I rarely remember my dreams, except for those that instill some sort of terror in me. Those nightmares come in three flavors. In one I find myself in an elevator taking me to the highest floor of a building. When I step out, that level is only a floor with no walls and I find myself clinging to it to keep from getting swept off by the wind or standing and plummeting over the edge. In the second scenario familiar to a lot of people, I’m in school, searching for the class I forgot to go to for the entire semester so I can take a final on the subject I probably know nothing about. And I’m not wearing pants.
The first in which I never think of getting back on the elevator, or maybe the elevator disappears, probably reflects my fear of heights or some subconscious insecurity. The second is that fear of something neglected or some subconscious insecurity, and the fact that I’m always questioning my clothing choices.
Earlier this year, I had that third type of dream, one I don’t have often. I was being chased by some seriously deranged killer wielding a knife while I hid in some unfamiliar house hoping to get away from him. That night, I took refuge in a closet while knife-man was skulking downstairs. As he got closer I started forcing myself to wake up, like swimming through thick syrup to bring myself to waking consciousness again. When I have those dreams, I often wake up feeling frightened and disoriented. That night was no different, but instead of dwelling on the dream and eventually slipping back into sleep, I started concocting a story.
What if the person hiding in the closet is listening to the murder of her philandering ex-boyfriend? What if the philandering ex-boyfriend cheated on her with her sister, and that same sister is doing him in for not being faithful to her? And what if somehow their mother is involved, the same mother who told the woman in the closet that she’d been responsible for taking out their philandering father by monkeying with his medications?
By the time I got back to sleep again about an hour later I had constructed the basics for the novel I finished this summer, a murder mystery propelled in many ways by the myriad social media outlets–#BadSister. The #BadSister hashtag has many connotations, and not what you might assume.
While I’m currently revising for future publication, I look at nightmares very differently. I can feel more comfortable now as I fall asleep at night. As much as I hope I don’t have a bad dream, I’ll never know what good might come out of the next one.
Have you ever had a creative project fueled by a nightmare?