In the dreaming process of writing, we must sometimes return to the source, and listen to our dreams. Whether or not we actually write our night or daydream experiences down, they are the cartographers of the mind and heart. Paying attention to the stories we dream helps us write from our deepest lives, our imagination. These are the stories that matter. They shape our biography, our expectations, our hopes and our creativity. They help us tell our stories.
This morning I dreamed again about a job that taught me — no, forced me! — to face my deepest self, the part of me that needed to expand. In the dream, I understood my experience as ordinary, almost banal. This dream didn’t have the epic, dramatic tint to the experiences that felt so painful to me then. It was almost as if I was shown a neutral canvas. After I woke up, I remembered a colleague, who came to my office, looked into my eyes, and said — “Don’t say anything, just listen. Get out of here. Don’t get stuck. This is not a good place.”
What a paradox! No wonder I need to work out this particular puzzle in my dreams. I’ve been thinking all day, off and on, about that paradox. As I ask myself where the story lives, I’m thinking about an essay, to explore the evil of banality (as opposed to the classic, the banality of evil, a phrase that described Hitler’s micromanaged atrocities).
That’s not to say what I experienced was evil per se. Evil is such a loaded word — terrorism and rape and poverty are genuine evils. But in my dream, I saw the machine of the workplace, and my memory of my colleagues warning shined a light on that machine that made me think about evil. As a writer, I get to play with that, whether or not anyone else ever reads my exploration.
I don’t write about my own life much — it’s just not as interesting as more archetypal, mythic, magical things. But my dream pushed me into the autobiographical territory, offering something paradoxical, intriguing. It made me want to write, to figure out what I was trying to tell myself this morning.
Lying in bed that extra ten minutes to let the fullness of the dreamstory expand opened up a very cool can of worms. I’ve been writing long enough to celebrate that kind of inspiration, and trust that wherever it leads, I’ll catch some interesting wordfish.
Have you ever had a dream that prodded you to write? Let’s share the stories, and the writing that came out of them!