Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Power of Dreams

Had a writer's dream last night. For some reason, I was attending a student theatre production - which had a lot of guys in it far too old to be students - when Janet Street-Porter (yes, I know) presented me with an annotated copy of the first grown-up thing I ever wrote - a play about King Arthur I composed in my early twenties. It turns out the production I was watching was Janet's version of my play.

I was stunned to be presented with something I'd written from my past, and was moved to tears by a new musical scene she'd added - a requiem - interesting to note, it wasn't one of my scenes!

But I discussed it with Janet, and remarked how I was much wiser now about writing, and that my play was written straight from the heart, without the designing, contriving, rewriting and reworking I indulge in now.

And I woke with a fear that perhaps I'd lost my true voice over the years - I rushed to my computer, and re-read some of my most recent work, and was somewhat reassured to find it wasn't all appalling - but still, a doubt remains.

My current opus started with one of the most vivid dreams of my life. I rarely write my dreams down - I know a lot of writers keep a dream diary, and perhaps I should start - but I wrote this one down - I think you'll understand why when you read it.

I haven't edited it, (other than removing a sex scene for decorum's sake), so you'll have to forgive me for that, but I think the rawness compensates -

"Having a sense of having given up work and everything - still possess a few trappings of the ratrace - clean shirts etc - setting up home without shelter on a boat near some water - more like a barge - under a bridge near the house of commons. (sex-scene deleted) Slight feelings of guilt but more awareness of dangers of unprotected sex. This new carefree life seems great - except it quickly palls.

I immediately notice that the trappings I brought with me from my former life start to go missing, and I am increasingly aware of the hopelessness of trying to hold onto anything of any value - my new underclass associates have no respect for the notion of possessions - but not quite in Rousseau's noble savage sense. Eventually a gang of heavy's come over to my new home (the barge - curious how the stepping onto this floating platform signified the start of a new life) they take one of my new companions and start to savagely beat him 'off camera' - I know there intentions are to steal what they can so I pretty much show them where my nice clothes are so they can take them, and narrowly avoid a beating.

Next scene is on a sloping grassland - I'm surrounded by (a large group) my underclass associates and now have lost all my ratrace trappings. Everyone is sitting around and there's a palpable air of disatisfaction and impending violence - I start to walk to lessen the chance of violence occuring.

Eventually I walk away from this group with a female companion, who is caring, intelligent and comforting. We approach the Houses of Parliament, we are in a fenced off cultivated garden, beyond the fence are the Houses, and beyond that a seething mass of Londoner's going about there business (again the distinction between me and the ratrace workers). We discuss the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, as represented by the actuality of the scene I've just described.

Next scene is back at the barge, which now seems to have some walls and a roof and is more like a house. I am better dressed and now have another male companion along with my female friend. We have assumed some semblance of our former selves (perhaps we have our jobs back?) having realised the underclass lifestyle was not for us. Our old friends want a piece of the action - once again having no respect for what we have earned, it's simply that we have and we should give to them, which they state as such with a heavy undercurrent of threatened violence, although this is never explicit. The threat combined with a sense of realisation that we don't need most of the money we earn we agree to give it to them - in fact we end up giving them nearly all of everything we earn.

So I find myself trying to bridge the gap between the two way's of life - but the moral of the story seems to be that this cannot be achieved. Eventually the whole environment becomes grey and derelict, people are dead and those still alive are running around on killing sprees. I try to survive, but my female companion tells me not to be afraid, and that death will bring relief from the hardships this life-cycle. I, and my female companion, are killed by a running man with an axe. There is no pain, I fall to the ground dead but I am still aware, but without the fear of violence that I have had for most of the dream because I am already dead. Eventually I can get up, my companion and I are in a kind of yard, with a wall in front of us (all concrete grey) with a rectangular doorway through which my attacker had come before moving off to the right after killing me. We walk through this doorway and the world (which is now a world of undecorated porticos and austere Romanesque courtyards) and everything has regressed to a state of pre-Roman enlightenment. One man with dark, curly hair is suggesting we use the particular courtyard we are in for gladitorial-like games. The promise of the new world is tainted as the cycle of violence is about to commence again..."

Yep, pretty intense stuff, but as worthy a genesis of a novel as anything, I'm sure - sex, violence, fear, desire, character arc, story, and portentous ending. Maybe I should stop using it as a starting point, and fictionalise the dream itself.

How significant do you think dreams are as material for a writer? Do you believe they give us insights unavailable to the conscious mind? Do you believe in Jung's idea that they contain ancestral memories?

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