Dreams are often filled with garbled messages and strange people—do they really mean anything? In all likelihood, yes. The problem is, dreams tend to dissolve on contact with the waking world, like cotton candy in your mouth, and the harder we try to remember them, the faster they disappear. In literature and movies, dreams are often presented as perfect bits of narrative with often-clear symbolism that everybody – reader and fictional protagonist – 'gets'. The reality is, they usually look more like something out of a David Lynch film:
I woke up at that slippery point that would still be considered late Saturday night, but is really Sunday morning – somewhere between 1 and 2, according to the clock, though I could be misremembering – with a crystal clear image in my mind, something from a dream I’d just been having. “Yeah,” I thought. “That’s good. That would make a great story.” And then, turning it over once or twice in my head, I went so far as to think, “That might even be better than my NaNo. I might want to scrap the NaNo and do this instead.” That’s how good it was.
You already know where this is going, don’t you?
I sat up in bed and wrote out a couple of lines in my head. I heard the words, saw a scene working out. “Yeah, that’s good.” And then I went back to sleep.
In the morning I stumbled down through the dark, made myself coffee, sat at the computer and started checking NaNoReviMo messages (17-1/2 hours for Peggy—way to go!), eyeballed some blogs—and it hit me: I had an idea last night, a good idea.
And that’s all I can remember, is that I had a good idea.
I broke a fundamental Rule of Writing, one that may be even more important than “Show, don’t tell”; “Avoid adverbs like the plague”; etc.
Keep a notebook handy at all times.
The funny thing was, when I was getting ready to go upstairs to bed, I eyeballed my notebook. It was sitting there, smack dab in the middle of my desk, standing out like that one Pope in the ‘Find the Pope’s in the Pizza contest’ (“All two hundred and fifty-four…Some are easy, some are hard…”). I looked at that notebook and thought, “I should take it up, just in case.” I wasn’t planning on writing, and nobody really wakes up in the middle of the night with a great idea that just needs to be written down right now, do they? That’s just some cheesy cliché. It doesn’t really happen, does it?
Apparently, it does.
I can console myself at least with the fact that I may not have written anything down even if I’d had the book. It’s quite likely I would have just gone back to sleep, without even thinking of the notebook. Or maybe I would have written something illegible, or something nonsensical. I went to my writer’s group and tried to write my way to it, by writing about what I thought I could remember about this dream, or image, or whatever it was. I don’t think I got any closer to it, however. But I did learn my lesson. Last night, the notebook came up with me.
And I brought a pen, too.