The other night I was at a P!nk concert. Through the buzz of the audience, guitars and synthesized strings began a slow, tender chord progression. There was something intriguingly familiar about the way the electric guitar was sliding around the chords as the bass covered the transitions. Then, P!nk leaned into the mike, parted her lips, and sadly crooned:
“It’s been a mystery, but still we try to see why something good can hurt so bad.”
It was a remake of Journey’s Who’s Crying Now, and the crowd immediately broke into a roar. I distinctly remember the entire song: the original piano reworked for a gently distorted guitar, the percussion rolling through the verses after the intro (unlike in the original where they drop in and out), P!nk’s gorgeously gravelly voice hitting every emotional punch of the lyrics and even the way it accidentally cut out during the bridge as she sang, “Your looo–oove … will never die.”
It was a complete multi-layered vision, and I’m able to remember it as I type this as vividly as if it had been a real, waking experience.
Oh, didn’t I mention? This was all a dream.
My dreams have always been vivid, and I can still remember dreams I had when I was in kindergarten. In one particularly vivid dream when I was five or six, I was walking down the hall from my bedroom to the kitchen, and noticed a dark strip in a wall panel growing wider. As it expanded, I realized it was opening to the night sky like elevator doors, to reveal a ringed planet the smooth orange color of a Dreamsicle, as bright and near as the absent Moon should have been.
In retrospect, I assume I had just learned about Saturn or had seen a Saturn-equivalent in some cartoon.
It took years of sharing and comparing dreams before I understood how unusual my dream life is. The scale of the landscape of my dreams seems to surprise people, the fact that I am often watching enormous events from afar while also recognizing small objects up close, as when I saw a colossal statue being worked by dozens of clambering stone masons in the center of a broad green valley before noticing a single grey feather come to rest on my shoulder.
The quasi-lucid nature of my regular dream life also strikes most people as unusual. I normally have some degree of awareness that the dream is but a dream, and a concomitant degree of influence (if never outright control) over events.
I’m not sure if other writers share a dream life as vivid or rich in sensation as mine, but my dreams have shaped my writing in critical ways. Almost the entirety of “Heather Hadrigal” is derived from a series of persistent and consistent dreams, and the Dragon Mother vision near the end of The Ligan of the Disomus is a precise dream account. A dream gave me the opening image of the smoke-obscured stranger from “Banter,” specifically the detail of being able to recognize from the over-long, tapering silhouettes of a man’s arms that he’s holding two pistols.
But, whatever this intricately detailed modeling circuitry in my brain might be (HSP? Acute introversion? Asperger’s?), it doesn’t only provide dream imagery. It also enriches the way I experience waking life, whether replaying a song P!nk never sang or soaking up the world around me, both near and far, broad and specific, in obscurity and detail. Again, it has taken years of sharing and comparing to realize the unusual way I experience other people’s stories in waking life, including the ones we live, the multi-character stories of politics, culture, and society.
And, when I think about the many things I have not enjoyed in life — wealth, an abundance of close friends, professional prestige — I know that I would not have traded my experience of the world for any of these things. It is a privilege to be truly grateful for.
Are there any other writers out there have a rich and vivid dream life?