Years ago, when I was in college, a fellow biology student told me it was impossible to read in a dream. This student was emphatic that reading is a conscious activity, and cannot take place in the unconscious mind. As soon as I heard this, I said, “I read in my dreams all the time.” My classmate became super belligerent, and said something like, “Then you’re not really dreaming. It’s impossible.” And I immediately thought, “Okay, I’m not going to argue.” And changed the subject.
We know so little about what takes place in the human mind (or any mind) while we dream, that people who make these kinds of blanket statements astound me. I have so many wild, vivid dreams that involve reading — and writing — that no one could ever convince me that this is impossible. Reading in your dreams is entirely possible, and I speak from a wealth of experience.
In fact, last night I dreamed I wrote a really amazing blog post, and it was so awe-inspiring that *five people* left comments on the post, and I kept reading their comments like, “Wow!!! This is AMAZING!!!” My blog page was very different from my current blog, and had a beautiful gold and brown background, and a completely different font, and this dream-post I wrote was a work of art.
It was a totally excellent dream. If you can imagine having a dream where you win the lottery and suddenly have piles of money everywhere, and start jumping around being super-happy, exclaiming about all the wonderful things you can now do with this money, that was the feeling in my dream last night. It was pure ecstasy, and it involved typing a blog post, reading and editing the post, and then reading the five reader comments on the post over and over.
I think my brain fixates on reading while sleeping because the shape of letters and words is so deeply lovely to me. In dreams, I can be writing and reading on paper, on stone, on a computer, or any other surface where text can exist.
Sometimes I leave my dreams with turns of phrase that go into a manuscript.
For example, as I was falling asleep last night, just before going under completely, my brain gave me these lines, which went into my manuscript today:
“Naveen was much more subtle than Xander, but just as frightening in his own way as the Senate Leader had been. Like the dark color of his eyes and the deep shade of his skin, he emanated deception and risk. Naveen smelled like the night air and shadow, like cold steel in the snow, and the thrill of being close to him was far more compelling than all of the danger she felt.”
That’s currently page 808 in my Microsoft Word doc. I don’t know if I’ll keep those lines, or if I’ll edit them or delete them, but they are the product of a half-dreaming state, in those flashes of nodding off before I was totally gone. I tend to remember those more than the words and ideas in deep sleep.
I’ve never had a dream that involved reading and writing that wasn’t incredibly joyful. I’ve dreamed of answering exam questions in college blue books that earned A++ scores, dreamed of writing beautiful love letters to people I’ve been in love with, dreamed of carving prayers in wooden temples built for a goddess.
I certainly have scary dreams, too. And sad dreams. Dreams where I feel guilty, ashamed, or unworthy. Dreams full of pain and longing for loved ones who’ve died. If I believe anything about dreams, it is that they are a sorting-place of emotion, where the mind is exposed and open to what is outside of us as well as within.
But you won’t ever catch me telling someone that reading in a dream is impossible. I can’t imagine ever saying anything limiting about what happens in dreams. Our minds can do anything there, whether we remember or not. Discovery, creativity, and emotion are all powerful components of dreams, and I could never take anyone seriously who spoke in a derogatory way about the abilities of the dreaming mind. Yes, dreams can be crazy, painful, and strange. They can also be wondrous and breathtaking. There is a limitless potential inside of our dreams, vast as the universe, and as full of life as the tiniest seed.
I’ve been reading and writing in dreams long before I ever called myself a writer. But then again, I do a lot of other things in dreams, too. Some inspire stories. I once dreamed I had beautiful crimson dragon wings — huge and dangerous — covered in scales and studded with jewels, and I was flying over rooftops, saving small children from burning homes. That dream was the beginning of Mark of the Pterren. Most of my dreams aren’t so noteworthy. Some leave me weeping. Some make me jump out of bed in horror. I’m glad I don’t remember them all. I’m also glad I have them, even the bad ones. My brain needs those dreams. We all do.