Tag: my other life

Using My “Other Life” for Fictional Inspiration

dried carrots

This week in my other life:

Blimps racing decrepit planes to get to a family compound in Louisiana full of surly “relatives” of Philip’s.  Black cats everywhere and also Penny.  One especially angry “relative” continually questioning me about everything, completely hostile.  Nothing has changed for 5o years.  Hard to believe there’s good corn out there in the fields.

An apartment building stacked impossibly high with stairs leading right up into each other at moments.  Opened door to Max’s room only to find two young boys making out in their underwear, neither of whom were Max.  Was doing something on the tiny deck lying down, trying to grab something or fix something, just as I roll and scootch my way back inside the door comes apart and I realize it’s because the deck is now disconnected by about a foot from the building.  Not sure what’s holding it up.  I go to report this.  I end up on the street with Philip who is introducing me to his fundamentalist Christian bosses who also live in the building and he’s indicating to me that I should imply we’re also conservative and I realize that not a piece of my skin is showing aside from my face.  I realize that our building is full of different flavors of fundamentalists and don’t know how I didn’t notice before.  I continue the charade wondering just how long I can keep it up, being ME.  We enter a gym-like room at the base of the apartment building.

There’s something that happened before that is now connecting up.  There was work at the base of the building.  My scooter – an expert said it needed work and took it apart and I couldn’t leave.  Someone in the vast downstairs complex was flirting dreadfully with scooter fixing man.  So back to the gym – I was taking notes and maybe even gambling.  As I exited the gym to head back home (which I never did) I peeked into the apartment of the fundamentalist bosses and the woman has taken off her  habit-like head-gear and underneath her whole head is bandaged up like her head will fall apart if she doesn’t tape a bunch of padded  bandage around it.

There’s some other business I’m supposed to be dealing with from earlier in my dream.  Only now I’m not married and have no child.  I’m in my early twenties.  I have to go find someone and so I’m riding my bicycle and other cyclists whizz by me and finally I get to a big brick building and start climbing some stairs.  I’m all dressed up in heels and know that they (whoever they are) is not expecting me – and doesn’t know I don’t always looked scraggly.  A guy comes out the door at the top of the stairs and I start saying that I know they probably won’t use the stuff I dropped off and I’m here to pick it up and I’m apologizing but he cuts across it to tell me SHE has used my seeds and plants and I can check on them.  I know he’s looking at my shoes and suddenly I feel self conscious.

I don’t know the rest.  It all evaporated too quickly.

I want to start writing the details of my dreams down the minute I wake up.  If nothing else I feel the seeds of fiction in them.  What is terror or strange and memorable in them would make for good stories.  Never in entirety since dreams don’t work that way.  But I do often feel I’ve just lived a whole wild narration in my sleep.  I enjoy trying to get some of it down because sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s creepy but it’s nearly always something for me to chew on.  Images that are sharp and if I can get them in writing they don’t fade away – I don’t have to lose them.

I think that strange primordial soup that dreams are is where poetry comes from.  I want more of that in my fictional work.

I would like to write some fiction today.  I have had so little time and so little brain space for it as I’ve been struggling with many other things that need dealing with.  Today I don’t have much paid work to do as I opted to work a long day yesterday.  Chapter one of the second book of Cricket and Grey awaits.

One other fiction related thought I’ve had in my head that I’d love to hear other writers weigh in on: do you write organically, just seeing where the story takes you?  Or do you work with an outline and know exactly where the story is going and what each chapter is going to contain?  Or are you somewhere in between?  I want to know how others do it.

I’ve done it both ways.  I wrote Jane Doe organically and let it take me where it wanted to go which was into a ditch of impossibility and also, sadly, stupidity.  No, that’s being too harsh.  It tried to be two things that don’t mix.  Three or four years later and the core story still haunts me but I can’t figure out how to make it work.  Then I wrote Cricket and Grey using an outline and doing a character analysis for each character and wrote it from beginning to end with 4 major rewrites in two years.  Completed book.  So it seems that outlines and planning work best for me but I’m attracted to writing organically again.

If you have thoughts on this, please share!

My Other Life Keeps Calling

 grainy antique calling device

I have thought of writing a book based on my nightmares called The Nightmare Club.  Either that or I could take each nightmare individually and spin them into separate novels.  I call my dreams my other life because they are so unrestful and draining that often I wake up more tired than I went to bed.  And then I am haunted by them all day long.

Here’s a tidbit from last night that I shared on facebook:

Dreams featuring old boyfriends are unsettling. Nightmares in which I have to cut kittens’ ears off are horrible and also unsettling. Dreams in which old boyfriends talk about previous dreams in which they were featured is even more unsettling. I did not sleep well. My brain feels more asleep now that I’m awake than it did all night.

When I cut the ears of the kittens off I didn’t cut enough off but it was so dreadful to have hurt them at all and I knew it was something I had to do but I felt worse because I couldn’t remember why and it was pointed out to me that I hadn’t cut enough off but I couldn’t bring myself to hurt them further.

I may have mentioned the really bizarre dream within and dream within a dream I had a couple weeks ago but just for fun I’m going to recount a little bit of it again:

In my dream I was  sleeping and dreaming that I was sleeping and that dream of my sleeping self was also dreaming and she had a dream in which she had to go to the bathroom and she worried that if she dreamed she had to go to the bathroom she might actually have to go and if she didn’t wake up soon enough she might go in her bed.  The dream self of my dream self’s dream self did, in fact, poop in her pyjamas and so my dream self’s dream self woke up out of the embarrassing nightmare hoping to find she hadn’t also pooped in bed but she had, in fact, done the same so my dream self woke up terrified to discover she had too and, as you can guess, she did wake up filthy in her bed. 

I, the only dreamer left unaccounted for, woke up out of my dream and happily found that I hadn’t pooped in my bed nor did my body need to relieve itself in any way.  My heart was pounding but I fell immediately back to sleep to find my dream self seeking out a shower to clean up in and had the chance to discover that I (she, whatever) was living in a trailer on a little rectangular piece of land and I started mentally planning out a raised bed garden to grow food in because I didn’t have a lot but I wondered what I could grow in such a shady space and just as I was figuring this out I was in danger and I don’t remember more than tiny snippets of the rest of my dream that night.

My dreams are so powerfully connected to my waking self that it always feels as though I’m living two lives.  Nights with no remembered dreams are bliss.  Not all of my dreams are nightmares, strictly speaking, but nearly all of my dreams are disturbing to me.  I rarely have what I would classify as a “good” dream and often these are ones in which I feel completely safe, usually because someone is protecting me from something, so the dream might have been a nightmare if I hadn’t felt protected.  Truly good dreams are even more rare.  Happy dreams.  I have two main happy dreams (that aren’t marred by violence or anxiety or anything creepy) where I find antique stores that have not been picked over yet and I find lots of treasures or dreams in which I find amazing hats and clothes that obviously fit me.  The other mostly happy dream is when I return to 361 Scenic Drive in Ashland Oregon, my childhood home, and find 25 years of mail collected in the mailbox.  However, this dream is often shadowed in other parts, but the mailbox full of mail always makes me so happy and I wake having enjoyed my dream even if other darker things happened in it.

I have the nightmares regardless of what’s going on in my life and I have been having them steadily and frequently at least since I was 10 years old.  One thing I DO know is that they do become worse and more frequent the more I am exposed to the news of the world.  I believe that I have had much too much exposure to news through friends on facebook than is good for me.  I have stopped reading news links that friends share unless I think they will be uplifting in some way.  This is something I must work harder on.  But there are many things posted that you don’t have to click on to see that are dreadful.  One that is haunting me now is a picture of two teen boys holding up a dead puppy they had obviously strangled.  This kind of shit is candy for an already unquiet mind.

I don’t want to give up face book because I have so many happy connections there with friends I can’t see in my everyday life.  I love the casual chatter of face book.  But I may need to limit the time I spend there a little more than I do now.  I feel I must do this to protect myself from too much incoming stimuli of a negative nature.  I already hear all the voices in the world as a low buzz in my head that I can’t shut out but facebook lets a lot of extra noise in that is not healthy for me.

While I would like my dreams to take a happier turn – I must confess that if I didn’t dream as often and as vividly as I do I would feel that part of me had died.  I have become so accustomed to having bad dreams that I’m scared to wish them away – it’s like when you get used to abuse to the point where you can’t imagine a life without it and wonder who you would be.

It worries me that I think not having so many nightmares would make me feel abandoned and emptier inside.

My second life keeps calling me and I keep picking up the phone.

One good thing about all my dreams is that I am never fat in them.  Never.

It occurs to me that my dreams are the only place I can completely be myself – I don’t have to pretend to be other than I am or protect anyone from my own thoughts and fears.  Everything has full expression in my dreams and I am always my core self in them.  In my dreams the bad shit I fear is real and so I’m never crazy for fearing them and everyone else is experiencing the same world with me.

Perhaps the best thing about them is that no matter what happens in them I wake up and find I haven’t killed myself or been dismembered by a serial killer or been raped or cheated on my husband or lost my child or cut the ears off kittens.  There is nothing quite like living through a tsunami to wake up and discover that your house is dry and too far inland to be wrecked by one.

You might even say that my bad dreams are my real world and my waking life is just a good dream I’m happy to experience again and rest in after all the horrors of my sleep.

You might say that, if you thought I was really crazy.