"This is a dream, you know."


I posted a while ago about lucid dreaming. After I’d had a few lucid dreams it occurred to me: I could be a writer not only during waking hours, but also practice my craft while I sleep. If, while dreaming, I could become conscious of the fact that I was dreaming, then I could shape and direct my dreams as stories. I could let a plot develop, and try different variations of it. I could invent characters and not just write about them, but talk to them, get to know them as if they were real people.

This grand plan to work as a writer both day and night turned out to be more difficult than I’d anticipated. For one thing, first you’ve got to dream lucidly, and that’s not easy to do at all, let alone on a regular basis. At least for me. Most nights my brain is just too tired from a day of activity and doesn’t seem to want to be alert and inquisitive during dreaming. It just wants to drift along with the dream and let it happen. I discovered this in a surprising way one night when I was dreaming that I was back in grade school, which was odd in itself, but didn't make me aware I was dreaming. Then a woman came up to me and said, “This is a dream, you know.”

I should’ve become lucid at that moment. Here was a figment of my own subconscious inviting me to realize that I was dreaming! But I didn’t respond to the invitation. I just nodded to the woman and sat down at my desk, and then the dream drifted on to other scenes. I was simply too far “under” to care one way or another. Like someone sitting half-narcotized in front of a television, my "conscious" mind just wanted to be spoon-fed and let the dream-story go where it would. Sad to think how many people live their waking lives this way, let alone their dreaming lives.

The other surprising thing I discovered about lucid dreaming is that trying to control the dream doesn’t really work all that well. Unplanned events and surprises pop up no matter how much one tries to stick to a particular story. In fact, the best thing about lucid dreaming for a writer, it seems to me, is that the uncontrolled, uncontrollable aspect of the mind, the “wild” mind, can add elements to your dream-stories that you likely never would have come up with in the waking state. It’s as if you have a collaborator, a mysterious other writer within you who comes up with strange and wonderful ideas you almost feel you shouldn’t take credit for.

[Image from Tarkovsky's Stalker. ]

No comments: