Log in

No account? Create an account
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-10-13 05:57
Subject: [personal] Some thoughts on my dreamscape
Security: Public
Tags:dreams, personal, process, sex, writing

I realized something interesting last night. My dreams very rarely contain a somatic component, despite the fact that the defining experience of my life these past few years has been the profoundly somatic experience of cancer and its treatments.

(The exception, of course, is erotic dreams. I don’t have them all that often, but when I do, they can be real doozies. And they tend to be deeply somatic, partly because my sexual style is very touch-oriented.)

Otherwise in my dreams I am a point of view, like a movie camera. Occasionally I dream in something like third person, where the point of view is following me or a surrogate for me, but most of the time I’m seeing from within.

My dreams are always intensely visual. Colorful, rife with imagery, often plentiful action. I dream, frankly, very much the way I write, by visually experiencing setting and action as if I were immersed in it.

Also, they are frequently auditory. It’s not unusual for me to experience a soundtrack, or what Hollywood calls occasional music. This often runs to jazz scores, or 1950s style studio orchestra melodies. This is odd, because in real life I am so unmusical I border on amusia, yet music can be prominent.

I do dream of taste sometimes, as my recent food dreams attest, but like erotic dreams, those seem to be in a special class by themselves, rather than an occasional property of my ordinary dreaming. I literally can’t recall ever dreaming of scents. The kinesthetic sense shows up mostly in the erotic dreams, thought that somatic/kinesthetic element also turns up in my infrequent classic anxiety dreams, for example, when I have the sensation of falling. Other senses such as temperature and pressure likewise rarely if ever express themselves in my dreams.

It’s all about the visual language. Which is very closely connected to how I mentally visualize and express story.

I’m surprised that the cancer experience hasn’t shifted me to a more somatic expression, either directly, ie, dreaming of pain, or indirectly, through dreaming of my body.

Is this the usual way of dreams? Are your dreams almost entirely visually-driven? Or do you dream somatically?

This is weird, fascinating stuff, and I think reflecting more deeply on it may illuminate my writing process.

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Post A Comment | 5 Comments | | Flag | Link

silvertwi: kaylee jaynestown
User: silvertwi
Date: 2011-10-13 13:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:kaylee jaynestown
My dreams, I think, tend to be visual and auditory. I've woken up more than once with a melody playing in my head, only to lose it when I'm fully awake. Voices, music, noises, I hear them all.

I don't think I tend to feel my body when I'm dreaming, although last night I dreamt of a car just barely hitting me*, and it was a little ouch, but not a big one like you would expect with that kind of incident.

I know I dream in color. I distinctly remember a yellow from a couple nights ago. I also tend to see words in the dreams, spelled out, even if there's also an auditory component. I really don't recall ever dreaming in scent, and rarely with taste.

I've also had a mix of first and third person dreams. I'm not sure which one is more common for me.

*As in, I was running across the street in the dark, the car for some reason didn't have headlights on but also apparently saw me, but moved all the way to the RIGHT instead of the left to go around me. I'm a little puzzled by that one.
Reply | Thread | Link

russ: ramayana
User: goulo
Date: 2011-10-14 09:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm sad that my dreams rather rarely have noticeable/interesting music.

Usually I seem a floating intangible point of view in my dreams, but fairly often I'm a person like other people in my dreams.

Fairly often I repeat the same sequence over and over in various variations, either because it was interesting/enjoyable, or because I failed to accomplish some goal (e.g. defeating a bad guy) and want to try again.


An amusing thing for me is that I dream ridiculously often of going to pee, often in various bizarrely detailed bathrooms which are somehow appropriate (either realistically or surreally) for the dream situation, e.g. a big modern shiny clean restroom if I'm dreaming about being at some big convention center, or a dusty decrepit restroom if I'm dreaming about exploring a haunted house, or a ramshackle wooden labyrinthine outhouse if I'm at some weird confusing event in a forest, etc.

And it's clearly because in real life I need to pee, so I wake up and go do it. Fortunately no beds are wettened during the dreaming of these peeing dreams. :)

Apparently dreaming about peeing is relatively common!
Reply | Thread | Link

User: serialbabbler
Date: 2011-10-14 14:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My dreams are primarily auditory and somatic. (Except that I can also feel my body lying down in bed. So, if I'm dreaming about running, for instance, I get dual information and feel like I'm running while also lying down. Sometimes the dual information will get scrambled together. I'll find myself combining "sleeping in a fetal position" with "walking" and the end result will feel like a crippled up "walking without being able to straighten out properly" or some such. That can be quite unpleasant.)

There tends to be a lot of talking in my dreams. Sometimes there's music. Sometimes there are random odd noises that have nothing to do with the "plot" of the dream.

I get very little visual information and what I do get is often so abstract that it's hard to consider it visual at all. (Sometimes I describe it as being like looking at a coding language rather than looking at the images on the computer screen. I know what images the "code" will produce, but I'm not actually seeing them.)

I don't think I've ever gotten taste or smell in my dreams.
Reply | Thread | Link

oaksylph: blue
User: oaksylph
Date: 2011-10-17 02:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hm. I have had dreams *about* the memory-triggering effect of olfaction, but I don't remember ever dreaming a smell, but I do remember waking up smelling something that was not present in the real world (e.g., bacon, lavender, curry powder, etc.), but that might have been the result of a kind of reverse olfactory triggering I sometimes experience. You ever get a feeling on your tongue that is like a tactile memory of the food someone is describing? I get that, except if someone is describing a situation that I anticipate will lead to burnt marshmallows, I smell them. Even when the only other smells in the room are old books and wooden pencils.

Most dreams - visual to the point of seeming post-Citizen Kane and Third Man but pre-Jurassic Park. Which means some are first-person in which I am viewing but invisible, some are third-person limited, some third omniscient, but only rarely first-person visible.

When I am visible, I'm frequently trying to hide the fact that I can fly by limiting my otherwise unnaturally long strides or by pretending to walk normally about two inches off the ground. Sometimes I can launch upward to escape or get a better view. Sometimes, as with other "can't move" type dreams, I can only get a few inches higher and then fall, sometimes into enemy clutches.

The only other variety of dream in which I am visible are the House Dreams. The House is moody and complex, sometimes appearing no larger or smaller than a two-story farmhouse from the outside, but seldom smaller or less mixed-use than Gormenghast inside. The house's internal arrangement and current denizens usually point to some problem or idea I need to consider on awakening. Example: if The Scientist (a recurring character based on a real person I used to know) doesn't want me to go from The Library to The Kitchen, which is overly full of people, and behaves as though I'm pregnant and he's the father, this means I need to take some time alone and write down the outline of the story I will have started to draft by the time I awaken, but that I will have to focus hard to find time to write while attending to business (minimum 54 hours with other people per week). ...I have that one a lot.

Anyway, back to your point. The fact that I dream cinematically - heavy emphasis on the visual content, its flow, changes of POV, etc. - correlates more or less precisely to the biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses of my fiction. I'm good at leading the reader from one place to another, but I don't focus the view of the POV enough or with enough artistic selection.

That I can fly like a Citizen Kane camera and sometimes use that ability to escape or get perspective would seem to indicate that I am the sort of person who thinks and plans one layer out from the noumenal. This is true, and it's another strength/weakness of my writing: the selective Critic fuses with the catches-everything Writer to form The Director, who doesn't have enough respect for either of his component halves.

The juxtapositional codes of The House and the people in it are basically a symbolic system that, I'm fairly sure, sneaks into every single piece of fiction I write, but because I'm so familiar with certain memes in the code, I also overthink the symbolism and symbolic relationships in a manner not unlike a person who develops paranoia because of a spooky tarot reading.

Example: the above post. :P
Reply | Thread | Link

User: eposia
Date: 2011-10-17 03:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The best way I've come up with so far to describe my dreams is kinesthetically/experientially. There's not much different sensation-wise from real-life except for some back part of my brain that's aware I'm dreaming. So I experience multiple sensations, dream in color, feel touch, hear things, etc. I usually don't remember my dreams upon awakening, but I can remember the sensation of whether or not I have dreamed.
Reply | Thread | Link

my journal
January 2014
2012 appearances