As long as I can remember, dreams have been one of my favored pastimes. Whether I was waking up from an intense escapade and hurriedly recording it in my dream journal, or sitting by the window as it rained daydreaming about some faraway place I'd rather be, my life has been a myriad of wonders thanks to how attentive I have been to my own dreams.
So fascinated with dreams have I been that it is a rare occasion for me to write anything longer than a short story without some kind of dream sequence in it. Main characters dreaming of the symbolic guidance they seek or slipping into a world dictated by dreaming itself... the dream world is a place in which anything can and usually does happen.
Whether you're Freudian in your dream beliefs or you've evolved with the studies over the last century, what we know about dreams and their actual function in our life is very little. Some theorists believe that dreams are the mind's way of processing events, thoughts and occurrences from the day before. Others think that dreams are important messages sent to us by the brain about things in our life that we might be overlooking, ie. health problems, struggles in relationships and so on. There are even people who believe that because dreams occur during an altered state of consciousness they are messages from the divine or the universe that occur in symbolic forms. People have told stories of the divine messages they've received, of how they dreamed of things before they happened, dreamed of people before they ever met...
The thing about dreams that makes them great fodder for stories is the interpretation of symbols. Universal symbols are easier to work with, and if you do a little research into basic dream symbols it's easy to incorporate a little dream mystery into your plot line. Deeper research into dream interpretation methods holds the potential to create a rich plot steeped in subtle symbols. The thing is, we all create our own symbols, based on our personal experiences, so the universal symbol for a bumblebee might not mean the same thing to someone who lives in the Tundra as it would for a person who lived on the equator.
Another great idea that has actually proven pretty productive for me over the years is writing down your dreams and drawing story ideas from the bizarre occurrences and symbols within. This morning I dreamed about robots that looked exactly like people (yeah, yeah, we all know I watch too much Battlestar Galactica while on the treadmill...) infiltrating a city school system to destroy the children. I was chosen, along with four other people to go back into a specific section of the school to secure the area. I had one person to back me up. As I walked into the school, my back up person behind me, there was a flash of light that revealed a person up ahead. I shot and hit the person, and we surged forward to detain them. It was Arnold Swarzeneggar... ironic because of his role in the Terminator series... Now I'm certainly not going to write Battlestar Galactica/Terminator Crossover Fanfiction, but there were several inspiring ideas in the overall span of the dream.
And what if you're not into writing fiction? Poetry! My personal notebooks are filled to the brim with dream-inspired poetry. Abstract and structured poems alike, the unstable territory of the dreamworld is an intense medium for channeling the profound.
I know there are probably quite a few people out there who are already shaking their heads while reading, ready to assure me rather matter-of-factly that they don't dream, but that's just not true. Everyone dreams, every night. As long as your body enters into REM sleep each night, you can guarantee that you have dreamed. Unfortunately a lot of people don't remember their dreams. If you happen to be one of those unfortunate people, you can work to change this by thinking differently about dreams. By deciding that you will remember your dreams, you increase your chances of waking up with the aftermath of nightly wanderings still fresh in your mind. The next step is to start writing them down. Keeping an active dream journal will guarantee that you not only increase the frequency of your dreams, but you become more likely to remember them.
In a world where they continually say there is nothing new under the sun, why not step out onto the dreamscape and take a gander. The sun may not even shine where you dream, so what on earth are they going to say about that?
I leave you with these final thoughts by Edgar Allan Poe:
Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! tho' that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
'Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.
But should it be- that dream eternally
Continuing- as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood- should it thus be given,
'Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven.
For I have revell'd, when the sun was bright
I' the summer sky, in dreams of living light
And loveliness,- have left my very heart
In climes of my imagining, apart
From mine own home, with beings that have been
Of mine own thought- what more could I have seen?
'Twas once- and only once- and the wild hour
From my remembrance shall not pass- some power
Or spell had bound me- 'twas the chilly wind
Came o'er me in the night, and left behind
Its image on my spirit- or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly- or the stars- howe'er it was
That dream was as that night-wind- let it pass.
I have been happy, tho' in a dream.
I have been happy- and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life,
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality, which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love- and all our own!
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.