Edith here, in the chilly northeast corner of Massachusetts, gearing up to spend Thanksgiving with only a single loved one instead of ten or more <sniff>.
I’ve been thinking about dreams lately, and of stories. Of course I’m dreaming of the day the world opens up safely again. Dreaming of hugging my son and his wife; traveling to see my other son in Puerto Rico; scooping my favorite three year old girl into my arms, maskless; going to mystery conferences again and hugging all my author pals; hanging out with the Wickeds in person (and hugging). Can you tell I’m feeling hug-deprived?
But those aren’t the kinds of dreams I mean.
I often wake up at three or four in the morning and usually manage to get back to sleep. The dreams that arise after that are the vivid ones I remember after I awake for the day.
Some have pretty obvious meanings. Earlier this week, I dreamed that a local Quaker friend urgently told me a caravan of white supremacists was rolling into town and what were the details of the vigil I was supposed to have organized? I knew in the dream that I felt guilty about having to tell her I hadn’t set one up . I’m sure I’m still feeling bad about not volunteering to do more in the recent election.
In another, I was carrying someone else’s tiny baby AND sweeping up someone else’s cake and sandwich crumbs in someone else’s church. As an author, I often wonder if I’m doing enough to get the word out about my books. But when I accept lots of invitations to appearances or set them up myself, I easily feel overwhelmed with obligations.
I find it interesting that during the pandemic I haven’t had any of my long-time recurrent nightmares of something going terribly wrong while I’m traveling. Maybe my subconscious knows there’s no way I’m traveling anywhere for quite a while.
But what do dreams have to do with my writing? I still vividly remember a dream I had a decade ago. I was visiting with the King of Norway and his American wife (I have never been to Norway). I knew their young adult daughter had been murdered, and at one point spied her bloodied body being carried away beyond where the King and Queen sat. They didn’t see and didn’t seem to know of the death. The people carrying the body signaled to me to keep quiet. I did.
SO many questions! Who killed her, and why? Why did I stay mum about it? What happened when her parents discovered the crime?
I’ve always meant to write a short story incorporating that scene, and I might still. But I think mining the images and feelings from my remembered dreams can be of great use in my writing. Everyone’s subconscious is tuned into areas of our being that are both important and unknown. Dream life is daring and crazy and scrambled.
I know there are many ways to make sense of dreams. When I was in college, I studied Fritz Perls’ Gestalt Therapy a bit (he explains it here). What I remember about his approach to analyzing dreams is this: all parts of your dream are parts of you. You might think you are the little girl cowering before the dragon, but you also have the strength of the dragon. I might be terrified in my dream while flying the jetliner full of people (usually to China) even as I know full well I don’t know how to fly, but when I awake I can also integrate the…oh. Never mind. It’s not always easy.
Still, can I be as daring in my writing? Can I let my subconscious/muse/intuition lead me into new and unusual stories, no matter what they mean? Can I give my characters the complexity, the flights of fancy, the astonishing newness of dreams?
Tune in next year, same time, and I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I wish you all a safe and delicious Thanksgiving.
Readers, what have your dreamed about that came true? What daring or wild or unusual thing have you done?