Monday, August 02, 2010


by Gina Sestak

As many regular readers know, I have a strong interest in dreams, both the dreams that come in the night and the the waking dreams that flow out of our minds and onto the page, the creative dreams that we call fiction.

I've been thinking about dreams and creativity even more than usual since seeing the film Inception.  Inception is essentially a caper film, but instead of breaking into banks or casinos to steal money, this team breaks into people's dreams to steal industrial secrets, or to plant ideas that might favor a competitor's interests.  Without giving too much away, the film involves dreams within dreams within dreams, and the very real question:  how do you really know for sure if you are awake or dreaming?

This is a question that has plagued me for years.  You're going along, everything seems normal, then all the sudden something starts to seem a little weird, a little out of sync.  You're in your house, but there are extra rooms.  You try to read, but the letters on the page get up and crawl away.  The horse you're riding on deflates; you fold it up and pack it in a suitcase.  You realize you are in a dream, and you wake up.  Or do you?

I've had the unsettling experience of dreaming within dreams.  You think you've woken up but then things start to go a little weird again, and you realize you're still dreaming.  When I first began participating in a dream workshop and discussing dreams in depth, I had several dreams in which I would dream, then "wake up" into another dream, in which I would discuss the "dream" I just had with a group of people while still dreaming!

Dreams are funny that way.  They pretend to be reality.  Just like movies, which are really only dreams on film.

By the way, another movie that succeeds in capturing the feel of dreaming is Living in Oblivion.  This film gives a very realistic view of what it's like to make a movie.

So how about you?  Do you dream in dreams?  Get lost in dreams?  Have trouble telling where the dream ends and reality begins?


Joyce said...

I know everyone dreams, but I almost never remember anything. On the rare occasions I do, it's usually a very brief deja-vu type thing, where the same thing happens in reality later on.

PatRemick said...

I also rarely dream, or at least I don't think so. I really want to believe it's because all my imagination and creativity is focused on my writing (or figuring out how to thwart the chipmunks stealing my birdseed and deck crops this summer -- I'm thinking cannons).

Gina said...

Joyce -
I've done the deja vu/dream thing, too. The first time was I am aware of was when I was really young, maybe 7 or 8 years old. My father had gotten a rusty hand-me-down car for my little brother - the old-fashioned metal kind of play car that kids could sit in and peddle to make go - and my family was in the back yard sanding and repainting it a dark shade of green when I remembered having dreamed about that car. Maybe all deja vu is based on precognitive dreaming.
I go through periods of remembering or not remembering my dreams. They tend to fade as soon as you wake up (I won't go into the brain chemistry reasons for why this happens), and can disappear completely if you don't grab them fast. It's like catching mice. If you grab the end of the tail, you can get the whole mouse. So it is with dreams. If you recall one image, more of the dream will usually come back to you.
There are techniques for remembering dreams that range from putting pen and paper beside the bed to writing little notes before you go to sleep: Dear Dreams, Please help me to remember you. Sincerely, . . .

Laurissa said...

Lately, I've been dreaming every night and for some reason I've been remembering them when I wake up. Not the entire dream, just snippets. I should probably start writing them down, like you suggest.

Jennie Bentley said...

I'm sure I dream, but like Joyce, I rarely remember them when I wake up, at least not unless they're nightmares. I did used to have the same dream over and over when I was a kid, a really creepy one about a battlefield and graves and a little boy who I thought was dead until he opened his eyes and looked at me... I can still see his face, and it's mumble-mumble years since I had that dream. Never had anything like it happen in real life, either, and never saw him again in reality. It would have been the 1970s, so I guess there was probably a war somewhere that I'd heard about. Not Vietnam; this was somewhere in Eastern Europe, I think. Oh, well... Interesting stuff, Gina.

Gina said...

Jennie -
It's possible you were dreaming a past-life memory. Or maybe something you saw on tv or in a movie that made a very strong impression. Or a somebody else's experience received through ESP.
That's one of the things I love about dreams. There are so many possibilities!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I don't remember my dreams. I used to say, "I don't dream." but I know I do, I just can't remember what they are about. I can wake out of a dream and as soon as my eyes snap open, I can't remember.

With my new short story, I wrote the first paragraph in a dream. No visuals, but when I woke up I had the paragraph remembered. That never happened before or since.

When I had neck surgery, I remember coming out of the anethesia in layers. I would realize I was "Dreaming" but that reality was just another drugged state.

Wilfred Bereswill said...


Try adding a nice dose of cayenne pepper to the bird seed. Birds done have taste buds, so they don't notice. However, it's hilarious to watch the squirrels and chipmonks deal with the pepper.

Or get a Droll Yankee Flipper birdfeeder.

Gina said...

Will -

I've had the experience of waking up with a complete poem in mind, a children's poem with rhymes and all:

As I went walking by the lake
I saw a bear pass, bearing cake.
Then came a horse and fifteen dogs
And crocodiles who looked like logs
And ducks and geese with plums and pears
And kangaroos with folding chairs.
I was amazed. I looked askance
When goats and pigs began to dance.
"What is this party all about?"
I heard myself begin to shout.
A donkey answered, munching hay,
"Rupert Moose turns five today!"

Happy Birthday, Rupert Moose!
Don't eat too much cake.

I don't have a clue where this poem came from. I don't know anyone named Rupert Moose, and I can't remember any dream to link it to.

Patg said...

Ever notice those odd little flickers out of the side of your eye? Concentrate and it does seem to remind one of pixels. So, we are all living the Matrix and we don't remember our dreams because they are reality?
Hmmmm. The meanderings (dreams, musings, daydreams) of a writer?

Joyce said...

Gina, that would make a GREAT picture book! Who would have thought you could write kid's books?

Gina said...

I know, Joyce. Go figure.