Dreams and Dreaming

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. Not night dreams, so much — I really don’t like dreaming except in the rare case of a dream that seems to mean something but doesn’t really, such as my white dream. But the other kind of dream — cherished aspirations, ambitions, or ideas — that’s what I’ve been thinking about too much lately.

I had a bit of an insight today, though considering my cold, it could be more of a fever dream than a true insight: I wondered if maybe it’s time for me to put away the dreams of the past, impossible or otherwise, and create a new dream, something I’ve never dreamt before. But that assumes a dream is important to have.

Do we need dreams? Dreams seem counter to a life in the now, a life that goes with the flow and accepts what comes.

But we are never just one thing or another. Well, you might be, but I’m not. I often seem to be straddling the line of two opposing ideals.

While the ideal me thinks it’s important to live in the now, just flowing as life unfolds, the pragmatic me thinks and plans.

While the ideal me loves the idea of striving toward an impossible dream, the practical me realizes that impossible means impossible, and there is no reason to waste energy reaching for an unreachable star.

While the ideal me loves the idea of living a completely disciplined life, always eating the right way, exercising and stretching and doing weights almost every day, writing every day, being always kind and thoughtful and caring, and oh, yes, making a living, the realistic me realizes that I can only push so much without getting sick. (That’s what happened this time — I was doing too much and in my weakened state, caught a cold.)

While the ideal me loves the idea of a wildly spontaneous life, whether living in place or setting out on a journey, trusting to the universe and fate that everything will work out, the fearful me thinks I would end up on the streets (and not in a good way). On the other hand, if I did the practical thing and settled down somewhere, the fearful me thinks I would stagnate.

What I end up doing, of course, is always struggling to find a balance, which goes against all my natures. (Not the balance part, that I believe in, but the struggling part.) And thinking too much. I always overthink everything, and blogging every day gives me an opportunity to voice those thoughts.

I still have the strange idea that if I don’t do something spectacular with my life, I will be wasting the freedom Jeff’s death has given me, though part of me realizes that life itself is spectacular. It’s just a matter of paying attention to the spectacle.

For that, do we need dreams? I don’t know. I just know I want . . . something.

Even while writing that last sentence, I find myself thinking, maybe even overthinking, wondering if the wanting is part of my grief cycle. If Jeff were here, would I still be wanting something — wanting to be something — that seems just out of sight? I don’t remember ever having dreams while we were together — apparently, just living our shared life was enough.

Maybe eventually just living, even stagnating, if it comes to that, will be enough, but for now, I still cling to the wondering. And the wandering.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

On Writing: Accomplish Your Scene Goal and Get Out

I’ve been on a hiatus from my apocalyptic novel, but now that I’m back, I have no more idea of how to write my current scene than I did a month ago when I abandoned Chip, my hero. After Chip hiked through his changed neighborhood, encountering one horror after another, he rescued a pit-bull from a raging river. He met the dog’s owner, talked to him for a few minutes. And that’s where I left him.

I’d been looking forward to that particular scene, thinking it would be easy to write because I would have two characters to work with. I worried about Chip spending too much time alone, but some of those solitary scenes turned out quite well. The changing environment, a defunct plumbing system, and a few of out-of-place and out-of-time creatures gave Chip plenty of conflict. Maybe too much conflict. By comparison, the scene with his mentor (the dog’s owner) is flat. It was supposed to be a high point, but it’s going nowhere.

In the mythic journey scenario, mentors help prepare the hero to face the unknown. They give the hero gifts, which the hero must earn. (Chip earned his gift by rescuing the mentor’s dog.) Mentors act as a conscience for the hero, though sometimes the hero rebels against the nagging conscience. Mentors motivate. And they plant information that will become important during the climactic moment. You’d think, with all that to work with, the scene would just burst out, fully formed. But it’s not happening, which is why I’m sitting here at the computer blogging instead of writing.

Maybe I need to think of something else to give the scene spice. Maybe Chip doesn’t like the mentor, or maybe he doesn’t like the advice the mentor gives him. And maybe I need to rethink the dialogue.

Despite all the writing books that say you need short bits of dialogue, if there’s nothing to be gained by all that back and forthing, it’s better to string one character’s dialogue into a longer speech rather than have the conversation come out sounding like an interview. And if there’s no way to make a scene more interesting, it should be cut to its essentials. Accomplish the scene goal, and get out. In this case, there’s no reason to prolong the meeting with the mentor since Chip will never see him again.

And maybe I should stop over thinking the scene and just write something, anything, to get me back in the habit of writing. If it doesn’t work, I can always fix it during the rewrite.