Writing the Metadream

by Rachel Creager Ireland

I don't know who gets photo credit. Most likely my daughter Rowan Ireland. Or her sister Kiran.

I don’t know who gets photo credit. Most likely my daughter Rowan Ireland. Or her sister Kiran.

I should be writing my novel right now, because it’s almost halfway through NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and I’m way behind on my word count. But it’s not yet unthinkable that I’ll catch up, and sometimes—rarely— it’s just as helpful to talk about the book as to write it.

The idea originated in a dream. I dreamt about a woman who was a witch, and a farmer. She operated her family farm alone, because her mother and sister had mysteriously disappeared twenty years previous. Her secret was that they were buried in an egg-like pod under a field, because the farmer herself had, in a fit of adolescent pique, cast a sleeping spell on them. The problem was that she had forgotten the words to wake them up, and had been berating herself mercilessly ever since.

I found the forgetting part particularly amusing. It seemed like the kind of thing I would do. When I had the dream, I immediately thought it would make a good story. I’d written a short story from another dream once, and was pleased with the result. I did think a bit about the meaning of the dream, but assumed it was related to my relationship with my sister, which was a bit strained at the time. As for the mother in the dream, maybe I was also trying to put to sleep whatever remaining issues I might have with my late mother. I figured it signified some kind of avoidance of dealing with issues, but didn’t bother to do anything with that. Naturally.

Thinking about writing it as a novel, I decided that a romantic interest would be helpful, and he could help the main character, now dubbed Stella, to figure out what happened. Then I decided to lay partial blame for the forgetting upon the sister.

Then I didn’t do much with it at all until November 1, the first day of NaNoWriMo. Not far into the story, it occurred to me to give the sleeping sister a bit of volition, so I let her wander astrally. She can even visit other people’s dreams, and give them (questionable) advice. She became more of an actor in the story, not simply a passive victim.

As I write, I like to interpret a story as a dream. I’ve blogged elsewhere about that method of dream interpretation in which everyone and everything in the dream is the dreamer. If there’s a war, it’s an inner conflict. Love is a union of forces, such as one’s inner masculine and feminine.

So what to make of this story, inspired by a dream, in which dreams are part of the mechanism that drives the action? Whoa, this is meta. Let’s see. The woman alone is strong and capable, but ultimately needs to activate her masculine principle in order to move forward. She’s put to sleep certain parts of her feminine nature—it happened in adolescence, in a time of inner conflict— but it turns out she needs their assistance in order to access her masculine power as well. So maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with my actual sister at all.

Or maybe it’s all just a story. One that I’m really enjoying writing, and I hope you will enjoy reading it, when I start posting excerpts soon.

What are you dreaming and writing about?

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