When I was in my early teens, I saw David Bowie interviewed on a show and he performed a song the host introduced as having been based on a dream Bowie had. Following this, I became obsessed with writing something based on a dream. I have since had some reasonably memorable images come up as a result of dreaming, but I have yet to have a complete story or poem result from them. Usually I forget most dreams quickly after waking up, unless I write them down immediately and sometimes even then I don’t recall all the details.
For instance, I woke up recently with the phrase “Gut Rage Tester” in my head, generated by a dream I was having at the time. I can only recall that the dream had something to do with testing software, which I’ve been doing on the job lately, but I don’t recall how that phrase related to whatever I was doing in the dream. The details faded as soon as I was coherent enough to try to record it, so I wrote down the phrase to puzzle over later.
Dreams are said to be the brain’s method of sorting and storing memories from the previous day. Often, what we perceive as lengthy dreams are actually quick flashes of images that last a couple of seconds, to which our brains apply some sort of narrative structure. They’re sort of like a slide presentation of loose images that don’t actually go together, despite how our minds perceive them. Because they appear in random order, the narratives we form from them don’t always make sense when we try to recall them.
Often we can make some sense of a strange dream by examining what is going on in our lives at the time. Shortly after my father died, I had several dreams about him. In one, he appeared totally different than I had come to know him, as though his life had followed a different path. He dressed more colorfully, and our relationship was more open and warm than it had actually been. I recall asking him what it felt like to die and after transforming back into an image of what he looked like in the last stages of his life, he told me to “ask someone who’s died.” I still don’t fully understand what it meant, but the dreams did help me come to terms with losing him.
I have had some moments from dreams that stayed with me long enough to inspire at least the snippet of a story, but nothing substantive came from any of them. I have written poems and some prose that sound like they might have been inspired by a dream, but usually I was fully coherent when they came about. I’ve even entitled a poem “Dreamlike” but as far as I can recall none of it was based on an actual dream. The few times I’ve attempted stream of consciousness writing it always comes out more ordered than anything produced by Joyce or Beckett. My tendency is toward long expository paragraphs, usually with humorous undertones, though I am working on varying how I write. Time will tell how successful I’ll be.
I have noted, however, that I do seem to dream more, or at least remember dreaming more when I’m in a creative frame of mind. I’m certain I dream every night but when I’m actively writing or otherwise creating something, I tend to be more aware of dreaming, whether or not I recall the substance of the dreams. So, perhaps there is a positive correlation between the waking and sleeping realms after all.