When I interviewed Brenda Mallon here in the House of Dreams a few weeks ago, she touched upon the way that dreaming about a lost loved one can bring great comfort for the bereaved.
These dreams happen when a person is most in need of comforting, but dreams can bring comfort in less extreme times too.
When I was about five years old, I dreamt I was riding along my street in a horse-and-cart, on a lovely summer day. The horse was trotting happily, and the cart was full-to-overflowing with gold coins which jumped and jingled, and sparkled in the sun.
Everyone came out of their houses to wave as I went by, and I knew I ought to throw pennies to the poor, but I didn’t. That gold was mine, all mine!
I liked that dream so much I used to deliberately go back into it every night, as soon as I closed my eyes. It made me fall asleep with a smile on my face.
I used to think that dream showed what a horrible person I was – it was a guilty pleasure. But looking back now, I see it’s just the dream of a child in a large family with little money, where clothes were passed down and everything – even the bath water – had to be shared. It was the pure pleasure of experiencing something which was completely my own.
You can re-enter enjoyable dreams any time you like, by simply closing your eyes and imagining, in the same sort of way as you might revisit pleasurable fantasies in waking life.
It isn’t the only function of dreaming and imagination, but bringing comfort and pleasure is one way these experiences can enrich a person’s life.
Have you ever deliberately imagined your way back into a pleasurable dream on subsequent nights?
We can analyze our dreams for what they say about us, fear them for what they might mean, take them for more than they are, merely enjoy them or follow them into the worlds where they may take us.
My book “Flying with Fairies” is this last. Born of a single brilliant full-color image, the first chapter turned into a second and then into a novel and then into a series. This book was a departure from what I had written previously and is unlike anything I have written since. But then, the dream that inspired it stood out from the other dreams for its visual clarity and symbolic obscurity. It was an opportunity to be exploited and a challenge to be faced. It spoke of pleasure and of hard work at the same time.
“Gatorbait”, a short story published in a Florida based regional publication, was also based on a single image. Where “Fairies” was based on a mid-air collision between a fairy and a flying human, “Gatorbait” was based on a young rodeo competitor and her flying horse.
I have a first chapter of a spy thriller that was so completely formed in my mind when I woke up, I could wait two days before writing it down. I have no idea what I will do with that chapter, but it’s there in case of whatever.
Everyone dreams, but remembering and exploiting dreams takes a willingness to step into a place where few of us are comfortable going. If you wish to write, go there. Take the risk. Exorcise the demons by writing them down and capturing them on the printed page where they can no longer do you any harm.
Do not work for your dreams. Make them work for you.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome children’s author, Katherine Roberts, to the House of Dreams, on her blog-tour to celebrate her new book ‘Sword of Light.’
It’s especially exciting for me because this is the first time, as far as I know, that a book has been published which was helped along by one of my workshops, in this case, for the Scattered Authors Society http://www.scatteredauthors.org/
My Heroine’s Journey for SWORD OF LIGHT, by Katherine Roberts
My inspiration for ‘Sword of Light’ came in a waking dream, when I attended a workshop led by the lovely Jenny Alexander, who guided a few of us children’s authors on a ‘Hero’s Journey’ along our personal writing paths. It went like this.
Imagine you are walking in a familiar place, when you see a sign saying, ‘To the Treasure…’
I am in the local wood on the boardwalk, and it is raining so no-one else is walking today. The trees are dripping and the bluebells are out. All smells green and garlicky. I am approaching my favourite bridge over a stream, where I often imagine fairies, when I see a new path twisting through the trees where there are no marked trails. A sign says TO THE TREASURE. I think it is one of the farm’s treasure hunts for children, so I hesitate because it might be something tacky and disappointing. But since no-one is around to laugh at me, I decide to take a look.
You find the path blocked…
I push through some ivy and find the path blocked by a monstrous dragon that some local artists have strung up in the trees by the boardwalk for the annual Arts Trail. It is a fantasy creature made of old grey canvas, black feathers, and a scary triangular beak/snout. It is meant to be a future people’s idea of a bird they have never seen because birds are extinct in the future, and it has come alive. It hisses at me. It has been tied in the trees long enough, and now it has escaped. But it can’t fly because its wings have not been made the right way, and they are soggy with the rain. Also, it has no eyes, so it is blind.
How do you get past the block…?
The ‘future-bird’ cannot see me so I freeze, trying to make no sound. I think about going around it, but the undergrowth is too thick. Also, it’s boggy because I am off the boardwalk. I am too afraid of its huge sharp beak and its powerful claws to try climbing over it, so I decide to fool it. I pick up a stick and throw it into the undergrowth. The dragon hears the stick land and flaps off after it, getting its wings entangled in the bushes and shrieking as it flounders in the bog. I hurry past before it can get free, a bit afraid of meeting it again on the way back.
You find the treasure…
As I leave the dragon behind, the sun comes out and the path emerges in a clearing where there is a barrow covered by greenery. I push aside some leaves and crawl inside, where I find a gleaming sword. This is the treasure! I take the sword, thinking it might be useful if I have to fight the dragon, although I don’t really want to soil the beautiful blade with its blood, nor hurt the ‘future-bird’ because it is the last of its kind. Also, I doubt my fighting skills because I have not been trained to use a blade. So I venture back warily along the dripping path, where the sun now sparkles through the leaves and gleams off my treasure.
What do you do next…?
The dragon is still stuck in the bog, but it has exhausted itself and the sun is drying its feathers. It steams gently, its wings spread in the warmth. It still cannot see me, but the sword is magic so it can see the light coming off it. It crawls towards me, as if hypnotised. It seems less afraid now, maybe because it is no longer lost and alone. I stroke its beak and it does not attack. Murmuring to the creatuire, I climb on its back, and since the sun has dried out its wings it can now fly. Although it is still blind, my eyes will guide us. As we take off and circle above the trees in the sunshine, I see the glint of water below where fairies live. We both feel amazingly free. As long as we continue to trust each other, we can fly anywhere in the world, and my sword of light will defend us from enemies, past or future.
I was writing the first draft of ‘Sword of Light’ at the time of this workshop, and am quite spooked by how many elements have ended up in the book:
The sword – Excalibur, the Sword of Light that was forged in Avalon.
The dragon/’future-bird’ – a shadrake, a dark dragon from the underworld of Annwn which breathes ice instead of fire.
The heroine – Rhianna Pendragon, King Arthur’s daughter.
Can dreams inspire a writer to write a novel? Mine did – and they still do.
When I was 16 years old, I started having dreams about a man named Jonathan. These dreams happened almost every night and lasted for many years. Two years after the dreams started, I dreamt that all of the dreams combined were turned into a novel titled, ‘November’s Child.’ I even saw the title of the novel in this one dream!
I was 19 years old when I finally completed that novel. During this time, I had to work out how to make the dream ‘story’ work as a believable story. After all, I had no idea what kind of connection Jonathan had to me, the dreamer, so I had to think of what kind of connection he would have to my story’s main character, Malissa.
This name did not come from my dreams; I needed a name for a character that represented ‘me’ in the story, and I decided to use an alternative version of my sister, Melissa’s, name.
As to the connection dilemma, I discussed this with one of my other sisters, who happened to have just seen a movie about Druid characters. She suggested I turn Jonathan into a Druid. After researching Driudism and reading about their belief in the transmigration of souls, I decided that, yes, that could work. Voila! I had my story figured out.
My novel was published when I was 20 years old. Shortly afterward, my publisher went bankrupt and the book went out of print. I rewrote the book and gave it a new title: ‘Shadow of Samhain.’ This new version of my ‘dream novel’ will soon be published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing.
Stephen King, in his book, ‘On Writing,’ describes how emerging from a writing session feels like waking from a dream. Everyone who writes will have had that experience of being in ‘the writer’s trance,’ so absorbed in the world of the story that the real world fades clean away.
If someone phones me when I’m in the middle of writing, I find it hard to follow the conversation because my mind is in a different mode. The creative mind is relaxed, receptive, inwardly-focused, whereas the day-mind looks outward, rapidly assessing events according to the evidence of the senses and rational thought.
As writers, we have to be able to immerse ourselves in the inner world, whatever the pull of the world outside, with all its demands and distractions.
Establishing regular dream recalling and recording is wonderful practice for this, in that it also requires us to hold the middle ground between fact and fantasy, not allowing the dayworld to sweep the story away before we are ready.