Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sharing Dreams

There is a trinity of dreams. First are the collective dreams of our race, which guide us toward a better future and urge us to strive to make them come true. That all these dreams have not yet been realized—and may never be—does not deter us from having them. We are an indomitable race, and we are patient.

Second are our individual dreams—our daydreams while awake and those which come with sleep. Our daydreams are generally centered on our wishes for the future and can be whatever we wish them to be. Sleeping dreams are totally beyond our conscious control, and serve a valuable purpose as a form of mental “housekeeping”—a way for us to seek resolution to our inner conflicts within ourselves and accommodation with the waking world around us. We seldom have any recollection of our sleep dreams, and if we can recall them or pieces of them, their meaning is almost always hidden from us.

The third of the trinity of dreams is what prompted this entry: those dreams which are conceived in the mind of individuals—artists, musicians, and writers and translated into words and sounds and images which build bridges between individuals and between the individuals and our collective culture. Born in a single mind, they can go on to encompass us all. John Philip Sousa, for example, is said to have dreamed every note of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” on a ship returning from Europe on Christmas Eve, 1896.

Books are the writer’s dreams set to paper: I know mine are. They are formed, as are all dreams, in the imagination while, for the most part, the writer is awake. And unlike sleep dreams, the writer has some degree of control over them. If unable to direct the dream’s every aspect, at least the writer can consciously influence them by nudging them in certain directions. But for writers like myself, it is the mind which frequently overrides writer's original intentions, and takes the story where it wants it to go. A relatively few writers are able, and prefer, to plot out every single step and detail of a story before actually sitting down to write. It works for J.K. Rowling, who has made more money from putting her dreams of Harry Potter on paper than I will ever see in ten lifetimes. But it would never work for me. The element of spontaneity, both in sleep dreams and writing, is far too crucial for me.

To use flowing water as an analogy, the detailed-plotting method seems to be like one of Los Angeles’ drainage canals—straight as an arrow and contained within concrete walls. I prefer mine to be like a meandering river: I know where it’s going, but while I can see the bends coming up, I have no idea what lies beyond them. And I am always aware that I am not on the journey alone: the reader and I are Huck and Jim on the raft, flowing through the story together. I can’t imagine it being any other way.

People frequently ask writers where they get the ideas for their books. Whenever I'm asked, my answer is always the same: I quite honestly have no idea. They just appear. I’ll be minding my own business, thinking of almost anything except where my next story idea is going to come from, when I’ll be aware of something rising to the surface of my mind like a bubble in a tar pit. I’ll watch while it emerges and forms a bubble of thought and finally bursts, leaving me with a topic or plot idea. I love it!

For me to try to explain how these bubbles form and exactly how I handle them when they do appear is as impossible as explaining how we dream what we dream when we’re asleep.

All dreams are born and are nourished in the nursery of the subconscious, and there they remain until they are ready to emerge, either as a sleep dream or as a book or a painting or a sculpture or a symphony. Dreams are our humanity, and I cherish them, whatever form they take.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

One of my friends, Patti, was having a massive dry spell in terms of writing. She knew she wanted to write a cowboy story, only it just wasn't coming to her. Anyway, I was chatting with her on the phone last night and she mentioned she'd gone to the kitchen, opened her refrigerator and saw two items; buttermilk (for pancakes) and a bottle of ranch dressing. Buttermilk Ranch was born and she's just received her cover art. Inspiration comes from strange places.