Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Dream theories

(my non-writing update: I’m alive and my stomach is letting me eat what I want. I still feel a little weird from my total lack of nutrient, but I’m getting there.)

Yesterday, I was talking about dreams and writing, which is a great topic right now. I think I have some kind of sleep disorder, because I sleep 10 hours and it feels like 6, and I always have dreams which are taunting me, saying “just try to write this shit down when you wake up.” My dreams right now are incredibly nonlinear, overlapping, redundant, confusing, and realistic. Because they aren’t a simple story, I can’t just write them down. (It’s also a pain in the ass because when I wake up at 4 in the morning, I don’t want to spend 20 minutes transcribing dreams, and then end up wide awake.) I find that by thinking about how I want to write the dreams down, they happen more vividly, and I remember more when I wake. I wish there was some kind of machine or hypnosis tape I could use to get closer to this goal, but most of the stuff you find on the internet is either new-age hippie crap, or a get-rich-quick scheme.

I think people have similar, cliche dreams. I mentioned this yesterday: falling, naked in front of people, forgot they were registered for a class, and so on. I find that my dreams sometimes fall into templates, but they are much stranger. Let me see if I can assemble a top five list (not in any order):

  1. This really isn’t a dream, there is a nuclear holocaust, and I’m experiencing the last five seconds of my life.
  2. A lucid dream where I’m able to take control.
  3. I’m back in Elkhart, Indiana, and going through the same problems I did ten years ago
  4. “The amalgam dream” – I’m walking in San Francisco, I turn a corner and it’s Bloomington, 1992, crossed with the cabash scenes from Naked Lunch. I run into a person I used to work with, who is drinking coffee with Jesse Ventura. Etc.
  5. The lucid dream that takes place in my apartment and I’m not sure that I’m asleep or awake. Happens when I’m about to fall asleep, or on those bad nights of insomnia where I wake up and look at the clock every hour and later deduce that I’ve been up all night.

I take ideas from my dreams. For the last three years, I’ve been on and off successful with writing down things. I read about how Phillip K. Dick dreamed all of his stories, and then woke up and simply transcribed them to paper. I thought that was so cool, I started doing it with Rumored to Exist. A lot of key ideas in that book were lifted straight from dreams. I’ve never been able to fully capture the whole dream-state onto paper, but I never would’ve been able to figure out some of the stuff I use in Rumored.

Or maybe I would. I have a lot of theories about dreams, that they are simply extensions of what you feel and think consciously, mixed with a little biochemical work from what you ate before bed or how stressed you are. I wish there was a way to control that mirror from one side to the other, and maybe there will be within my lifetime….

I got a late start today, so I better split. More about this later.