Dreams are a notoriously boring tale to receive.
So we’re told.
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything inherently boring about dreams. (I mean look at that drawing above. Dreams can stir up wonder for our muses.)
I’ve always argued it’s more in HOW you tell dreams rather than the dream itself. I mean, think about it. So often when we are bored by a dream-story, it is because some breathless storyteller has related EVERY last detail they can remember about the dream. Would this same person do this to you while telling you a tale from their office day–sharing every moment of their morning until the main crux of the story happened? Not likely. In their excitement, in their extreme feelings of profundity, they’ve forgotten good storytelling manners.
To care about a dream, the listener has to be along for the story ride itself, which means having some story arcs or plot points or SOMETHING INTERESTING beyond just strange details … concepts that often get left behind as someone breathlessly recounts that “awesome” dream they had last night.
Annoyingly, this belief that dreams are inherently boring has gotten translated into staple writing advice: Dreams are considered a turnoff in “serious” literature. Too often in white literary circles, the idea of telling a dream correctly is to not tell it at all. I heard this old adage a few times in my own MFA program, but I knew enough to ignore it. [I like to think I wasn’t as susceptible/gullible to this advice because by the time I had enrolled in my MFA program, I’d already read far too many books that had incredible dream sequences (and literary ones, whatever you take that to mean).]
Unfortunately, you also see a lot of newly successful writers lay down this rule on Twitter feeds with fans clicking hearts and a few disgruntleds getting blocked.
But I’ve read dream sequences that left me breathless. Stunned. Deeply moved. And I’ve read dream sequences that were ridiculous, narcissistic, and down right boring. I’ve always thought the advice shouldn’t be DON’T. But DO–with extreme caution. Dreams are hard to pull off.
All of this brings me back to my dream last night. I know. So narcissistic. But stay with me a moment.
Simply put: I dreamt of great arctic floods, a snowy landscape soaked in biblical rains–and houses built to transform into boats. I dreamt I was trying to escape, packing a few precious belongings when the owner of the house tugged on my arm and said stop. He pulled a great lever and the house, land-locked and lumbering, became a boat. A marvelous boat. As we escaped down a dirt road, the waves licked at our stern, and I looked back, Lot’s wife, knowing I would not succumb.
Okay. Done. Did I do it right? Maybe not. I make no claim to greatness in my writing. I can tell you I left out a lot of details, including one horrific one about a white cat. Details that were interesting to me, but not really relevant to this post.
Anyway, I woke up thinking about that image of the land-locked house that transforms into a boat and thought:
Are we, as a species, dreaming of our collective destruction? With a pandemic, with encroaching weather changes, with fires and heat waves and floods? What is the state of our collective dreams? What would Jung have said? Can we reach each other through our dreams? Can we rescue one another in time?
Have a book recommendation for great dreams? Let me know!
Four book recommendations with dreams:
Territory of Light by Yūko Tsushima
Reading the book is like reading a painting. The story is about a mother and daughter living in a small apartment with rooftop access. They are trying to move on after the woman’s husband leaves them. The plot is light, and the story moves like a series of vignettes, but it was oh so satisfying.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Lots of dreamy visions/mystic type revelations. The language creates a great deal of psychic distance, but if you love reading about strong women in historical times, you’ll like this book. I was fascinated.
IQ84 by Haruki Murakami
You could probably pick just about any Murakami book for this category, but I think IQ84 was particularly dependent on dreams for plotting. An utterly engrossing read.
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Dreams play a vital role in this plot and BONUS: it’s about climate change. Though in this story world, the earth has mysteriously frozen over. Good survivalist stories that take place on a Northern Reserve in Canada.