My night time dreaming and also dancing (but not in my sleep) are two things I used to keep hidden from folks who asked about influences on my work. I'll get into the dancing the next time, but about the dreams. I've always been an avid dreamer, in the same way that we describe ourselves as avid or voracious readers. Growing up, my four siblings and I more than tolerated each other's night time stories - we believed the story was just as real as the waking story that we ventured into each day. This was often illustrated by my younger sister who, after a scary dream, would yell at whichever one of us had been there with her in the dream. "Why didn't you help me?" she'd demand. "You were right beside me!"
But for me, I kept a lot of my dreams close to the hip because I wanted to think about them during the day, to figure them out, and especially, to see if I could go back there. Strange as it sounds, I wanted to return to even the most frightening dreams and eventually, after much practice of "remembering" the dream throughout the day, I figured out I could revisit many of the stories. In this way, I learned over time that I could change the story. I could fall from the sky and eventually hit that bottom that terrified me so much. (To my surprise, when I finally fell all the way, it was into a smooth and glassy sea that seemed to catch me and rock me - that was my last falling dream.)
Once I began telling my dream stories to my closest friends, I realized that there was a sort of "sub-culture" of dreamers. Those who, like me, could hardly wait to get to sleep and find out what the next episode would bring. I had found "my people." By this time, I was categorizing my dreams: stories with a complete beginning, middle and end; travels - often to Germany, England, and once in a while to Spain; music dreams, in which I sang my heart out - Whitney Houston has nothing on me; language or word dreams, in which a phrase or sentence, a word, a name or even a short poem or song lyric would hang in the air as though it had been whispered to me just before I opened my eyes.
Now here is where the writing comes in: I knew there was no way I could ever write down all of my dreams, especially because I'm a "multi-dreamer" meaning that some nights I might dream 4 to 6 "stories." I catch some of them on paper. I probably have 400 or so over the years - which really is nothing compared to the number of dreams I've dreamed. But, I discovered that sometimes when writing out a dream experience, a sliver of language might appear that worked well within a poem or short story. Sometimes, the dream continued on paper beyond its night time life and turned into a story with a character, as though the dream itself had been only the prelude to something else that wanted to be written.
And there's more: Perhaps because I've learned to love my dream time - well, really, I would say that I honor my dream time - it has also brought me answers, quite literally, to challenging situations. For example, once during a wretched bout of asthma and allergies, I dreamed that the answer was saline solution. Well, there you go: I started using the neti pot years later and that's a great gift if you are as allergic to the world as I am.
But, let's stay with the dreaming/writing connection for another minute. Seriously. Those language dreams are deliciously cool. I hope you have them. Right now, I'm (finally) finishing a short story about Backbone Feather. Yes, Backbone Feather's name was "spoken" to me in my sleep. And I decided to sit down and find out who the heck this guy is. Never would I be writing this particular style of story, with this particular type of protanonist, if I had not been a dream-lover.
Sweet language-tripping dreams to you.