#SATurday: Turning Dreams into Stories

#SATurday: Turning Dreams into Stories

I hate alarm clocks. I don’t hate many things, but an alarm clock is one of them. Most of the time, I wake up without one – I have my entire life – and I truly believe it’s because my brain is wired to dislike the act of waking up to sudden (and normally blaring) music. It doesn’t matter if it’s my favorite song. I will end up hating the song if it wakes me up every morning. I wish I could like it – I do. The practical use of an alarm isn’t even debatable. Even though I wake up most mornings, I still have those instances where alarm clocks have come through for me and saved me from accidentally sleeping through my day. (Although…accidentally sleeping through my day sounds pretty nice right now…as long as I didn’t have any responsibilities…which I do…so that accident would be pretty awful, but the sleeping part sounds nice.)


Who doesn’t love sleep? It’s a magical thing. I used to hate that, though, too. If you’ve read any of my interviews, then you probably already know that I had night terrors as a child. And, occasionally, I still do. I also have vivid dreams and nightmares, but I’m finding more often than not that many writers do. Perhaps it’s our overactive imaginations. Perhaps the dreams caused our overactive imaginations. What comes first, the imagination or the dreams?

For me, I believe my dreams came first. Despite the fact that my parents rarely allowed me to watch TV (and had very strict rules about what I was allowed to watch), I had violent dreams. Terrifying dreams. Dreams that hologrammed themselves into the real world, even after I woke up. The first one I recall involved a cheetah. It chased me through a neighborhood (not a jungle), and right before it caught me, I woke up. But instead of my dream ending, I would still see it – lying in wait, sitting at the edge of my bed, half-hanging off the end. I remember its beady eyes blinking, reflecting light in my dark room.

Much to my dismay (and probably my parents’ as well), it kept repeating, and I was losing all hope until art class one day. I can’t say what grade I was in. I can’t recall the teacher’s name. I can’t even – positively – say it was art class. I only remember the art supplies surrounding us, so that’s why I assume my location, but the teacher was telling us about nightmares. And, again, I can’t remember why, but I do remember focusing, listening to her every word.

Her nephew had a reoccurring dream. Every night, a lion chased him through the jungle. I was envious his dreams took him to exotic places – unlike mine – but his lion did something my cheetah didn’t. It ate him.

Now – it didn’t eat him the first time. Our teacher explained that the nephew kept having the dreams until he consciously decided he would stop running in his dreams, turn around, and face the lion. He did. And the lion ate him…And the lion never came again.

I went home, thinking I had finally found the solution to my own nightmare. I was truly excited, ready to be eaten, and I went to bed that night with new hope. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out. I stopped, the cheetah killed me (I assume), and I woke up only for the next morning to have it happened again. My dream repeated itself for a few weeks. (Or maybe it was only few days – time is longer the younger you are). But it repeated, nevertheless, and I never defeated it like my art teacher’s nephew did. Instead, my cheetah slowly faded away, replaced by a T-Rex, then replaced by a murderer.

I don’t believe my dreams have ever stopped. It’s every other night that I dream of something violent, and on rare occasions, I can turn one of my dreams into a story. I can meet a character or see a situation or visit a new world – although I have yet to visit a jungle – and I can take readers there by sharing words on paper.

Those dreams aren’t so scary anymore. In fact, overtime, I think I learned to embrace them and learn from them and explore them and create with them – like my dreams were the real art class all along. And who wants an alarm clock to go off in the middle of class?


P.S. If you missed it, here is my live interview with Jonas Lee. We spoke about knives, coffee, Clue, and writing tips.

And just to REALLY switch your Saturday up, I have finally returned to my YouTube Channel – Coffee and Cats – so feel free to ask any question on the video and I’ll be answering them during my next video.

25 thoughts on “#SATurday: Turning Dreams into Stories

  1. Those nasty dreams are so incredibly real. I have experienced some truly terrifying nightmares that jolt me out of sleep just before the fall (or whatever horrible thing was about to happen to me)…heartbeat racing, cold sweat, sitting bolt upright and short of giving myself a pinch realizing everything was ok…or was it?! What triggers those episodes anyway?? I’ve experienced that threatening chase so many times as well. Does that mean I am running from something in real life?

    I too am a writer, poetry primarily, for the past fourteen years…a wonderful, inspired experience every time and it is perhaps my single greatest passion, second only to life with my loving wife Andrea. There is so much violence on television, so graphically real. I wonder whether television, and movies, trigger those nightmares. I had a very dangerous job years ago, a dozen years of dealing with seriously dangerous individuals when provoked (or hired to be). I saw a lot of terrible things in that time and perhaps those experience have left me with deep scars. All I really know on the subject is…

    We need to keep writing.

    1. Oh, wow! Thank you for sharing your experiences and stories and how dreaming affects your poetry. It truly is fascinating – maybe because it’s a mystery we share. And your last line. Beautiful. I completely agree.

  2. I have written on my blog about a few dreams which left me rather dazed.
    Your dreams however sound horrifying, especially if they are making their way out into the real world.
    Writing dreams that have left an impression is a great thing to do. I was also once told that it is clever if you can transform something abstract (such as a dream), and turn it into a concrete and readable story.

    1. “Writing dreams that have left an impression is a great thing to do.” – I believe so too. Even if it doesn’t turn into a story, I think it’s nice to write them down. I try to write my nice ones down too, although they are rare. It’s amazing to think how many words have stemmed from one or two dreams, but I also like to wonder about what dreams I have yet to dream that might spark an entirely new novel I’ve never considered before.
      Thank you for reading and commenting and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Never had a clear ‘being chased’ dream. It was always a sensation of being hunted while my body wouldn’t move faster than an inch per minute. The slow movement even traveled over to reality for a few minutes where I tested out every limb in a panic. It stopped after a week or two of tossing myself from the bed during the waking stage. I set up a pile of stuffed animals the night before after the first time. To be honest, I still have that sensation at times, but I’ve found that I don’t usually dream. Never figured this one out, but it’s nothing that I can recall even upon waking up. Almost like my imagination is being worked so hard while I’m awake that it decides to take a rest.

    With you on alarm clocks. It’s the jolt of surprise that I don’t like. Not a comfortable way to start the day and it makes me groggy for a while.

    1. Very interesting! It truly is fascinating to read so many different stories on people and what happens to them while they sleep and dream. It’s also interesting because we know so little about it, even in the scientific world. Thank you for sharing something from your life! And alarm clocks – bleh! 😀

      1. I’m curious to know what the amount of dreams a person has and how well they remember them means. I’m always surprised that my imagination functions better when awake than asleep. Guess we’re all wired differently.

      2. That is an interesting question! Agreed. I remember as a kid being confused when I realized my friends didn’t dream regularly or as clearly. I thought everyone did.

  4. I’ve often heard that recurrent dreams have to be confronted. It’s interesting that your dream didn’t go away but changed over time. At least you found a way to make is useful.

    I get stories out of dreams, too, but only once in a while. There’s too much that that you realize doesn’t make sense, once you’re completely awake.

    1. Yeah, I find it interesting too. Why some go away and others don’t is beyond me! But I’m happy I have them now (most of the time anyway :P). And I LOVE when you said, “There’s too much that that you realize doesn’t make sense, once you’re completely awake.” So true!

  5. I had a recurring dream when I was a kid about my dad turning into a zombie and growing a ton of heads. Scary, but I don’t get them anymore. I don’t actually really get scary dreams at all. I also try to use my dreams for my stories. Whenever I have a dream, if it’s a good one, I try to keep it going in my head as I wake up. I’ve gotten some of my best story ideas from dreams.

  6. I really love this post 🙂 I knew you had nightmares a long time ago, but i did not know that you still had violent dreams so often. I don’t have nightmares, and i can’t recall ever having a problem with them, or with night-terrors, when i was a child. Though, I have had my share of fears…

    I grew up in Detroit, MI…that’s not a nice place to grow up, but most of my fears revolved around being alone and/or unable to make friends or belong in a group. I feared rejection and isolation. Perhaps in subconscious retaliation to that, I went through a phase where i had more friends than i knew what to do with and my social life actually became a burden, but i have since moved a couple of times and started over more than once. Ironically, isolation has become something that i embrace in my adulthood. I no longer fear it. Maybe that’s why I don’t have nightmares.

    I’m also not a fan of alarms, however, i have come to rely on them as useful tool. Living in Alaska, the days get progressively longer until, around mid-summer, the sun stays up for 24 hours. If i didn’t set alarms on my phone to go off at certain times at night, i wouldn’t get a full nights sleep before going to work the next day. Oddly, i never need an alarm to get up in the morning. I always set it, but i also always wake up before it goes off. Weird.

    I frequently write from dreams. I think my love for solitude has grown from the joy Ive found adventuring within the world inside my head. Outwardly, i am not a violent person and inwardly, i do not have violent dreams, but there is alot of action and violence in my writings. I don’t know where it comes from…I always just thought it was a guy thing 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this post and giving us this insight into your inner world.

    1. Oh, wow! Yeah – thank you for reading and sharing your story. It’s always fascinating to share where we come from and how it affects our dreams and inspiration and our work.

  7. I read a 3-D version of “The Little Mermaid,” when I was about eight, and my reading morphed into a recurring nightmare about being chased by Mermaids, who were trying to take over the world. Everyone in my family dreams heavily, and I was surprised when I married into my husband’s family, because none of them dream.

    1. It would be interesting to know why so many people remember their dreams and why so many people don’t, especially in terms of vivid detail or even why some have black and white dreams.

  8. It’s so funny how I read this post nodding along the whole time. I even had a cheetah in my dreams when I was very young! Triggered by the cheetah art our backyard neighbour had on his wall. In my recurring dream, however, I’m walking along and a plane falls out of the sky very near by. Nowadays, every time I have the dream, dream-me says “This must be yet another dream” but then something in the dream proves me wrong and I end up believing it’s real yet again. It’s gotten so frequent that when I first saw the footage of the Taiwan plane crash I literally screamed because it was like one of my dreams being played back to me on the television. I have absolutely no fear of flying, but planes falling from the sky on my head? Terrifying!

    1. That is terrifying! I always wonder why certain nightmares come and stay and why others don’t (or even where they come from at all). Like how you have no fear of planes, I had no fear of cheetahs, and even today, I don’t (but I’m not around them either). And I can’t recall ever coming in contact with anything cheetah to spark the dream. Now, the T-Rex? Totally different story. I blame Jurassic Park.

  9. As a child, I was a lucid dreamer–I could direct what was happening in the dream. As a result I had few nightmares, but some pretty awesome adventures! As an adult, I often painted things heard or seen in dreams. Lately, I don’t remember them much, but when I do, the dream is usually me being very busy. Not doing anything in particular, just busy, busy, busy. I miss my childhood adventures!

  10. I think something vaguely resembling the Witch King of Angmar appeared by the side of my bed when I was barely awake. It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. Nowadays, my dreams are much tamer, but I’ll still have nights when I can’t get to sleep because I feel like there’s SOMETHING in the room with me. Completely irrational.

    On a much happier note, sometimes I dream fully plotted and structured Draco/Hermione fanfics. But I always forget them when I wake up…

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