The other night, I had a series of very odd (even for me) dreams. I am an insomniac, and the folks who are trying to determine why we dream – a question that I expect will likely never have a firm answer – have done studies showing that insomnia and sleep disruption associated with it can increase dream recall, often because the sleep cycle is interrupted during REM, when dreaming occurs. Since I wake up multiple times any given night, I can often recall several dreams, in part or in full. Some seem to me to just be working out something I had been thinking over, like how one of my characters can rationalize his work for crime families. Some are not so easy to understand, and some are downright bizarre.
For instance, during the other night I mentioned before, I woke up and had been dreaming about a group of people without faces. Literally without faces: they had heads, walked and moved and talked like any regular person, but their faces were just blank ovals. I couldn’t recall what exactly had brought me to them or them to me, but I did recall that part.
The other dream recall, however, was much longer. The first part of it was someone walking up the steps to an absolutely stunning building. It turned out that building was a library (not the first time I have dreamed about libraries, and likely not the last), but there was a very tall African man near the top of the steps, and he said, “I’m terribly sorry, but women who wear glasses are not permitted in libraries in Burundi.”
Now, I have never been to Burundi. I also do not wear glasses any longer, thanks to lasik surgery some years ago. A random question popped up in the back of my head about women who do not wear glasses potentially being allowed in libraries in Burundi, but it did not come up during the dream. As it happened, he was recorded saying this, and for some reason was desperate to get the recording and destroy it. That’s where the second part of the dream came in.
It turned out to involve a high speed car chase in a not-very-Burundi setting: a heavily populated, dense modern city. New York, perhaps, or Los Angeles. There were dozens of law enforcement vehicles involved, and a ton of property destruction as all the vehicles involved ran into innocent passersby in their cars, roadside objects like light poles and mailboxes, and even into storefronts and other building at some times.
I awoke during the chase part of the dream, remembering both sections of the dream vividly, but without a clue as to how these things were generated, much less how these could help me in any way – well, perhaps the chase scene. That might make it into a story somewhere. Burundi seems much more unlikely.
Still, when I recall these dreams after waking up, I’m sure they go right back into the hopper to churn around with everything else my subconscious is working on. At some point, some of these ingredients may combine in just the right way, and my subconscious will send up a flare about a an idea worth pursuing and developing.
And who knows? maybe one of those packages may involve Burundi after all.
Lesson: if you recall your dreams, pay attention to them. Turn them over in your mind as you go about whatever routine it is you follow when you awake before letting them float away. You never know what might become of them in your day to day work of writing.