When people talk about dreaming and writing, it’s usually along these lines–Keep a dream journal. Write them down, and you’ll have all kinds of ideas for stories!
I don’t disagree with that in general. I disagree with it in specific– specifically, its completely useless for me. First off, I don’t dream a lot. Or at least I don’t remember my dreams often, because I usually sleep pretty well, without popping awake in the middle, which is when I remember my dreams. And when I do remember them, they generally managed to combine a certain quality of bizarre banality that is completely useless. A dream about trying to sort letters, except they keep turning into squirrels, and my third grade teacher is yelling at me– that might seem interesting right when I wake up, but no, really, it’s not. Finally, yeah, ideas. Those I’ve got. If I could dream up more time to write them down, that would be useful.
But I had a different intersection of dreaming and writing this week.
My youngest had an upset stomach a few nights ago, which resulted in me doing a lot of waking up to… let’s just say deal with the aftermath and leave it at that. In between these lovely parenting moments, I would drowse. So, yes, dreams. One in particular stood out.
I ‘woke’ up, and all the lights were on. In my room, in every room. Annoyed, I got up and started shutting them off, wondering who had turned them on. I noticed as I was doing this that the house was strangely quiet. Empty. No wife, no kids in their beds, just me. Then I noticed that the door to the attic was open, and the lights were on up there.
I started up the stairs. It’s an old house, and the attic lights are on pull strings. I walked around, clicking each one off, the house getting darker and darker behind me. Overhead, rain drummed on the roof, the only sound. Then there was just one light left, the farthest one, the one behind the chimney. I couldn’t see around its bulk, but suddenly I knew there was something back there, something waiting for me in that last dusty pool of light. I didn’t want to go forward, but I had to, and I rounded the chimney and…
Woke up. Which would have been good, except right then, in the dark, with the rain falling outside, my writer brain kicked into gear and started spinning out the scenarios. It was this! Or that! Or even better, one of these!
Most of the rest of my brain was unappreciative of the suggestions.
Luckily, my daughter needed me again, and taking care of that bit of unpleasantness turned out to be a good way to scrub that nightmare out of my brain.
But, still, maybe a cool scene for a horror story, right?
Sure. Which is probably why I have a scene almost just like it in the horror book I’ve already written.
So, in addition to the issues above, my dreams are also apparently just too derivative.