When Artists Dream

When my husband has a nightmare, it goes something like this: he is chased by a bear. When I have a bad dream, it plays out like this: I’m the wife of some Viking-like chieftain, but he is gone, and the neighboring tribe is preparing to invade. My eldest son is not up to the task of leadership, despite my encouragement. My husband’s brother wants to take over, but I don’t trust him, so I enlist the aid of the charming maiden with whom he is in love to help me distract him. In the meantime, I prep the warriors and then discover that I’m pregnant . . . with twins. . . and wouldn’t you know, just as the invaders are cresting the hill, I go into labor. No, I’m serious. This was my dream last night. I wake up exhausted. Running from a bear is one thing, saving a whole village is another.

Where on earth did this dream come from? From a myriad of images I encountered that day, I’m guessing. My friend’s Facebook post about visiting an ancient site in Ireland, my phone call with my son, the Ain’t I a Woman speech that I recently came across again. The subconscious mind is a magical place.

I’m sure you’ve read many interviews with artists and writers who claim their best ideas came to them in a dream and maybe you’ve wondered if that’s true. It is. I keep a pad of paper by my bed in case I wake up in the middle of the night with an awesome idea. In that foggy place between sleep and waking, stories lurk, and songs, and plays, and paintings.

And in my dreams, I’m rarely myself. I’m usually a “character” leading some fantasy life. It’s kinda awesome. I get to fall in love over and over with all kinds of gorgeous men, but it’s not me, so it’s not like I’m cheating, right? And I get to travel the world and try all kinds of crazy stunts that I would never attempt in real life.

To be honest, I rarely transfer my dreams to the page, though. They’re a bit too weird and I’m not that clever of a writer. But I do think about them a lot. I’ve been wondering all day whether my tribesmen defeated the bad guys or not. As the dream was ending, the midwife was telling me I was not having twins, just a single son. Was this kid the “savior” of our race? Did that come from reading an article about the new The Story of God series by Morgan Freeman last night?

Who knows? But that’s the best part about dreams. Like all great stories, I get to decide the ending.