In the last month, I’ve crossed over a rubicon, passed a significant landmark in my journey as a writer of fantasy.
I’m not talking about drafting 50K words in one week, or finishing drafting my second book, or selling copies at Books and Brews, or writing a guest blog on Dogpatch that had other writers thanking me for my advice. All of those things are terrific achievements and I’m really proud of them. But they pale in comparison to one particular change in my relationship to writing.
I’ve started to dream about QaiMaj.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had dreams related to the fantasy books that made a deep impression on me. Especially things I read over and over again, like Elfquest or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. WoT in particular would always give me really vivid, action-packed dreams. In these dreams, I’m always deeply embedded in the story-world, either as one of the characters or as myself, interacting with the characters. There is usually danger and tension and high emotion. It’s similar to reading in your sleep, only better, because it’s a dream, so it feels more real.
But I could never have these kinds of dreams about my story-worlds, characters and themes. While many of my ideas for writing originated as dreams, after the initial dream, there was nothing. I would try; I would fall asleep thinking deeply about my story, imagining a scene in vivid detail, hoping my mind would just keep going as I slept. It never did. I’ve always thought, I’ll really know I’m a good writer when I start dreaming about my own stories. Because at that point, my writing will have reached a level of emotional complexity so deep it will have a direct impact on my subconscious.
About a month ago, I had a dream about Stasia. It wasn’t particularly clear or exciting, and I don’t remember much about it (like every other form of journaling, I’m hopeless at recording my dreams) but it was distinctive in that I was her in the dream facing some of the challenges that she faces in the books. Then about a week ago, I had a similar dream about Glace. Just a couple of nights ago, I dreamed about several characters from Dreams of QaiMaj, good and bad, and one formerly good one who turns to the bad side. It was pretty much a scenario right out of my book, of course made completely surreal in a dream setting; for example, I think there was zebra in it. The zebra was on the bad guy’s side. Again, it was a little hazy and I forgot most of it right after I woke up. It didn’t have the same clarity as the WoT dreams, but it was definitely a dream about my story.
This development is incredibly exciting to me because it’s a clear sign of my writing and my story-world maturing. But it also means that I’m one step closer to doing something I’ve long wanted to do–write in my sleep. By that I mean do the kind of character and theme exploration that can only really happen in the subconscious.
Of course, some will see this as what it really is: an excuse to spend more time sleeping. “No, really, I can’t get out of bed. I’m ‘working’ on my next book . . .”
Do you dream about the books you read? If so, do some of them have a greater impact than others? If you write, do you dream about your own stories? Have you always done so or did it develop over time?
A fun side note on Lucid Dreaming: Yesterday Hans mentioned that a way to start lucid dreaming is to look at your hands throughout the day and ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?” Then when you sleep, you’ll look at your hand in a dream and ask the same question, and realize you’re dreaming. This morning I remembered that I wanted to try that, so I looked down at my hands and suddenly I got kind of woozy. I forgot what I was supposed to ask. After a minute I thought, with some difficulty, “Am I dreaming?” and then I thought, “Well shit, am I? Maybe I am. Maybe this is all a dream.” Now every time I look at my hands I experience a very brief moment of anxiety over the solidity of the “real” world.
Maybe lucid dreaming is not for me.