Sweet (Writing) Dreams Are Made of These

I hope your Labor Day weekend respite was relaxing and full of SPF 30  
lotion focused on your shoulders or higher. Before I move on to real  
time blogging  I just want to congratulate everyone on the fantastic  
outpouring for the Commenting Story Adventure. It is always a great  
sign when the number of comments is roughly equal to my score on the  
math section of the SAT. Seriously though, it was so much fun to  
read, participate and emoticize that I think we need to do a  
different type of story adventure at least once a month. Now everyone  
pause for a second and congratulate yourselves on performing so  
handsomely and go out and treat yourself to a Fribble. You earned it.

On my personal front, I have just vaguely completed a story for  
Boston Magazine that turned out to be one of the more difficult  
pieces I’ve ever written, and this comes from someone who once tried  
to theme an entire story around sitting in a Papa Ginos in the North  
Shore. The problem was that the piece had no natural narrative arc  
and only tangential characters who would agree to talk on the record.  
It was mostly an observation piece– a piece about entering a world  
you haven’t seen and observing the characters in it. I love these  
ideas–generally– and this piece was ripe with observational fruit,  
but I just don’t know about how it went. And I keep having dreams  
that go like this:

Me, answering the phone: Hello?
My editor: Your piece doesn’t work.
Me: Why?
My editor: Because it’s bad.
Enters Ms. Ash, my first grade teacher. She turns to me: What a  
letdown. Oh yeah– and Pluto? It’s not a planet. I’m retro-actively  
lowering your science grade.
Then Ms. Ash and my editor give each other fist bumps and leave on  
(separate!) motorcycles.

Regardless, I want more of you folks and less of myself. And today  
I’m interested in dreams. Like the kind you have when you’re REMing.  
Does anyone else suffer from vaguely realistic dreams that either  
answer, alleviate, or make worsen real life problems when they go to  
sleep stressed? It always seems to happen to me, and then I wake  
having turned my entire body around in the bed, something that freaks  
out the general public.

Ok. Have at me. Dreams, writing, writing about dreams, or really  
specific questions about the food choices offered at the US Open.  
It’s your prerogative.

Sleeping,
In

The Postal Service

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37 thoughts on “Sweet (Writing) Dreams Are Made of These

  1. Jen Kohler

    I’m way late leaving this comment, but I’m way late becoming a fan of your blog too so that’s ok. I’m well known among my friends for my rediculous dreams most of which revolve around the bathroom. Toilets, specifically. Tall ones that I have to use a stool to climb on, intricately decorated and gilded ones, toilets that are in drawers inside a wall, the list goes on. The point is there is always a bathroom. I’ve even made action-movie-like escapes from vilains by hidiing in a bathroom and jumping out the window. This has absolutely nothing to do with my writing and little to do with my reality aside from average er…use of the subject matter. Anyway, it’s entertaining none the less. Sorry if it’s TMI.

  2. ML Smith

    Dreams, flashbacks, flickers of something you’ve seen but you can’t remember where…

    I remember. Something shifted, ever so slightly. How can I describe this? It’s like looking at a painting…a painting of a woman, and I’ve seen it thousands of times because it hangs on my staircase. But just this one time, last night, the painting isn’t right. Is it tilted? Was her hand on her shoulder? Her hair? Wasn’t it light brown? Wait. Her eyes – that’s it. They were brown, and now…blue. Maybe.

    Outside, on the street, people move about as they always do, but once again, there’s this brief flicker, like the blip on you see on your computer, or that fraction of a millescond when that e-mail message you’re looking at morphs into itself – it’s still the same but it isn’t…exactly. There – did you see? That man, on the crosswalk; he was almost at the sidewalk and now he’s a few feet away. You know because you’ve seen it. It’s just like the glitch in the streaming video, only it happens faster.

    The dreams, well, now we’re taking things to another level. I’m not talking about vivid dreams; I’m talking about reality…being somewhere else, at another time. Or, finding yourself doing something that should be familiar…should be routine; and add that wonderful extra ingredient – the dream within the dream and sometimes, within another dream. How many times can you wake-up? How many times can you re-boot?

    I must have fallen asleep. What is this? A bright screen, and John is in it but only in words…words typed?
    "What did you think of that game?" it says. A small line blinks. I blink. The line keeps blinking…is it asking me to do something? This bug shaped thing sits next to the screen. I touch it. An arrow on the screen moves.

    Thank God. What a weird dream. I hear the patter of a child’s feet, running towards me. My TV is on…the World Series, but that ended last month! The child jumps onto my bed and I reach for the light to see if this is real or a dream…

    I AM WORKING ON A NOVEL THAT INCORPORATES THESE ELEMENTS. "PARTICLES OF DISCONTENT." WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE HADRON PARTICLE ACCELERATOR FINALLY DOES ITS THING? SOMEBODY SCREWED UP -IT’S NOT AN "OOPS" TYPE MISTAKE, EITHER. I NEED A
    COLLABORATOR TO DO THIS CHAPTER BY CHAPTER. ANYBODY INTERESTED?

  3. Stephanie Allen

    I have an internal thermostat problem too. I’m extremely cold-natured, and when I’m asleep I feeze. My husband says I’m a furnace. I say I’m cold, he says I’m hot.

    It’s nice to know my husband still thinks I’m hot…

  4. Olivia

    Speaking of dreams that predict the future…

    Saturday night I had another horrible dream about running from a tornado – the same one from the Wizard of Oz – and a hurricane went past my window on Sunday night.

    That wouldn’t be strange for this time of year, except for the fact that I’ve lived in Ohio my entire life and never experienced one before. An entire tree, rootstock and everything fell to the ground right before my eyes and all I could think about was seeing the wicked witch of the west riding her bicycle as I looked down the funnel.

    On that happy note…

  5. Christine

    On wacky sleep behavior: Does anyone have temperature control issues while sleeping? I can’t seem to get the internal thermostat right. I’m flapping the covers on and off like all night long. And when I get hot, I’m talking BOILING–I’m the Human Furnace. I could probably power a small country if I could harness the heat somehow. I’m dangling limbs out of the covers, over the side of the bed. Cats are licking my toes, nibbling my fingers…it’s all too much!!!

    I’ve got to try dreaming about cold stuff, maybe…

  6. Erin

    I just reread this blog entry (boring day at work) and realized that when Kevin said he turns his whole body around, he means his head and feet switching places, and not your standard roll over. (I’m glad I figured this out, since rolling over didn’t seem strange to me and I suddenly feared the scorn of the "general public"). I’ve done this too when I go to sleep stressed. And I tend to sleepwalk when stressed or in an unfamiliar bed. I once tried to escape a hotel room in my sleep on a high school band trip, and I often wake standing up next to my bed, with no idea if I’d gone anywhere before returning to my bedroom. Now that everyone has shared their awesome dream stories, does anyone else have anything to share about wacky sleep behavior?

  7. Tom

    Here’s an example of how it goes when I dream.
    I had one last night. My neighbor was in it.
    That’s all I remember. She was just standing there talking or working in the yard or something. I have no clue.
    See? Worthless. Worse than Julie’s, as there’s no premonitory leanings, nor wood paneling.

    Genevieve, it’s good to have you back – and your home in one piece.

  8. Julie

    What’s the general public doing in your bedroom in the morning?

    If I go to sleep with a problem on my mind I find my dreams are similarly frustrating or anxiety producing. I find keeping a dream journal helpful. I try to write down anything I remember about my dreams when I wake up. It helps train the mind to remember dreams.

    My own dreams are usually either zombies or completely useless prophecies. For instance, I dreamed about seeing a wood-paneled PT Cruiser by my grandmother’s house. The next day I did. See? Useless.

  9. Genevieve

    Stephanie, I am completely put off by your building-sized ego! However, you are funny. So I’ll let you slide. (note: Dude, it’s ok I’m being sarcastic. I don’t really think your ego is a building. It comes across as a quiant, modest duplex. The kind you pass by in a city and say, "Isn’t that nice?") Erin, I have a building-sized crush on Jake Gyllenhaal and even I thought the mustache didn’t work. I giggled at the pink canoe part.

    I have a dream question for everyone. I’ve heard that it’s rare to dream in color, so I was all smug because I do, but now I’m realizing that I don’t know anyone who dreams in black and white. Do any of you guys NOT dream in color?

    Kevin, I loved the commenting adventure. While my family was in Texas fleeing Gustav I checked it all the time for a laugh. One time I got off the computer and my husband went to it and said, "Did you find out anything new on the storm?" Then he looked at the screen, paused, and said, "Kevin Alexander?!"
    "I have to keep up with the story!" I said.
    "There’s a hurricane headed for our house!"

    Personally, I felt that was even better reason to ignore the news and look up something funny. So thanks.

  10. Stephanie Allen

    Robbs, I did look up my dreams, and I completely disagree with what I found. It said that buildings represent self, and the size of the building determines how a person sees him/herself. So according to the site I have an over-inflated sense of self. So NOT true. I am extremely humble and it’s one of the things that makes me as perfect as I am. 🙂

  11. Olivia

    hey guys, I’m back – had a slight internet flub this week. Being a part of that commenting adventure was the highlight of my labor day weekend. (Sad, but true.)

    This is such a great topic, one of my personal favorites. I love dreams. There were some days when I was younger, and sometimes still in the craziness of adulthood, that I would actually go to bed early so I could somehow continue a dream I had the night before. (It never worked, by the way)

    I’m one of those people that has horrible recurring dreams. They usually involve trying to escape a tornado (it always looks like the awesome backround footage of the twister in the Wizard of Oz – it must have made an impression on me), or they might involve my childhood fears of being on stage in front of an audience (so glad I’m over that)

    But the really fun ones are the ones that eventually turned into stories. Everything from vampires on spaceships to meeting my dead grandmother in a coffee shop to discuss her plans to become the first dead grandmother president of the United States.

    The only regret I have is that I scrapped every one of those stories in a fury of teenage rage when I thought I was worthless, as most teenage girls do.

    I’ve had dreams that predict the future as well. One of them involved that same dead grandmother. It really freaked me out. It’s even scarier that she’s still in my dreams now.
    (No wonder I write so much sci-fi, it all makes sense)

    Love this blog, Kevin.

    Olivia

  12. Lisa Bakewell

    I, too, feel bad that we abondoned Casey…it’s like I woke up in the middle of a dream and can’t get back into it. Ever have one of those that you wanted to revisit, but couldn’t find your way back?

    Anyway, Kevin, I think it’s a great idea to do the Commenting Story Adventures once a month. It was really great fun!

    BTW, I dream in color and almost always remember my dreams.

  13. Lisa

    I tend to have dreams that predict the future. No joke. My ex-boyfriend and I had broken up, but we had previously been best friends, so we were trying to get back to that point. However, we hit a major bump in the road and he stopped talking to me completely. I went home one day to find an instant message from him saying that he was going to be on deployment (he was in the navy) until the end of August and that hopefully we could talk when he got back. At the end of July, I went on a trip with my family to the Outer Banks, and the first night there I had a dream that my ex sent me an e-mail and wanted to talk. In the dream I was flipping out because I thought that I still had a month to figure out what to say to him and I didn’t know what I wanted to say to him yet. Two days later, I was sitting with my uncle, opened up my e-mail account, and there was his e-mail. In true accordance with my premonition dream, I did in fact freak out because I still had no clue what to say to him.

  14. Joy

    My re-occuring dream involves my mouth full of gum and when I try to spit it out, it sticks to my teeth so I have to pull it out in a never-ending string of tasteless goo. So frustrating!

  15. robin

    Totally awesome job on the comments story, you guys; unfortunately sometimes I somehow miss the blog e-mail, so I just now got to enjoy it. Anyhoot; Stephanie, have you tried googling big buildings + dream interpretations? It may be something really simple.

    robbs

  16. Stephanie Allen

    I learned in Psychology that the reason you remember your dreams is because you wake up during them. I toss and turn alot when I sleep, and I always remember my dreams. My husband falls asleep in one position and stays that way all night. He never remembers dreaming. I guess my Psych Prof was right. I also dream in color, and I’m always aware when I’m dreaming that it is just a dream. I almost always have total control of directing the dream. It’s very rare for me to have the "out of body" dream where I’m watching myself from the outside. I just wish I knew what the big buildings are supposed to represent.

  17. Erin

    When I’m waiting for something big and important to happen, I have dreams about being pregnant- and not knowing who the father is! (Apparently, I’m pretty slutty in my dream life).

    I also have a lot of great pop culture related dreams. After watching Coldplay’s performance on The Daily Show this summer, I had a dream that they were performing at a benefit I was hosting for Barack Obama (in real life I am so not the type of person with money to do that kind of thing). And then I ended up having to try to break up a fist fight between Barack and the band when he forgot their name. I wish I’d stayed asleep long enough to find out who won the fight. My money’s on Barack. …And my best pop culture dream ever was really bizarre. I was some kind of secret agent fighting crime undercover at a college campus with Jake Gyllenhaal, who disguised himself with the horrible fake mustache he wore in Brokeback Mountain. We chased bad guys around with guns and then escaped in a pink canoe!

    When I get stressed out, I also have that dream where it’s finals week in college and you find out you are enrolled in a class you’ve never attended and now have to take the exam. I loved on the show Felicity when they made that really happen to her. I felt so vindicated.

  18. John Sinclair

    I dream alot during the day and sleeping. Im a full on dreamer at heart. They both come and go alot so I have to mark down anything worth remember. But there are those few that hang on and refuse to be ignored.
    I currently work for myself and usually dont get out of bed before ten. And that was a dream come true, inspired by You guessed it a day dream at WORK=]
    I love writing now although Im not great at it but my dreams and love for writing and literature are all tied together. My business partner and I will often start off a lunch conversation with "Guess what I dreamed about last night?" Dreams are cool and fun to look at but I dont let them lend shadow or hope to my future. We are deviners of our tomorrows through personal effort and a GOOD SIZED pinch of luck=]

    Your articles rock dude. I read them when at the book store chillin out.

  19. Rebekah Miller

    well I had a dream that my mom’s head was cut off. i woke up in a cold sweat and when i called her house she did’nt answer so i thought the dream was real. absolutely the most terrifying dream i ever had.

  20. Pat

    Christine said, "Has anyone tried writing on the lines at 3 am in the dark?"

    No, but I’ve tried writing one-handed on a AlphaSmart under the covers on a cold winter night. It produced a great article, "I Sleeps with Alphie but my Husband’s Name is Frank"

    Tom, I know about those’s "can’t remember dreams" I rarely remember the dream but if I do it never ever makes any sense.

    I always laugh when I read an article that says think about your protagonist before you go to sleep and it will help you with your storyline. What good would that do for me if I can’t remember it when I wake up in the morning?

  21. Tom

    From what I’ve read, we all dream, every one of us. It’s just that some remember them and some don’t. I belong in the "don’t" category. Every once in a great while one will wake me up in the middle of the night, and I’ll think, "I’ll remember this one in the morning. It’s too good to forget." At around noon the next day I’ll go, "Oh, I had that really great dream…what was it about again?" No recollection whatsoever.

    My friend has great, vivid dreams. That he remembers. One time he was renting a house with Fifty Cent, another time he was getting cozy with Jennifer Anniston, another time it was Christina Ricci (I was a little jealous on that one – it was before she lost all the weight), and then once he dreamed that he and I were driving a beat up, hot rodded ’69 Camaro, and he drove me over to a neighborhood where there was a ’69 Mach I Mustang, and apparently I was going to hotwire it and we were going to steal it. I’m not a thief by nature, but I was happy to be included in such a cool dream, especially since I do very much like ’69 Mach I Mustangs (Google Image it – you’ll see what I mean).

    It’s gotta be pretty fantastic or pretty terrible dream for it to stick with me, and I don’t have those often. The last one I remember that really stuck was a few years back when I was managing a very difficult employee, and she was suing the company. I had a dream that she was coming after me and trying to kill me. Those were not fun times.

  22. Angie

    For me, high anxiety always means more dreams – and more vivid ones, too. On Thursday and Friday I had two big ones back-to-back. In the first, I was driving with my friend in the car, and suddenly my car just came apart – like the wheels completely separated from the carriage. And then my friend and I were stuck in a really terrible neighborhood while I tried to figure out whether I needed two tow trucks, and where I could have them tow both halves of my car. This dream is because, yes, my car is having trouble. The problem is that I’ve taken it to three different shops and no one can figure out what’s going on (not even the dealer!).

    The second dream was a scary post-apocalyptic sort of war dream. I was walking through town, and there was a cliff on the edge of town, and I noticed loads of people sitting on it and staring off into the distance. As I was staring at them, the sky lit up in an unnatural peachy-orangey shade. I looked off in the distance, and out in the hills I saw a large cloud rising up from the ground – it was kind of like a mushroom cloud and kind of not like one. Just as I was wondering whether it was a mushroom cloud or not, I noticed the crowd had started running. I looked up in the sky, and there were many, many rockets headed towards us. With them whistling and exploding all around, I took off running, too, and ended up in my relative’s house. I tried to hide in a cabinet in the bathroom (I was too big!) and ended up just squeezing into a little cubby hole, waiting and holding my breath, trying to be still and silent and invisible. But of course soldiers came and they rounded up everyone in the house. I woke up while they were debating what to do with us.

    I’ve had this sort of dream every so often since I was a kid. I blame them on all the TV mini-series, movies, books about nuclear holocaust, and general hysteria around the Cold War that permeated my childhood. Anyway … the dream was so vivid that I not only journaled it, but painted a watercolor of one of the scenes from it.

  23. Christine

    Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. You can’t go to bed stressed, guy. You’ve got to stuff that stress in a bottle, cork it, and leave it for the pirates to pick up when they’re raiding your fridge and stealing your gold doubloons in the wee hours of the night. If you totally empty your mind before going to bed, you’ll have the best dreams of your life. Guaranteed.

    As for me, I dream about books I’ve read a great deal. Usually I’m the main character and I change anything I didn’t like about the book in my dream. I do dream story ideas, hence the notebook I keep in the bedroom. Has anyone tried writing on the lines at 3 am in the dark? Damn near impossible. I also, unfortunately, dream about all my teeth falling out while I’m giving some sort of a speech.

  24. Sydney

    A few dream comments – I mostly do remember my dreams, and most of my dreams are in color. It used to be that my dreams, even in the vaguest sense of the word, or action, would come true, good and bad dreams, like a deja’ vue thing.

    But as an aside, as an aspiring writer (not yet published, that is), my latest creation (smile) came to me in a dream – and as I continued to dream this dream, more each night, and even in day dreams, I would wake myself up, or something would wake me up, so that I would write it down, or at least snippets and then return to sleep, or what was to remain of my sleep until the next moment(s) that I would wake to write more down.

    Perhaps this is why it took 1-1/2 years to write this manuscript, and then as I became more fully cognizant of this family that I had created and what I had aspired to do in the story, I didn’t really want to end it, and lose this family, until I finally realized that this was not to be just ONE story, but a continuation, a series, so after many years of just sitting on this story (as I call it, my manuscript), I have finally edited it, and now am fixing it up, so that I can take it to the next step.

    Finding an agent……. and a publisher!

    So for me, YES, I do dream and am glad that I do!!!!

    Thank you for posing this question,
    Sydney

  25. Elaine

    Funny you should ask. I don’t remember dreams very often, but this morning I had a vivid and upsetting one where I went for a hair appointment, but there was a party going on at the salon. Everyone was eating and drinking, and hours went by, but no one had done my hair yet. I was complaining to all the employees and managers, but no one apologized. The reason it was so important was that I was going to have my author photo taken afterwards. At the very end I suddenly realized that I was at the wrong salon. I woke up to find that it was near time for me to go to my real appointment, and I actually did have my author photo taken afterwards! The photographer took about 100 shots, so hopefully there are at least a couple that make me look, well, stunning. Or really hip. Or at least approachable.

  26. Pat

    The only dreams I have about writing are the ones where dream this wonderful and perfect idea but can’t wake enough to write said idea down. Of course when I awakwn in the morning, all I can remember is that I had the dream. I have no clue about the idea which has completely left me.

    These dreams have become my worst nightmares!

  27. Stephanie Allen

    My dreams always involve large buildings. Always. (Insert Freudian theories here.) I never have the dreams of old school teachers or exes or showing up for class naked and without my homework. Nope. It’s just me and large buildings. I think I might be kinda messed up.

    By the way, I love Annie Lennox.

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