3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Dreams & other things

A friend on Facebook brought up the topic of weird anxiety dreams a while back. It made me think about how much I enjoy the heck out of my dreams even when they’re full of awful occurrences. Here’s the most recent memorable addition to the collection.

This ramble through the wilds of my subconscious took me to one of my regular locations: a HUGE university campus that grows and changes depending on how recently I’ve visited my alma mater and other factors in my life I haven’t pinned down yet. I’m always new on campus, I’m always clueless about where anything is, and I never know anyone. Signs and maps are ubiquitous though, and I do a lot of research.

In this dream I’m supposed to assist with a medical procedure in one building, but I get trapped by a doctor who doesn’t like me in a classroom building on the other side. So I come up with a clever escape plan involving a cat and a clock (details were vague, but I am *sure* it would work and it does.)

Then I have to thread my way through all the back paths on the campus I don’t know yet to get back to my new dorm to change clothes so I can properly help with the Important procedure (the nature of the medical issue was never made clear/important to me, nor did I ever grasp the specific need for new clothes. I just know I need them. )

And of course I keep getting lost in weird places like a grotto with pine trees and glowing mushrooms. And I steal a bicycle at some point, one with multi-colored glittery streamers on the handlebars. (Important detail)  Also, there was rain, but not on me. All this made perfect sense.

On the advice of the mushrooms I find my way nearly back, but I have to dodge through a food fight in the dining hall to get to the right quad. I get out the door to find that the whole place is unrecognizable because some frat boys have covered all the buildings in big colorful building wraps like bouncy houses designed to look like psychedelic replicas of Roman landmarks.  ( my dream university does not have fraternities or sororities, by the way. Yet there are frat boys.)

And they’re doing it all  for some big unnamed festival so everyone on campus is out and about celebrating and getting in my way.  Given I don’t even know the names of all the buildings or the normal layout, I have no chance of ever finding my dorm in that mess.

Even in my dream I was thinking, “okay, but this is beyond absurd,” and I was persuading one of the frat boys to reveal which building was mine when I woke up.

Objectively I would expect that dream to be jam-packed with dread and worry, but it wasn’t. It was honestly a good bit of fun.

That’s all for now.

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Sleepy Thoughts, with Dragons.

This post was going to be about something else. I’m quite certain that it would’ve been clever, even erudite, and full of multi-syllabic dazzle and pontification–you know, all the usual crap.

Then I stayed up all night forcing Word to play nice with Createspace. Now my brain is a drippy mass of sleep-deprived mush. Mush is seldom brilliant. If ever you spot mush that is brilliant, start worrying about radiation or alien invasions. Or dragons. Dragons are always leaving shiny things lying around.  They also flash-fry their food with their breath.
I’ve told stories in my sleep, so I should be able to accomplish blog while sleepy. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about storytelling and language and cultural awareness lately, and it’s time to lay some of those thinks down in print. No worries, I promise to spread it out over more than one post. Today, it’s all about stories.
A story is a thing.  That was a gobsmacker of a realization for me.  Think about cave paintings. Our ancestors left behind leather clothes, flint arrowheads, clay pots…and stories on the walls. Even now, thousands of years later, you can look from image to image and see  the stories that were shared.
That result is as real as any physical object. The medium may shape the message, the message may lose meaning over time the way leather rots and pots crumble, but that doesn’t change its essential nature. A story is a thing that humans make.
Writing is not a thing. It’s an action verb. I write, you write, they write. Like most activities, mastery requires practice and evaluation, failure, repetition and adaptation. It is a complex action, but at heart it is no more than a specific form of the verb communicate..  It’s one of the most modern forms, too. When people talk about writing as a noun, they’re really talking about the story, or the facts listed, or the information imparted. not the act. This is an important distinction.
Storytelling isn’t a singular action verb. It’s a big box of presentation tools and narrative vocabulary festooned with personal baggage and wrapped in cultural filters.  It is a creation element. Whether you speak, sing, play or dance a story, you’re telling it. Each art form has its own traditions, tools and phrases, but they all share one trait: sharing. Storytelling is the whole series of actions that result in building a narrative from nothing and then making it real for another human being.
It’s magic. It’s a superpower.

You can be a genius storyteller and a lousy writer. You can be a lousy storyteller and a skilled writer. No other form of storytelling is as hypocritical, rigid, and contradictory as writing
Imagine a choreographer refusing to use a pas de quatre in a new ballet piece because it’s in Swan Lake and gets “overused.” Imagine a blues guitarist shunning a riff because it’s “cliched.” Nope.

Dance has a vocabulary and a set of accepted forms and traditions. So does every musical style. (No, I am not saying that all dances, songs, symphonies or paintings are telling stories. Work with me. It’s an analogy.) When there are disagreements between tradition and innovation, a new style gains acceptance or fades away on its own merits. (Disco, I’m looking at you.)

Why doesn’t this happen in the literary world? is a treasure trove of information on storytelling themes, plots, characters, and yes, tropes. It’s an incredible writing resource, an easy place to lose hours in “research,” but most importantly, it does not mock its  own content. It presents material with an eager enthusiasm for story.

Creation builds on the rotting bones and rich compost of past creations. Break a rule here, play with a trite phrase there, and rip off the ideas that tickle your fancy.  This is how new happens, This is how great stories are born.  The literature community has a bad habit of eating its young.

 Writing is relatively new to the arena of storytelling. The printing press has only been around 600 years more or less. The word processor, which gives people who don’t think sequentially the priceless tool of cut & paste, has been readily available for less than 30. The internet, with its capacity to connect writer and reader, is still practically in its infancy.

Poor novels. I think of them as the stodgy oldest son of the modern storytelling family. No sooner had written narrative begun to gel into stage and page, poem and prose, then the cute baby siblings of film-making and graphic narrative came along. Now everyone coos and fusses over them. Books are dying, the pundits say. People don’t have the time or the attention spans to handle extended reading.

Bah. The youngsters are blowing away long-form literature in popularity because they’re nimble and stylish and inclusive, not because they’re “visual” or because people stopped being smart, or even because internet.

TV and comics are cliched. Stereotyped. Hackneyed. Fun. The newest generation of adults grew up reading. They’re starved for serious writing, but most of them have no interest in picking up a traditional novel. They were taught that reading novels meant that they had to think hard and study hard. 

We need to let reading be fun for people. That’s all I’m saying.