Or, to put it another way, Non-Stop Story-Telling
We all know we dream, and that dreams often consist of recycled experiences – but have we gone the extra step of realising we spend our nights writing stories? The stories may not make much sense; they may start at some unexplained mid-point and fade half way through; but within their limits they are stories.
Let me give an example. Although I can rarely recall my dreams I managed to remember a sequence from this morning. Here’s how it went.
The first portion I remember is being in a bookshop (probably Waterstones in York) being served by a smallish bloke with a beard (probably remember him from Waterstones). I may (or may not) have been buying a Virginia Woolf novel (Mrs Dalloway had just been discussed by Melvin Bragg and others on the radio). Anyway, the assistant said I could have two free books with my purchase and handed over a couple of items he felt sure I’d like (getting a bit nonsensical here), one of which seemed to be a collection of old photos from the Congo (can’t really think why). I was happy to accept that, but asked if I could choose something else for my other freebie. After browsing the shelves, I found a picture book biography of Cleopatra (about whom I had written twenty years ago) and asked if I could take that as my second choice. He probably said yes, but only probably, because the dream – in the spongy way of dreams – decided to morph into something else at this point...
And I found myself in conversation with a young woman. We were in a rather large lounge, and she was sitting on an armchair while I stood beside her. She seemed reluctant to join our two families for a get together (Christmas perhaps?) and I explained it was fine for her generation to mingle with ours. That’s all I remember of that scene, but I imagine its cause was a telephone conversation the previous evening between Chris and an old friend whose daughter died of cancer a couple of years ago. But was it his dead daughter in the dream or his surviving one? I cannot be sure.
The next morph took me to a river bank. I seemed to be in the vague company of one or two family members, and we reckoned the river too deep to wade across. (I know where this came from: Chris and I were on the enormous beach at Cleethorpes the other day, trying to get to the Humber Fort at the end but finding a river in our way. A river? On a beach? Well, it had to reach the sea somewhere.) Anyway, we noticed other people crossing (in the dream, that is) so thought we’d have a go. It proved easy so I stayed in the river, paddling around, then set off back where I’d started from. By now the river was drying out (maybe looking like parts of Cleethorpes beach?) and by the time I got out it was entirely dry. I remember saying, “I seem to have dried out the river...” And the sequence seemed to end there.
Well, what can we make of all that? As a dream sequence, it is harmless enough, comprehensible enough (in terms of recycled events), meaningless (except as reminders of this or that impression) and largely worthless. And yet it is truly fascinating. I was writing stories – not very good ones in shape, plot, action or themes; however, they had that fascinating blend of sense and nonsense that can suspend us between the worlds.
Think of it, though. In the daytime a writer consciously recycles his or her experiences, and at night-time the same thing happens, except unconsciously. What an amazing thing: we humans are continually inventing stories, whether asleep or awake. We are like children who must recycle our experiences in play – often nonsensical and disjointed play – as if play is the most important activity we can undertake. (And by the way, who gets the biggest rewards in our society – as regards popularity and financial reward? People who play: music or sport or parts in films.)
Of course, it’s not just writers who continually come up with stories, waking or sleeping. We all, for instance, live our own narratives, casting ourselves as responsible, irresponsible, victimised, lucky, rebellious, conventional, etc, and changing our narratives as situations change (marriage, divorce, children, retirement, whatever). And we invent narratives for people around us (she’s trustworthy, sly, loudmouth, secretive etc) which may or may not correspond to any external reality.
But back to the dreams. Have you ever had this experience? You’re feeling tired so you sit down and begin feeling dozy. Now, there’s a certain stage of doziness where you’re still awake – and you know you’re awake – but you’re also on the verge of sleep. And from that verge you can observe dreams merging into definition. Notice that: merging into definition. It’s as if the dream has been going on all the time – even while awake – but only as you slip into the verge of sleep do you begin to notice it.
I wonder if this is true. Do our minds (or brains?) continually tell stories which we only notice when we lose outer consciousness?
Ah, so many questions. I haven’t yet asked who’s writing all these stories in our dreams. Us? A part of us? Who writes the stories when we’re awake? Who wrote this blog? Seriously, was it the Gerry who had a meal at Pizza Hut earlier this evening and watched a bit of Wimbledon when he got back? Or is there another Gerry who senses a greater importance in this or that phenomenon and insists the everyday outer Gerry should suspend his surface footling to consider something deeper?
It’s not such a daft question. Who writes the best stories? The everyday you? Or some deeper, elusive version of you, a being who isn’t entirely rational, an entity who can write stuff so unexpected that you have to ask “Did I write that? How could I have come up with that?”
And is that the same being who dreams? Or a relative?
May I invite you to make certain purchases? (I may? Why, thank you...)
(a) The Salamander Stone (by my most excellent and trusty pal, Mrs Me) from one of these outlets:
Direct from the publisher, Burst Books: click here
Amazon UK: click here
(b) The Two Worlds of Wellesley Tudor Pole (by Mrs Me’s most excellent and trusty pal, Me):
Amazon UK: click here
Amazon.com (US): click here
(You’ll be getting both of them? Well, that is an admirable choice, if I may say so...)