chute hidden inside a dining room table’s leg. Just a couple of days ago, in the same dream I saw dragons and deli counters, French horns and mazes, haunted ruins and pre-packaged bacon trimmings. (Yes, I dream of bacon. Take that to Freud and analyze it.) My dreams sometimes include commercial breaks—I can wake up in the midst of one, lie back down (“This dream has been brought to you by Reality”) and resume the same dream again. Very rarely am I involved in my own dreams. Most of the time, I view the action in the third person or from the viewpoint of one of the characters involved in the dream.
My unconscious mind tells me stories while I sleep. That’s the only conclusion I have been able to draw. This has proven to be a useful trait, since a number of these dreams have ended up as writing projects. My second novel, The King’s Brother, began in just such a way. Giles and Colin were imprisoned with Owen in cell with one small window, giving a rat’s-eye view of a wooded area; Maia ran away to look for help and found it in a mysterious stranger in those very woods. Now, this is really something when you consider that none of these characters (except Owen, of course) existed prior to the dream.
I like dreaming. I like sleeping, naturally, because that’s when I dream. Dreams are comfortable. I can’t remember the last time I had a nightmare. Even when I dream of violent or spooky stories, they are always just that: stories. They don’t frighten me. Mob shootouts, monsters, freefalls from great heights—none of it frightens me. Third-person POV does help in that regard, I suppose, but sometimes I do wonder if my dreams have become my psychological safe place. Heaven knows I often need one—my sole means of support is a day job involving frequent verbal abuse from strangers, constant negative emotions from coworkers, and bureaucratic indifference from the ones ultimately in charge. The trouble is, I can only sleep for so long. Eventually I need to go back and face the world again.
Writing began as a safe place for me. I was thinking about this last week when I was on vacation in my old home town. There’s really nothing there. It occurred to me that, when one is surrounded by nothing, all that remains is potential. (What an unusually optimistic thing for me to think.) I created my own worlds out of dissatisfaction with the one I was given. For a child, I think that’s okay. For an adult… not so much. I can enjoy the escape of building my own world, just as I can enjoy the occasional dream, but I no longer have the luxury of keeping at arm’s length the world that I have been given. The two keep bumping into one another. The collision is called marketing. Ugh. Marketing. I can’t avoid it.
But dreams still come, and I still write. The collision involves bringing others into the worlds I make. That’s a good thing. No, that’s an excellent thing. I love sharing my worlds with others. I can’t share dreams—so the next time I dream of being taken hostage by a group of outlaws and being forced to create an exact replica of a Wild West mining office, I can’t bring you with me—but I can share stories. Welcome to my world! (No, bacon is not provided. Bring your own.)