Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How Recording My Dreams Helped Make Me A Writer

We're never too old for new insights. Last night was my first book signing for Unremembered Histories, my first volume of short stories to go to print. The original agenda for the event went like this:

1. From In Our Time to Unremembered Histories --Ed
2. Lessons we’ve learned from our experiences in Publishing --TJ
3. About the Stories (with a reading from Duel of the Poets) --Ed
4. Ed donates books to Superior Public Library… with a Surprise

Something happened, however, to change this. Over the years I had repeated seemingly countless times the powerful influence Hemingway's first book of stories had on me when I read them and how In Our Time inspired me. I shared how when I read "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" I said to myself, "How did he do that? I want to write like that."

I'd told this story so many times I'd stopped exploring the real roots of my literary interest. In prepping my writer talk it dawned on me that the real roots that set me on the path of becoming a writer had nothing to do with the events of my adulthood. It had everything to do with the habit of writing daily, which started when I was in seventh grade.

I still remember the very first dream I recorded. It had something to do with a PT boat and comedian Tim Conway, who played Ensign Parker in the television show McHale's Navy, was in it.

The first couple weeks I recorded two or three dreams total. Capturing dreams is like butterflies. It takes patience. But one can learn the skill. I used to say that my basic motivation for developing this skill was that my dreams were more interesting than my life, which may or may not have been half true. Over time, I learned how to find the connective tissue that goes deeper into the subconscious so that I could remember one, two and three dreams upon waking. By the end of high school I could sometimes write as many as five dream stories pulled from that foggy realm that separates waking and sleeping.

This ability to recall dreams remained with me as I grew but the importance of recording them faded. Occasionally there were dreams that seemed pregnant with importance and I would record these in my journals for the habit of keeping dream diaries eventually evolved to a daily practice of journal writing. Thirty years of journal writing evolved once more with the advent of blogging, which commenced 2651 blog entries ago in 2007.

In other words, I have been writing almost daily for nearly fifty years. Thus, in my opening remarks I shared how this fascination with dreams and dreaming proved to be the real origin of my becoming a short story writer, though if I dig deeper I am sure that there's more to uncover from further back in my development. From my earliest days I have always loved libraries... and a good story.

The "Surprise" at the end of last night's talk is that I did not give a copy of my book to the library. The reason? It was pointed out to me a couple weeks ago that the table of contents page did not match the actual contents of the book. One of the stories, Lu Lee & the Magic Cat (a story whose origins began as a scene from a dream), was not even mentioned on the contents page. Once this has been corrected, we will proceed to give copies to the library.

Thank you to all who were able to attend. Remember your dreams.


Unremembered Histories is currently available locally at Goin' Postal in Superior, or online at Amazon.com.

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