I used to own a Honda 350 motorcycle and drove it about 35,000 miles before I sold it. But that was long ago.
But still, there was a history. Such a good history, in fact, that of late I’ve been admiring a fellow’s 175 cc Honda of the same style and vintage as mine. But I’m not at all in the market for a motorcycle — not in the least.
Nevertheless, I was not too surprised last night when I found myself in a dream, in a motorcycle store, looking at motorcycles. I hadn’t been there long before a salesman asked me, “What range are you looking for?” My answer: “I used to have a 350, so a 350 to 500 would be about right. I’m not interested in a big Harley.”
The last bit of conversation from that clerk I remember before I awoke, was “Well, we have an old black and blue junker we could get for you.”
It didn’t occur to me until I was awake that the store clerk thought I was talking price range, in dollars, not engine displacement. He was really confused. And then I thought, “This is my dream, I created that store clerk, so how could he and I not be communicating? How could he be confused?”
And I still wonder that.
The ancients used to think that characters in dreams were embodiments of spirits or actual characters from life, and through dreams we communicate with them. And on the surface, that would seem to fit the data from this dream. But being a modern, educated man I don’t at all believe that. Still, why the confusion within a dream?
Could it be that life itself is so confusing that we simply expect it to be that way, and therefore inject confusion into the characters we create in our dreams? I suppose a dream without confusion would not be a dream.
As a writer of sorts I am tempted to think that in dreaming I’m creating something—an experience. And as I wake and lay down words, I am truly creating. But as a rule my characters and I always understand each other. I know their needs, desires, and weaknesses. They don’t surprise me — because after all, I created them.
So maybe that is what I should heed from this dream. Perhaps our best creations should surprise us. Perhaps, when we allow ourselves to loosen control of our characters just a bit, they are free to do the unexpected.
Sounds nice, like something a creative writing instructor would say, but predictably, the letting go is the hard part for a technical writer, one who writes as a career scientist, with precision and concision. You can not let go: You have to throttle your writing to best explain sometimes difficult ideas in as simple a way as you can.
Your characters are equations: they have no freedom, they are defined, immutable. Nothing is left to providence. Even chance must be carefully defined, with probability ranges that are known, and in conventional terms agreed upon by the scientific audience at large. Writing like that is a conversation I suppose, between the writer and the audience, but it is never surprising, not if it is to be believable.
Creative thinking, on the other hand, like dreaming, can be surprising. It can lead you were you least expect it. For instance, I thought this little blog post would be about dreaming, but it turned itself into a post about writing. Funny how the mind works some times.
And now that I’ve expanded my mind a bit, I think the dream was right. A buyer thinks of what he wants, a salesman thinks of what commission he can get from the transaction, based on the buyer’s pocket book.
Hmm … guess I created a pretty good motorcycle salesman character last night after all.
Disclaimer: the motorcycle salesman created in this dream does not reflect in any way upon any other salesman, real or imagined. It was just a dream.