Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Writing the final chapter on a recurring dream

Like many people, I have a few recurring dreams. Some of them--like the one where I discover I can fly--are good. Others are bad. One of the more unpleasant dreams has been driving me crazy for decades. In it I'm back in high school, and I suddenly realize that I've missed most of my classes for the entire semester. Panic ensues.

Now, it's been a heck of a long time since I graduated safely from high school, college, and graduate school. You'd think my subconscious would have caught on by now. And indeed the dream has evolved over time. Now I wander the halls as an older adult, having for some reason decided to repeat high school (the horror!), and suddenly I realize that I've missed most of my classes. Panic ensues.

During this dream, I have never once entered a classroom. I am doomed to wander the halls with no exit. A couple of weeks ago, however, when I was in the middle of a writing challenge in my waking life, I had the dream again. This time, I finally found my English class. I slipped behind a desk, braving the mocking stares of students who knew I'd missed everything and didn't have a chance. The assignment was to write a compelling 8-page paper.

I struggled to recall a story, quickly. It came in fits and starts. In the dream I gave the finished paper to the teacher. She looked up at me, smiled, and said, "You know, I think you've graduated from this level." I felt...released. Validated, somehow.When I woke up, I realized that the story I'd written in the dream was the first chapter of my WIP.

I hope that that last little mutation of the dream means it won't be back to annoy me. Maybe my subconscious has finally learned that life, indeed, moves on.
If it does come back, I hope at least I'll be in college this time. That would be so much more interesting than high school.

Have you ever found yourself writing in your dreams? Did anything you  wrote while dreaming carry over into your waking hours?


  1. Very interesting. You know, I actually am probably one of the few who do NOT have recurring dreams. And I haven't found myself writing in my dreams, though I'd love to. Maybe it would motivate me to get up and write! :)

  2. I can't remember my dreams, but my husband shares enough of his weird altered state to keep breakfast interesting. Fun post, K.

  3. I don't dream much but I've never had a dream about writing that I can remember--probably think about it too much in the day time so my brain figures it needs a break from it at night. 8-)

  4. Kathryn, I have also had similar dreams, some involving school, some involving past jobs. The dream of facing an exam with no knowledge of the material or not studying seems to be common. Quite often, I dream of being at an old job and wandering the halls trying to find my office. Sometimes, I dream of trying to write something down but the pen doesn't work or I can't remember how to spell. I've also dreamed of being back in school, having to stand and read aloud, but suddenly can't read or speak.

    I rarely remember a specific dream, but these general situations I've mentioned occur often for me. I can honestly say that I've never had a dream inspire anything I've written in one of my novels, except having a character who wanders the halls looking for his office. :-)

  5. Kathryn, this was an extremely interesting post for me. I've had recurring dreams for years. Two sets of them. One deals with recurring deadlines (I keep missing them) and the other with a city on a hill full of meandering streets (An urban Sausalito without the charm or the bay)> The former is frustrating; the latter has a noir quality to it and yeah, it rolls out like a story but it doens't quite translate in waking hours. Anyway, great post.

  6. I have on occasion written absolutely BRILLIANT things in my dreams but alas never recall them or why they were so brilliant when I woke.

  7. No, Kathryn, I've never had dreams about writing. I've had nightmares about writing, but I was wide awake!

    I've had recurring dreams about flying. Once, I jumped from a cliff. I think I'll blog about that one!

    Great post. THANKS!

  8. The recurring dream for me is a Tidal Wave, and I can't get away.

    Then, once comes up where I realize I'm late for work, and can't get there...

    Oh, and the one where I'm trapped at work and can't get out...

    I dream in technicolor, too, so you can imagine how rough the Tidal Wave dream can get. I don't have that one too often anymore - less stress?

    I've never had a dream about writing - I'm sure it will creep in there eventually.

  9. Paula, dreaming about a tidal wave must be truly frightening--especially if it keeps coming back! Kathleen, I love the flying dream, don't you? I love that moment of discovery--it's like, "I didn't know I could do that!"

  10. Let's see. I have the flying dream (accompanied by a physical sensation of lift off), oh yes, the school dream and a series of dream about specific places.

    In many of these places I'm trapped on a staircase where the steps keep getting steeper and smaller. Hmmm, nothing symbolic about that!

    Yes, I do dream of writing, but it is in a strange context that I think I'll keep to myself, lest y'all send the men in white coats after me.

    Like Paula, I dream very vividly. Sometimes when I wake up I have to affirmatively tell myself, "You know that none of that was real, don't you?"


  11. RE: recurring dreams in general--when I do dream, the recurring one seems to be "trying to get back to a certain place where I was." While the physical location varies (most recently I was trying to get back to a specific hotel in a Colorado mountain community) that I had just been at, the dream is otherwise always the same.

    Those are very frustrating dreams too--it reminds me someone of the hero's epic journey--it seems obstacle after obstacle befalls me to hinder me from getting back to that place.

    Unfortunately, unlike most hero's journeys, I don't recall any of the dreams actually allowing me the victory of getting back to that place. Either the alarm goes off or I otherwise wake up.

  12. ARGH! I should've proof read before hitting send. I meant to say "reminds me SOMEWHAT of the hero's epic journey"

  13. Terri, your staircase dream sounds very Hitchcockian. Steven, we should all be so brilliant as we are in our dreams!

  14. I have three recurring dreams involving giant waves, inoperable elevators and out of control planes. I don't tend to write any of these down - too crazy and surreal - but I do think they point to obvious phobias that maybe I can channel into a thriller!

  15. I have three recurring dreams involving giant waves, inoperable elevators and out of control planes. I don't tend to write any of these down - too crazy and surreal - but I do think they point to obvious phobias that maybe I can channel into a thriller!

  16. I dream often, but very seldom recurring dreams. The only times I've had recurring dreams they were serious portends of stuff I had to pay attention to. Like for two years I regularly had a dream that I was burying my wife, or purchasing her headstone. I finally convinced her to go to a doctor and it turned out her blood pressure they couldn't even do a stress test for fear it would kill her. Its under control now, and all is well. But that's the kind of recurring dreams I have, luckily very seldom.

    lately I've been dreaming about movie stuff, but I think that's because I just spent the past few days making this new book trailer whaddayathink?

  17. I have many recurring dreams – including a very stressful one concerning school/university exams! – but as far as I can remember, I have never dreamt about my WIP, my characters or anything else related to my writing. Which is weird, because it occupies so much of my brain during my waking hours. Maybe my lack of dreams is trying to tell me something, though I don't know what!