Dreaming Life and Living Dreams

I’ve been finishing up a story that asks if we are awake or dreaming. Recently I read from the brilliant scientist author Oliver Sacks, “Waking consciousness is dreaming – but dreaming constrained by external reality.”

Are we dreaming life?

Dreams, the ones when we are asleep, seem to me to be somehow pure. Pure self. In contrast, the dreaming-while-awake seems often very boxed in, and maybe this is by external physical realities. The time of day, the heat or cold of the air, work or unemployment, time spent in the company of friends or enemies or strangers all box in our dreaming-while-awake.

I’ve been fascinated by dreams, the sleep time ones, and nightmares for as long as I can remember. How is it that the mind creates and lives such vibrant experiences when out of touch with external reality? It’s baffling. But it is also true that when I write stories, they come to me as dream like thoughts. Unbidden, difficult to grasp, sometimes frightening, and almost always unrelated to external physical realities of the moment. It has not yet been possible for me to really “work” at a story any more than I work at a sleeping dream. Spending a little time trying to understand both the sleeping and waking thoughts, and to make room for my dreams, becomes more and more important to me as I get older. And the more I write, in a sense, the more I am living my dream.

What do you think, are you dreaming life, living a dream? A little of both?

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17 responses to “Dreaming Life and Living Dreams”

  1. Jennifer, i don’t spend nearly enough time on your blog. What you write always resonates with me!

    I’ve harbored a life-long fascination with dreams. During the time in which I wasn’t writing, I dreamed bizarre, convoluted, vivid dreams — almost every night. Even now, when I’m writing regularly, I still dream in vivid, colorful storylines, though they’re less frequent. I used to keep a dream journal, and I recorded more than 150 dreams.

    All but two of my novels started out as dream sequences.

    As for your Oliver Sacks quote — what an intriguing concept! It does, indeed, call to mind the plot of The Matrix, as Cynthia mentioned. It also reminds me of the 1984 film Dreamscape (highly recommend). My dreams are usually so vivid, I can’t distinguish them from reality until I wake up.

    So, occasionally, I come to the disturbing question: How do I know I’m awake right now? ; )

    I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:

    “But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
    –W.B. Yeats


    • Courtney as a new fiction author, I don’t know how you have time to read! It is so many steps getting out into publication as a new author. Will you publish your dream record? Is it fiction or nonfiction? I think of dreams as a new genre – nonfiction fiction, ie, really telling a real dream that was imagined. It sometimes takes me some time after waking up to figure out if the dream was real life or not, a terrifying few moments I’ll say, until I get reoriented to the waking world. Thank you for sharing your experiences with dreams, and the much loved Yeats quote. Yeats is one of my very favorite writers, his thoughts resonate with me and bring up deeply hidden feelings. They are in there somewhere! I think by writing, I spread my dreams too and Yeats advice is well taken. We don’t all tread softly, but the beloved always hopes that we may.


      • Hi Jennifer! I’m very late in replying, but at least I’m finally here. ; )

        Yes! Finding time to read is hard. I try to do my reading over breakfast — but that doesn’t work if the day’s to-dos are pressing. And I try to read before bed — but that doesn’t work if I’m too sleepy. ; ) I just read whenever I can. And when i can’t, I remind myself that I need it, so I go off and do it.

        I’ve always thought it would be great fun to publish my dream journal, since so many of the dreams are sci-fi short stories. I think readers would get a kick out of them. Maybe that’s something for the future, when I’m better established and can get away with something so “self-indulgent”! ; )


  2. Marguerite Young was fond of wishing people – ‘May you walk always through dreams.’ I feel that you have the most vital ‘handle’ on your writing – a guide to its substance and content, right here in this blog. Since you are so actively engaged in this issue, your writing which stems from it will not be merely theory or science concerning dreams, it will be be experientially based and thus ‘poetic’ in the most most comprehensive sense of the word. Perhaps you have stated the key element here “the more I write, in a sense, the more I am living my dream.”
    Thank you.
    I am richly blessed by having discovered you through your tweets.


    • Thank you Wayne for encouraging me in writing and for the reference to the great Marguerite Young. I’ve been told that everyone’s bliss is different, but sometimes I meet someone and think, hmm, maybe their bliss and mine overlap at least a little. I feel this way reading ancient myths sometimes too. Here’s to celebrating the dream-like experience, whether individual or shared, that is the source of poetry and stories. I think if I acknowledge and honor the place stories come from, I may always have new ones floating in to entertain and inspire us. Now I have a new short story collection in the editing stages, soon to share.

      Thanks so much for connecting here and on the other sites, twitter, and for the great blog at your website.



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