We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Prospero, The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1.
I’ve always had very vivid dreams and find them easy to remember when I first wake up. Sometimes I remember more than one, on average we’re supposed to have five dreams each night. I now keep a notebook on my bedside table. I try to write down any good ideas I get before they are elbowed out of my memory by making that first cup of tea, or letting the dogs out or talking to the children (or listening to the children talk to me, all three of them, at the same time!)
3am is my best time for some strange reason as the bags under my eyes will testify.
I have detailed plot dreams around 3am, often solving a problem I can’t seem to find a solution to during the day. Once I start dreaming about the characters I’m currently writing about I know I’m onto a good thing book wise. If I’m not dreaming about my characters there’s normally something wrong with them or the book’s structure or maybe just everything single word I’ve written so far.
As a child I found my relationship between my dreams and nightmares inextricably linked with what I was a reading at the time or listening to as I fell asleep to an audio book every night. I can clearly remember waking up in the corner of my bedroom in Wales to see my parents standing there watching me. When I asked them what was the matter they told me I’d been repeatedly walking into each of the four corners of my room, screaming about the showers and looking upwards as if being blasted by jets of water. I was reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank at the time.
Another time I woke up in the bath (avocado, this was the 80’s) and I can remember thinking the bath was the safest place to hide. I wasn’t sure what I was hiding from. I was reading Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells.
The worst nightmare was a recurring one which involved my brother and I being kidnapped. We were taken to a ranch in the middle of nowhere and had to come up with ways to escape before the house was ripped from the ground by a storm. We never made it because my shoes always fell off, makes sense right? Everyone knows shoes are a fool proof escape route. We’d been obsessively watching and reading The Wizard of Oz. The strange thing about this dream was that I could pause it, make myself wake up heart pounding, switch on the light and try and stay awake. Inevitably I’d fall asleep again despite my best efforts and go back into the same dream where my brother would have been waiting for me. I hated that dream. Didn’t put me off The Wizard of Oz though.
I still have the dream about the a witch’s fingers scraping down my window pane. Peak Witch dreams followed the discovery of what would become my favourite Roald Dahl book, The Witches. Even after the trees were cut back (parent’s explanation for the scratching noises at night) I still heard her long talons trailing down the glass, screech, scratch, scram.
As an adult I still dream about characters from books, in fact I dreamt the ending to The Boy who Drew the Future and had to work backwards from there to uncover the whole novel.
I now dream about either my own or another author’s but my nightmares seem to have moved away from fiction towards fact. I now have nightmares about my children in danger, needing to be saved from a myriad of perilous situations and scenarios. When I wake up from one of these nightmares I am so grateful that they were just that, a nightmare and not reality. I’m amazed that my dreams and nightmares are doing the same thing now as they did when I was a child, they are teaching me something about the world and naïve as this may sound instilling in me a sense of hope.
Stories still hold such power over me, even when I am asleep. The books that stand out are the ones I dreamt about or those that gave me nightmares as a child. These are the stories that have stayed with me, creeping into my subconscious each night to come to life again, showing me something new about the world while I sleep.
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”