A Writer's Dreams

May 8, 2017

Tags: interpretation of dreams, Dada, Freud, Stettheimer, Jewish Museum, MOMA

I dreamt I was walking up a long stone staircase behind my mother and her small dog. She was wearing a taupe silk suit that matched her permed gray hair and the dog’s fur. Someone said, “She likes dogs.” I knew that was correct, but it wasn’t me that said it. I remained silent.

Slowly, I followed my mother up the stairs. She did not know I was there because I had not as yet been born.

I awoke with a sentence in my head: “We walk behind our mothers.” That sentence became the first sentence in an email letter I wrote to a friend about being both a daughter and a mother. And now it is here, in this blog post.

Why do I record my dreams? The unconscious mind surfaces in dream stories, a great gift to artists and writers if we can interpret and use the emotional information, sensation and epiphanies gleaned from them.

It was a therapist who first suggested I record my dreams. I would bring my journal to our sessions and read my dream stories aloud. The therapist would comment and I would reflect on her comments orally and then, later, in my journal. After a while, recording and interpreting my dreams became a habit and a writer’s ritual, one I look forward to every morning as I open my journal. If I can’t remember a dream, I often feel uneasy. Then, as I start to work, the dreams often come back to me.

Over the years, I’ve written fiction, nonfiction, poems and screen treatments out of my dreams. I get ideas as I am sleeping, in fact, and resolve knots in my life and my work. After a visit to MOMA to see “Women and Abstraction,” I couldn’t figure out why the exhibition felt so strange to me. I had a dream about it that night and there it was: these women painters had been appendages of men until just recently, their work hadn’t been taken seriously, it had been stored in the archives of the museum until just now rather than integrated into the “abstraction” galleries, and it was now “segregated” in a special exhibition. I woke up with all these thoughts in my head, closer to an essay than a dream, and I was fuming. Will I write a longer, more considered article on the subject? Possibly.


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