When I sometimes threaten to write my own book about dreams, it’s only because during my life I’ve had dreams that I’ve never seen described in any book.
Prominent among these are what I call my ‘novel’ dreams. These are dreams in which a story continues all night long, despite routinely waking 3-4 times during the night, my normal way of sleeping.
I’ve never read a description of this kind of dream in any book, nor has anyone I know ever reported one to me.
The dreams continue as soon as I go back to sleep. Assuming that I operate in the same 45 minute sleep cycle as other people, this means that, besides the waking interruptions, the dream should also be broken by deep dreamless sleep at least once an hour. Yet they continue.
They aren’t necessarily complicated. In the second edition of The Shyness Guide I described the dream I once had where I met a woman I knew and we made love all night long. It was vivid and strong, but there was no plot.
What I’m talking about here though is sometimes a dream where there is a complex, often artfully constructed plot. For example, here’s one I had this week.
I was working as a low-level agent in a world-wide spy-network, often acting as a double-agent, though I was never in doubt which side I was on. The dream lasted from about 2am to 7am, and included scenes like this:
I was waiting in a house at night for a white car belonging to people on my side. My phone rang and when I answered, a voice said they were outside. I looked out and saw a white car that appeared to match the one I was expecting, but something about it bothered me. Through falling snow, I examined it carefully – grill, logo, windshield, tires, etc, trying to find what was bothering me. Then I heard the back door of the house being smashed in. The front door was then pulled open in front of me and a tall man in dark clothes and a sinister smile said, “Get ready to hurt.”
Contemplating interrogation under torture, I rescued myself by waking up.
When I returned to sleep I had escaped, but now I was on the run in night streets (as if the dream had been progressing without ‘me’ during my waking period, something that is common with these dreams). I walked along, stopping to look in store windows so I could check for people or cars following me, then I entered a store to buy a new set of clothes and change into them.
Throughout the dream, the detail was abundant and vivid. Contrary to how it might sound, it was not a nightmare. It was what I call a ‘problem solving’ dream, a kind I enjoy (maybe I should mention that I’m a fan of spy novels, as well as the history of espionage).
Just when I began to have this type of dream I’m not sure. When I was young, I didn’t know they were possible but they’ve been with me now for at least 30 years. At first they were rare, but now I have at least one a week.
Some are more like 3-4 hours, and some are too loose to be called novels, but they are still connected and interesting.
Who is writing these dreams? The above dream was so well-written that if I had a recording of it, I would have a first draft for a novel. While I do write novels myself, a first draft of a novel takes me about two years to complete.
I have no sense that it was ‘me’ who wrote that story. But most people sense that they are not the creator of their dreams. Who or what the creator is has been one of the crucial subjects of debate in dream psychology for a long time.
Anyway, as I’ve said before, the more attention you pay to your dreams, the more they will reward you. I can’t tell you how to dream a novel, but pay enough attention to your dreams and you might get one.