Friday, January 7, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

I woke up this morning with the perfect line sharp and clear in my sleep-muzzy brain. It was perfection, it was everything I’d been searching for, and in the time it took to hear it in my sleep and realize it was THAT perfect, I lost it. As I emerged from that dreamy wake-up state to full consciousness, I grasped greedily at the fleeing line, grabbing at the words as they floated away on the ether of dream sleep. It got away, but I managed to hold onto a few words like a fistful of feathers from a bird that took sudden flight.

Those few words are enough to reconstruct the line and go forward with the tone, the intent, behind the words. But as I mused about how badly I wanted to keep the line and how easily it was lost I began to wonder…

Was it really the best line ever? Or was it all an illusion? Do our dreams have more truth than what we struggle to say in the bald light of day? We struggle sometimes to find just the right words and then, ironically, they come so easily in our sleep.

I don’t know the answer. I only know that some of my most productive moments are just as I fall asleep, or wake up, and I’m not going to jinx it by digging too deeply into why it works for me.

How about you? Do you ever dream your story? Do you remember the words and keep them long enough to write them down? Do your dreams point you in the right direction, or just mess with your head?


  1. Hmm, I don't know if i dream my story. I WANT to dream it, and be the main character, since I'm totally in love/lust with her hero :D But yeah...I think I have had this experience before, but mostly it'd be with dreams I want to remember & write down. And then I forget them :(

    Usually if I think of a great line, it's during waking hours where I have no way of writing it down. sux!

  2. I *rarely* dream about my story, but I certainly find all kinds of inspiration as I'm just nodding off or waking up. I've taken to keeping a notebook by the bed- but not even that helps all the time. Sometimes it just escapes anyway.

    That being said, I had an epically weird dream earlier today- thanks to a toddler who was awake half the night, I ended up needing a rare afternoon nap, and as I dozed off I was thinking furiously about some ongoing story issues. I ended up dreaming that my husband, my brother and I went along to the Gallipoli landing as spectators. The whole thing was set up like an outdoor cinema event, and we even took a picnic, then just... watched, as my characters and others charged off into the guns and the explosions and their certain doom.

    It was utterly nuts. I woke up feeling very weird. No more of those, please (g).

  3. Susan -I hate, hate, HATE when that happens. lol. Yeah. I get that a lot. So much that I've actually conditioned myself to say "remember" and 90% of the time I do (this works only because I can control my surroundings in the dream state. Not so effective if you can't). But the other 10%? So annoying.

    Maybe our subconscious creates a sense of urgency and rightness during the dream state so that we WILL remember -at least the gist of the idea. And of course, there is the idea that we have such great clarity in the dream state because we aren't as encumbered by fear and self-doubt.

    I could babble on about dreams all day but I'll shut up now. (g)

    Great post. :)

  4. Eek, that sounds terrible, Claire!
    I'd love to dream about my characters, but nothing like that, I hope.
    I had a dream involving DH getting a business deal in Mexico - what the heck is that supposed to mean?
    Which is all very odd, as I think about my characters a lot before falling asleep, and isn't that supposed to be a way to dream about things?
    I do get quite a few words as I fall asleep and wake up. Sometimes I find notes in the margins of notebooks "not half as good as I had it last night!" when I haven't been able to recapture the original wording of a phrase.
    Hopefully, all this editing will bring the words around to the way they should be.

  5. I *do* dream my stories, usually during a nap. In fact, the first scene of my wip is a dream. It's the first time Laura Grace sees Samantha and is the start of it all. Sometimes it works. I keep a notepad handy for these times, but just as often, I lose the best way to say it.

  6. Trisha, I hear you! Hmmmm... maybe I need to write a blog about writers falling for their heroes.

  7. Claire - that's when I find inspiration too. The nodding off and waking up periods are fertile ground. I think the effort of grabbing a notepad and pen from the nightstand would just make my thoughts vanish. But since they usually flee anyway, I could give it a try.


  8. Kristen,

    "there is the idea that we have such great clarity in the dream state because we aren't as encumbered by fear and self-doubt."

    Yes! Exactly. If only we could get rid of the fear and self-doubt while awake.


  9. Deniz, I think a lot about my story before falling asleep, but I've never dreamed the story. Wish I could! Bedtime, shower-time, and drive-time seem to be my best thinking-times.

  10. Zan Marie, you're one of those few I know who have actually dreamed their story. Lucky you. Isn't it frustrating, though, to lose the best wording as you wake up? Arrrgh.

  11. Susan, that happens to me a lot. SO frustrating!

    But the best dream experience I've had was about a year ago, when I had one of those naps where you don't completely fall asleep, and I had a very lucid flash of a scene, dialogue and all, that I'm sure is the beginning kernel of my next book. VERY relieved that I managed to scribble that one down ...

  12. Susan,

    YES!! This happens to me all the time. (g) Man, some of my best ideas come in that dreamy state between wakefulness and slumber. Sometimes I manage to get my thoughts down, but they never SEEM quite as good as the original. lol.

    I've also had ideas come from dreams. One book is based completely on a dream, but NOTHING..and I mean nothing was stranger than when I had a dream about my characters from COTM. They were living color...acting out a scene that I hadn't written, and lo and behold, in walked a new character that I'd never even dreamt of. Wouldn't you know he was the missing piece that I needed so so badly to tie things together. It was nutso. But I'll take inspiration where ever I can get it. (g)


  13. That's the odd part - I've had at least three dreams of new ideas, but never of the stories I'm actually working on. Wish it happened more often!

  14. Rachel, that's awesome! Those lucid day dreams are few and far between, but when they come, they're a treat. I can't wait to see what your next book is about.

  15. Jen - LOL! That's just what I was fuming about - If I manage to remember what it was I was thinking about just before being completely awake, it never seems as brilliant as the original.

    I'll take inspiration where I can get it, too!

  16. I can't recall dreaming anything that ended up in a book, but I regularly get plot ideas or scene ideas or dialogue ideas on the edge of sleep. Probably because I read myself to sleep most nights, and it's often while reading some fresh new fiction voice, or an old favorite, or a compelling story, that my own storytelling floodgates open and all kinds of great stuff slips out. Most of the time I'll jar myself out of that sleepy state and scribble a few hasty notes. Otherwise, yes, I will likely forget the half of it.