My Nightmares

I am in a house and someone is trying to get into the house. I am in a house and someone is also in the house and I must sneak out of the house. I am in a house and someone is outside so I need to hide under window frames.

What is with this house business? My dream dictionary, which I opened, says that the house is me. New nightmares:

I am in me and someone is trying to get into me too. I am in me and someone is also in me and I must sneak out of me. I am in me and someone is outside of me and I need to hide under window frames?

I don’t know. The other day someone gave me an apple in a dream and I just thought: That is a thing. Dreams are a thing and I can’t wait to go to sleep at night because I love their entertainment value. But sometimes I wonder about their intentions.


(photo…does not appear in my dreams because I am always inside my house)

Are dreams meant to get me thinking about unresolved issues? Or (as I would like to think) are they maybe meant to resolve them? Because I’m spending lots of my own time in my own consciously-controlled life thinking through issues, so I’d like a little chance to rest every once in a while, and sleep used to be the way I did that. Now I do nightmares. What is their purpose? Why are they happening now?

Yes, it’s quieter here than where I used to be. Yes, my cat is getting older and meowing for no reason in the middle of the night. Yes, so many things are new and scary but I’m not scared of them, I’m not scared of people getting into my house! So I’m thinking, what if instead, my dreams are inventing? What if my dreams are me playing? And what if I can play back?

I once woke up from a vivid, well-crafted, epic dream and decided to write it down. People said you couldn’t do this. I know you cannot do this. I know that the most unsatisfying ending of a story is “It was all a dream”. But why? What makes that so insanely annoying? What is it about dreams, though, that aren’t? They are completely nonsensical, peopled with metamorphosing hybrid characters, places you’ve never seen and situations that make absolutely no sense, but when you’re in them, you’re sold. Like any good story, dreams suspend disbelief. But when you wake from one, why does that semblance of reality stay? Why do we all think we need to tell our dreams to others, as though they will be impressed? They are never! The dreams are bad! Why don’t we see that?

I don’t have an answer, because dreams fascinate me and I can’t stop thinking about them but I also can’t figure them out. What I know is I am night-maring often and this has definitely caught my attention and whether I’m going to Freud it up or not, I need to deal with this people in my house business.

Next time I’m in my house dream, I vow to confront the demons. Maybe I will set fire to the house. Maybe I will break the windows. Maybe I will open the door to the wind.

My Nose is Growing

Some people plant gardens and watch them grow. I need only look at my face. My nose is growing!


(photo from

It’s a known thing that the parts of you that keep growing after sadly your breasts have stopped are your ears and your nose. I just didn’t think it was a thing that happened overnight (like DJ’s friend in Full House). But I swear over the past two days my nose has looked wider in the mirror. I attribute it to a few factors.

– Summer is approaching and I have perhaps drank more beer as of late. I am developing that bulbous nose that Santa Clause and other drunks are known for.

– I have springtime allergies. But these last all year long, and include dust from poorly vacuumed floors and cats, who I surround myself with.

– My lies have been catching up with me. Someone (Geppetto) noticed that I have been claiming to be a writer but haven’t touched my novel in a week and the last post on this blog is from March.

– Like the grey in my hair, this year has aged me. I have been so busy learning to teach that I didn’t notice time, and suddenly a sullen, nose-filled face looked back at me in the place of my reflection.

Or maybe I am wiser. Maybe my body is telling me I need to give precedent to my senses. Maybe my body is literally saying: “Wake up and smell the flowers!” and is giving me more ability to do so. What next, my mouth? No, this one will probably get smaller.

As summer arrives, so do so many changes in my life. I have to pay my car insurance because this time two years ago I decided to buy a car. I am moving because this time last year I also moved. I am finishing the school year (not only because of the teacher job action but because this is when school actually finishes) and I am embarking on two months of WRITING. Writing with all capital letters!

My dreams are preparing me too: last night I dreamt up a dream schedule. I will wake at 8:00, my dream told me. I will read and drink coffee till 9:00. Then I will write! I will leave the house to take a walk or a bike ride. And then I will write!

My dreams are scheduling for me, and my body is equipping me with the nose I need to smell the world and write about it. All I need now are bigger ears and more sensitive fingers, then I’ll be ready to go.

Straight Through

I’m going to aim through the novel, not at it, to a future place where I want it to land. It’s easy to get stuck in the notion that my novel has no real audience, no real deadline. It’s easy to sit in it, to imagine it exists when really, does it? If you put a gun to my head right now and asked to read it, I’d be flattered, but it would be in pieces.

Struggling through a novel is the narrative most accepted in literary circles. I’m working at this. I’m rewriting. What if I actually pictured success?

What would it look like, really, to have this novel published? I’m told it’s far less fine than I think. Published writers are always complaining about having to promote their book, ensuring young hopefuls that having a novel published doesn’t guarantee, or in any way lead to, financial success. But what an amazing thing it would be, sitting on stage, blushing, talking about your characters like they’re real. Yes, asking people to read your book would be a bit demoralizing, but how much better it would be than if you didn’t have a book at all, frequenting book clubs and bookstores promoting other books, always books that aren’t yours.

And what if you were really successful – like really successful? Then what? You go on tour with the book. You are like a rockstar but your bandmates are your books in boxes. Maybe you have a friend with you who is literary-minded. You probably travel around on a bus, where you get to read a lot. You get to be a grump and speak esoterically about everything. No one bothers you except for the craziest of people.

And then your job is over and you are under pressure to write more. So what? You love writing. This time someone else cares about you writing too. Maybe you get book topics suggested to you. What a great way of coming up with ideas. Maybe you have a deadline, unlike something you’ve ever had before in writing. Maybe you make money.

And then the second book comes out. And it doesn’t have as good of reviews. That’s great! You can then wow them with the next one. You have made a career because people are comparing something you’ve done before to something you’ve done now, which means time has passed. And you are still at it. You are writing every day. You’ve lost your other job! You’re just writing. You wake up and instead of thinking about other people, you are thinking about a world that you made up. And it can be anything.

I would live in my dreams, if it were socially acceptable. What a joy it is to lay down every night and know that I will be entertained. I feel more overnight, or am given the ability to feel everything every night in a way that then benefits me in my day life. Writing is the same. I feel things, and maybe I’m making them up, but it’s better than not feeling them at all.

So living a life of writing, then, would be a life of dreaming. And getting paid, and getting acknowledgements, and getting to not do other things but it. I can’t imagine being that life being all that bad. Just this novel, that’s the bad part. And then the one after.

The More You Do

I’ve found this to be true enough times that it must be true: the more you do, the easier things get. I say this somewhat hopefully, having volunteered for too many things as a new elementary school teacher. I say this as somebody who writes a novel on top of living. I say this as someone who thinks they’re supposed to read absolutely every night but also write absolutely every night and also be nice to others. There’s only so much you can really do, but I think the more you try and do, the easier each thing gets.

It’s a splitting of the heart, but also a realization that the heart space is so much bigger than you thought. You can’t be up for twenty-four hours, sure, until they find a cure for that, but you can be doing more things in your day than you think you can. The moment you take a break to do something different, something you think you don’t have time for, the work you left behind on your desk suddenly gets put into perspective. That’s work on a desk. This is life.

I had a dream in which I was going to get killed by a gang member and then the gang member’s girlfriend shot herself in the mouth twelve times and I just watched her brain go everywhere. So I think I’m pretty stressed out. I looked it up in my dream book and I found that everyone in your dream (all those gang members and that girlfriend shooting herself in the mouth) are actually you. Dreams are very egotistical. And suicide, says the dream book, is an indication that you feel you have no pleasure in your life.

It’s getting to the point that I want to take up smoking, just so I can go sit out on a balcony for ten minutes and not do anything. It’s getting to the point that going to the washroom is the best part of my day, that eating a bowl of yogurt last night almost made me cry because I felt like I was treating myself and that somehow felt comforting.

I’m busy! But the more I do – the more I sign up to coach basketball and take on this thing called The Vow of Silence (which sounds easy) – the more I spread my heart out and the less I confine it to this small space between two Ikea desks where I have piled up soo many papers and worries. And the more I realize that kids are all around! And they’re just kids! They don’t care if the math thing that I’m doing makes total sense, they would just rather me be nice to them. So that’s what I figured out. Also, the more I take a moment to write a blog post, the more I realize that I am me, and not a teacher, and not a writer who is failing to write, but me who writes in this blog and thinks these thoughts, me that I left behind when I decided to work from 6am to 11pm and shoot my pseudo-self in the mouth in dreams and think that’s okay.


I’m not Sleepy!

I don’t sleep around full moons or after late afternoon coffees. I continue to drink coffee on certain late afternoons and I continue to live through full moons. I know I’ll stay up at night but I think: how productive tonight could be! Maybe I could read a whole book.

But when night comes around, my heart beats in my chest and my mind runs everywhere. I lay there yawning, restlessly wishing for sleep. But this weekend (waning half moon and no coffee in the house) I just wasn’t sleepy. I never got sleepy!


What I could have done this weekend, had I thought of it. Instead I lay there, peaceful in my thoughts. What happened? Have I changed people?

I remember studying Shakespeare at high school and university and getting quizzed on whether I knew that insomnia meant that the character was troubled. Well, I thought. Is there more to it than that?

But maybe there is. My thoughts at night weren’t troubled. I thought a lot about The Bachelorette, about Harry Potter, about where I would walk the dog tomorrow and would I go swimming before or after dinner? I was interested in a lot of different things but I didn’t feel like reading.

What I didn’t think of doing was writing. I’ve been writing one hour a day (which is great!) but when that hour is up, proud as I am, I move on. I read or I watch television or maybe I do my school work. Or, like, I leave the house! But I think I’m scared that if I go back to writing then maybe I’ll max myself out and I won’t do my hour tomorrow. And if I don’t do my hour tomorrow then will I do it the next day? I am so easily persuaded, so influenced by my worst self.

Maybe I’m up at night because I’m supposed to be writing. Maybe one hour a day has put me on some roll! Maybe the time I have invested in my writing is spawning more creativity – nervous energy that keeps me up at night because it wants to be used for something. And because I’m lazy and it’s dark in the room I am not reaching for a pen and am thinking instead. And yes, my dreams are really creative, but could I be using this for writing?

So I plan to never sleep again and write a lot! And with that decision is born a writer: insomniac, paranoid, probably alcoholic.

Dreams to write

I wrote a short story out of one of my dreams. Is that allowed? It seemed like cheating, like the story came out of somewhere magical instead of me. It’s about a blind woman who listens to birds, and a husband who has learned to imitate her favourite bird call. I can’t dream that stuff up. I don’t even know the name of any birds!

Dreams are great because they come pre-packed with thematic content. I have a sixth sense when I exist in dream world: I know why everything is happening. I know what everything means.


There was a while in which I didn’t dream. I was too busy with school and I guess I just forgot. I made a sign (“Dream!!”) and put it on the ceiling of my bed. I started writing down my dreams and they came back. Isn’t it funny that it’s that easy to get in touch with our subconscious?



I’m experimenting at writing at different times of the day. Right now it is the morning and it is awful. Evenings I am sometimes tired. Afternoons I am SO boring. So we’re trying things out. I wonder whether I age throughout the day? I start the morning off stumbling around, speaking in a soft, childish voice, eating cereal. I end the day an old man, drinking a glass of wine alone, falling asleep in front of the TV, wise, maybe.

So I’ve been wondering if we need dreams to write, if they are our most primordial writing coach. They have awful plot structure. Characters are not distinct (in fact they often morph into other characters). Setting is often interesting but impossible. But the feelings!!! Dreams exist on theme and emotion and that’s what I want out of a story.

Full Moon Dreams

I created worlds in my dreams this week, alternate universes. I did little yet so much writing this week.

For our final writing project of my practicum, I asked my grade three students to do something called “writing projects”. The idea was they could create an idea for a project – any type of writing they could think of – and then they had to write it. I read their first drafts this Saturday night and was blown to pieces. Imagine if everyone did a writing project.


What a neat thing, to ask your brain to create alternate universes every night, universes where you dance on a party bus as if that is just something you do in your personality. Imagine creating an alternate universe where you get to visit with someone you don’t get to see anymore every night. What a writing project I have under my belt, these dreams of mine.



I’ve started writing them down, as if to tell them I am taking them more seriously. I wake up and I write the last thing that happened to me – my reality before I opened my eyes – and from there I go back in non-sequential time to all the other pieces of myself I had made up in the hours of unconsciousness. More than you would think comes back to me. I fill up a page or two at least. I write everything because it is all so insignificant that I can’t let the grocery store dream go if I’m keeping the elevator on the beach. It’s all nonsense; it’s all gold.

The final step my students will take in their writing projects will be deciding on a mode of publication and publishing it. I scribble my dreams down every morning. Months and years later I reread them and I remember my dreams like memories. They inform my writing and my life. They inspire me and make my life feel bigger than it is. They provide a recursive element that isn’t present in my linear life but has no reason not to be. They allow me to reflect and absorb and change. I am shifted every night because of something and I think it is good I have found importance in what it was that happened that made me shift.

Dreams I Control


When I was little I often had dreams I could control. The one I remember best is being chased by a monster. I taunted him, telling him I didn’t care if he caught me because I would just wake myself up. I remember yelling at him, “Hey! This is just a dream!” I have since learned these are lucid dreams. I don’t think I have had one since I was six. I had one last night.

I lived with my imaginary family in South Africa. My father was in trouble for embezzlement. It was a hot night and I was listening to music when I heard the glass door break downstairs. I immediately knew what was going to happen. I either lived the dream twice in a row or I created it as I went. It was so real but at the same time it was nothing like real life: I knew the ending. My father ran up the stairs with a handful of knives he had taken from a drawer in the kitchen. He handed them to my mother, younger brother and I. We followed him upstairs. He closed the curtains and we snuck out of the balcony on to the roof of our RV. My dad helped us down through the skylight. My mom was trying to keep things light; my brother was crying. I kept low in the RV as my father backed out of the driveway. I clutched the knives in my hands. Things started to get darker though the day was bright as we approached a toll booth. Under her breath, as though confused but enlightened, my mother asked to no one in particular: “I wonder if they’re going to make a phone call.” There were a few expensive cars parked off to the side. There was a crowd at the toll booth but we were summoned ahead. Young workers eyed each other as my father pulled the RV in to a stop. Though my mother and I both seemed to know what was about to happen, neither of us made a move to stop it. I decided to open my eyes to wake up from the nightmare because I didn’t want to have to experience being murdered.

Where dreams come from

(photo from

I read a Wikipedia entry about lucid dreaming and fell in love with this phrase: “Once this area (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) is activated and the recognition of dreaming occurs, the dreamer must be cautious to let the dream continue but be conscious enough to remember that it is a dream.” It invokes such danger, like lucid dreaming is a predicament one got oneself into. The other scary thing this article says about lucid dreaming is that it may work the opposite way. Instead of realizing that a dream is a dream, one might be led to believe that a dream is real life. It was my first thought this morning when I woke myself up out of my South African nightmare: what if I am still there? What if I am in a double dream?

I love being able to control a dream, because dreams then become like an easier real life. I can wake up when needed, but before that I can experience anything imaginable, without the danger of making wrong decisions. It’s a freedom, but one that can’t be appreciated without the consciousness that comes from lucid dreaming. If we aren’t aware we’re dreaming, we usually forget our dreams. And we can’t wake up before the going gets tough.

It’s a parallel, really, to consciousness. What are we doing here if we’re not aware we’re here? At every moment of the day where you’re not aware of your own consciousness you are in what might as well be a dream state. You are not in control. It is only when we make the choice to stay or to leave that we become lucid – that we stop dreaming and start living. I wonder if there is a correlation between meditation (or self-awareness of other sorts) and lucid dreaming. This Wikipedia site about lucid dreaming also says that “it has been suggested that sufferers of nightmares could benefit from the ability to be aware they are indeed dreaming.” I don’t know if lucidity is something we can cultivate in dreams, but it is certainly something we can work to improve on in our daily lives. If were think we’re living in a nightmare, we have the ability to take control and yell at monsters: “Hey! This is only life!”





I went looking for a car wash

After writing a post yesterday where I complained about not doing enough things manually, I went out today in search of an automatic car wash. I hadn’t ever been in one before. My mouth hung open. I felt like I was on an amusement park ride. In case you have been in a car wash before, I won’t describe it in detail.

Despite having been given a receipt that allowed me to wash my car infinitely for the next forty-eight hours, I drove straight out of the car wash on to the street. I parked at the shopping mall and only then did I examine my car. It was still dirty.

Now I am someone who doesn’t return things. I don’t find it fits with other pieces of my personality, but that’s just the way I am. I may never have returned a single thing. Actually, once at Boston Pizza there was a wet, empty sugar packet under my last slice of pizza. I only mentioned anything so I could get something free in return.

The fact that I had forty-eight hours in which to make a u-turn and redo the car wash made it too easy. And besides, I am frightened of amusement park rides. Instead I drove home and washed my car.

I windexed the windows, inside and out. I vacuumed. But mostly I used a sponge and warm water on all the spots that the manic car wash missed. I spent four minutes in a car wash, one hour washing the car myself. I was far happier this afternoon than I’ve been the past three weeks, every day thinking about how I should wash my car.



I even feel that the $13.49 I paid to get my car washed was worth it. I have the strange feeling I paid myself to wash my car.

Now I don’t know how this relates to writing, but I know that hard work makes me feel good. I know this about other people too. I sometimes forget it because I mostly hate exercising. I love spending too long on a sentence. I love writing out character descriptions I’m never going to use. I love spell checking manually and I love writing things out by hand. I love the idea of taking precious time to do something important, even if its importance is only judged by the amount of satisfaction I get from it. I write a novel because I want to spend the most time ever writing something.

Stop and Start Again

I have two categories of things in my life: those that I am able to stop and start again, and those that I am not.

I am able to stop and start again when I go for a run. I forgive myself for this. I am not that big a runner. Once my sister and I ran a marathon. I stopped and started again. It took us a full five hours, which I think is harder than running a fast marathon. I usually start running again when I get new running shoes. I usually start and stop running again on Mondays.


I am not able to stop and start again when I am feeling upset. I don’t forgive myself for this. I am moved by my emotions. I don’t know how to make them start or stop, but they’re on or off and they stay that way. I am always starting to work on this, until my emotions make me stop.

I used to be able to start and stop dreams. I could tell monsters to stop chasing me; I would tell them I knew how to wake up. I think I still can start dreams – I am writing a book, and all that takes is dreaming.

I am unable to start and stop speaking. I’m always saying something I shouldn’t have started to say. I’m always interrupting. I talk during movies and I talk to pets and myself. But when I stop speaking I find it really hard to start again. The more I practice my French, the more I fall out with my native tongue, unfamiliar with the polite way to start a rude sentence, with how it is you’re supposed to say something simple to a stranger. I speak like a child: unaware I can control my own voice.

I am able to start and stop writing. Other people write things the night before, and I edit one book for years. Editing is relishing in the starting and the stopping. It’s an obsession, useful but too much. I made a childhood career of starting and stopping first pages of what I imagined to be stories. They were always just first pages, nuggets of character introductions to what ended up being really just the same character. I remember thinking I was bad at plot, only good at starting and then stopping stories before they became anything like real life.