Friday, August 20, 2010

Journey to a Dream World

by Dina Sleiman

“Dreams are illustrations... from the book your soul is writing about you.” – Marsha Norman
* * *
I recently returned from my summer vacation in Florida, and while there, I visited the world capital of dreams. Disney’s Magic Kingdom. What struck me about this park was that it didn’t just provide rides and attractions, it allowed you to enter unique multi-sensory experiences. To travel Tom Sawyer’s island through a leafy forest covered with cool drops of rain and shoot booming rifles from a rough wooden fort. To blast off past a manned control tower into a pitch black mountain filled with glimmering stars on an outer space odyssey. To enter a zapping, neon-glow video game with laser guns where you alone must defeat the evil emperor Zurg. Or even to have an out-of-control blue alien jump on your shoulders, wiggle his fingers in your hair, and burp chili dog remnants in your face.

Yes, that kingdom creates a magic indeed, by engaging the imagination and allowing you to enter into a fictional world where almost anything can happen.
* * *
“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde
* * *
Some of the best vacations I’ve ever experienced have been through books. Last year I traveled to an alternate reality in Arena where spiritual elements took tangible form in the shape of hairy monsters, red-scaled creatures, and glowing mythical archways. Over the past months I’ve wept at the foot of the cross in A Stray Drop of Blood, faced abject poverty and disease while enjoying Jesus as my best friend in The Passion of Mary-Margaret, witnessed a horrific murder What the Bayou Saw, learned how to train a gorilla to use sign-language in Unspoken, and traveled throughout Europe with countless romantic historicals.

Once, I journeyed back through history by being chosen for the Time Lottery. Only a handful of Americans were selected for this brave experiment. We could travel back to one point in our lifetime which we wished to live over. After a specified period, we underwent a short interlude of awareness, during which we had to choose to stay in our new reality in that alternate thread of time, or return to our original reality. Of course, the catch was, if we stayed, it would be as if we had died within our original reality. What I and my fellow travelers learned through this experience is that regret is a wasted emotion that has a way of killing the here and now. What a worthwhile journey that turned out to be.
* * *
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” - Epicurius
* * *
What is a dream? You enter a haze, a fog, a state of sleep. A dream can be a subconscious film our brain plays to help us work through issues in our lives. A dream can take us into spiritual wonders our logic can’t begin to unravel. A dream can be a hope, a wish, an imagination of the future. A dream can be reliving the past to find order and meaning within it. Dreams are the state through which our minds take us to another time and place. Sometimes dreams can seem truer than life, causing us to question: which reality is really real?
* * *
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” – Douglas H. Everett
* * *
During college I played the role of a young woman in love for a short student film. The scene opened with a zoomed in shot of a bedroom mirror as I applied velvet smooth lipstick, dabbed perfume to my pulse points, slipped in diamond earrings to sparkle against my golden tresses. The pink satin of my skirt rustled about my calves as I walked to the door to meet my dream man, ushering him inside for a romantic candlelit dinner. I danced in his arms within a warm yellow glow. Until the jangle of the phone jarred me out of fantasy land. The scene switched. I sat on the couch in harsh blue lighting. Alone. Unwashed in a wrinkled flannel shirt. Hair disheveled about my tear-streaked face. I picked up the receiver. From the other end of the line came a voice. “You’re doing it again, aren’t you?”

Of course I was only acting. Yet the role felt surprisingly familiar. The truth is, writers live in their heads, and that can be a beautifully dangerous place to reside. People question how writers come up with such fantastic stories, how they imagine entire worlds. I suppose the writer must question how normal people slog through reality day in and day out with no internal dream land for respite. Is this good or bad? I’m not quite certain. While I love to escape into the dream world of the books I create, they can also provide an avenue to run away from problems, people, and challenges I should be facing in the real world. Escapism can be both a blessing and a curse.
* * *
“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” - Shakespeare
* * *
I learned something this spring that has vastly improved my writing. It’s a simple little statement. Pull your reader into a fictional dream world. That’s the true essence of fiction. We enter an alternate reality. A sort of dream state. We travel to a different time or place, but more importantly, into the minds of characters where we can feel what they feel. See, hear, taste, and touch what they do, and grow through their experiences. Each book becomes a journey of exploration. An escape from our own world into a new one. An opportunity to become a better person.
* * *
“Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.” – James Dean
* * *
While on this summer’s Florida vacation (the real one, although I took several novels along for the ride), I had the opportunity to live out every medieval author’s dream. I attended a tournament complete with armor-clad knights, splintering jousts, a rainbow of pageantry, and a roaring crowd. Okay, I had to suspend my disbelief for the choreographed fights, the plastic pewter ware, and the Pepsi in my goblet—but I ate half a roasted chicken with my own greasy fingers, and it proved great fun nonetheless.

And even more enjoyable than that fictional dream world, was experiencing it with my real-life family. My youngest child bouncing against my side with excitement. My daughter squealing with delight. My middle-son mesmerized by the glinting weapons. Because no matter where we go or what we learn, none of it is worth anything without a real life to apply it to. Real people to love. A real family to build. A real world to make better.
* * *
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – St. Paul.


  1. Dina. Your words really touched me when you voiced this thought: "writers live in their heads, and that can be a beautifully dangerous place to reside."

    Doing so, I have to be thankful that many people do daydream about practical things!

    A very thought provoking post today. It looks like I'm the only one who made up a totally fictional vacation this week. Oh oh.

    Happy Friday everybody! Hurray!

  2. I can so relate to living in my head. My sister remembers all kinds of things from our childhood that I don't and I think the reason is that many times I wasn't fully present. I was living a separate reality in my head. Making up characters and plots. Revising favorite stories, etc.

  3. I imagined you guys might relate. On a different note, I tried out a new format today-the lyric essay. Any thoughts on the structure? Thumbs up, thumbs down?

  4. Hi Dina,

    Thumbs up. Definitely. Loved the journey with you as you explored the threads of imagination and dreams.

  5. I agree, Wenda. It looks nice. Dina, you're making us look like a real classy place :)

    I never have to worry about eavesdropping on people. They can be right in the room next to me and I often don't hear what they're talking about because I'm 'not really there' or 'not all there' as they probably think...

  6. All I can say is Wow

  7. Thanks guys. It was hard weaving the lyric essay in a piece short enough for a blog post. But I really like this style and thought I would give it a try.

    Wenda, you hit it on the head, lyric essay is all about weaving threads, or the term braiding is sometimes used.

    Deb, my kids crack up at the way I zone off. But, I'm pretty good at rousing when they speak directly to me. Sometimes I have a delayed reaction while I hit "rewind" and then "play" in my brain to figue out what in the heck they just said.

  8. Two things struck me as I read this post, Dina...

    1) You see and write things on such a deeper level that me (that's good btw)
    2) I know where you're coming from... it's that land where my mom always said I went. :)

    Thank you for sharing this with us today.

    Anita Mae.

  9. Well, Anita, I'm not sure that it is or isn't a "good thing." It's just a difference. Different callings, different styles. That's why we all fit so well together, kind of like the body of Christ.

    Also on the not necessarily a "good thing" issue. This post took me all day to write, and I usually only spend on hour or so on a blog post. But I enjoyed the process.

  10. Dina,

    Couldn't stop by yesterday, but glad I got in today. Very thoughtful post, worth the extra effort. Think it's fair to say, you got a lot more magic out of the Magic Kingdom than 99% of the folks who were there that day.

    We'll probably be heading there some evening this week. And most different spots, Cindi will look at me, and I will have been drawn by a butterfly and followed it into the dream world.

    But she has a way of pulling me back and helping me land softly.

    Great post.


  11. Thanks, Dan. Glad you enjoyed it. That made my day.


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