Discover more from The Pamplet
Dreaming of Creativity and Cars
an unsolicited advice column (#6 in a series on dreams)
A few weeks back I bumbled around Twitter searching for dream-related stuff and coincidentally came across your tweet. As great tweets do, it crystallized a bunch of disparate thoughts and connected neurons I’d never connected before. I’m even left with a sneaking suspicion that you know more than you let on, that you’re tweeting with half your brain tied behind your back because it’s more fun for your audience to err on the sillier side. But I’m not fooled, this is an impeccably punctuated tweet. A car brake malfunction dream could mean all sorts of things to different dreamers, but for you, Roy, a self-admitted creative mode seeker, I suspect it has to do with a gift.
What I like so much about your tweet is that you wanted big ol’ expansive creativity in a dream, and your dream happily obliged and sent it forthwith, just not in the format you were expecting. Even if you don’t realize it consciously, you went straight into full-on creative mode. You actually got what you wanted—plus even more than you expected—and your twitter fingers intuitively sensed it by hitching the desire and the dream together in less than 280 characters. And I’m nodding along because this happens to me all the damn time. I’m like, lord, PLEASE send me that wildly creative action-packed life, but hold on dawg, why are you pointing out yet another facet of the ornate miniature birdcage I’ve constructed for myself?? Let’s unpack.
Just like you and @fishcantswim3 in the comments, I too have had my share of oh-shit-my-car-brakes-don’t-work dreams. Enough that it’s a subspecialty. I’ve dreamed of driving around the LA hills and spinning out into dirt; skidding across achingly long stretches of freeway, narrowly missing pileups; and a few other permutations I’d have to dredge up from old notebooks. Whatever the circumstances, these dreams always featured a uniquely tangy bloom of fear and slow motion panic as I began to grasp the premise, the terror of not being in control.
And what is the car in a dream? For many people, maybe, the personal container that transports us from here to there in our days, the engine of our everyday motion in the world. I hesitate to throw out the word ego because it’s overused and can mean different things to different people, but there’s often a touch of ego in the appearance of a car in dreams. You were expecting to pilot this multi-ton hulking metal tool of yours around town—that’s kinda like the egoic personality. It can be quite functional, very useful in the world for commuting hither and getting jobs done. So you casually commanded the wheel, but when you wanted to slow down, the brakes didn’t work. Instead, you came to the surprising realization that what you wanted wasn’t going to happen. Which is terrifying at first, or maybe for a long time, if you’re like me and dream of it every six months for a few years.
That’s great news Roy. That is creative mode.
Like you, I didn’t think too much of those dreams. But I’d note them. Be like, yeah, I felt out of control. Creative stuff was shifting in my life, and I didn’t know how to relate to a scary new force breaking through. I guess that’s the process, I always thought, making art is forever going to be a power struggle with my fear. At the same time, the dreams would pop up at turning points, and I knew they were a good sign.
Then along came mid-January of 2020, and in the waning halcyon pre-pandemic before times I had this dream: I was driving my ancient Subaru, and it began to slide backwards down a hill. The car swerved of its own accord, first left, then right, then it reoriented forward, picking up steam as it careened downhill and suddenly started flipping, whipping corkscrews like an acrobatic dervish wagon. As the slide began, I felt that old familiar aw shit here we go but this time I settled in and didn’t even bother with the brakes. I just went with it, and the strangest thing happened: I extricated from my seat and somehow levitated horizontally in the middle of the car, gazing ahead as it crashed and spun around me. It finally came to a halt at the bottom of the hill, totaled. I stepped out a bit bruised, but fine, eyeing the carcass of my former ride and marveling at what had just occurred.
My experience of creativity changed after that dream. The spin cycle of 2020 and its aftermath really did total my old container, but it seems I needed that experience to find out I was no longer riding the brakes. I could just go with it. I could take on creativity with a new level of openness and freedom, I could do weird large-scale sculpture projects and write essays with no clue how any of it was going to turn out, and still be strangely ok. To truly not know the outcome of an artwork or blank page at the start and just be moved along by the forces of the process was a real discovery, the essence of the setup as I slid backward down a hill and let go. It’s super hard to do. There’s a zillion unconscious pathways by which we control situations to engineer a known outcome because it’s safer for our limbic brains to settle for the devil we know. I have a lotta layers of this yet to shed. But somehow, sometimes when I least expect it, when I’m in the letting-go, just being radically present with the Ballardian jouissance of a car-thrashing power much greater than I, the levitational creativity I always longed for comes through.
Here’s the thing, Roy: You and I and everyone reading—we already have creative power beyond measure. But just a lil taste of it in action tends to get us a tad freaked out, rightly so, and we reflexively hit the brakes. So… just don’t hit the brakes, that’s the solution, right? Nope, I’m definitely not going to tell you or @fishcantswim3 or anyone else to ignore the brakes. That would be terrible advice, the equivalent of some oblivious, tone deaf acquaintance cheerfully saying, you’re right handed? Well just switch to your left! At the time of this dream, your nervous system was wired such that slamming on the brakes was a natural reaction, even necessary. “Plz make it stop” is a totally understandable response to the overwhelm of unfamiliar creative urges, just ask any Greek philosopher nattering on about his daimon. It takes practice to build a nervous system equipped to handle increasing amounts of wattage.
Start from where you are. You thought you wanted go-anywhere-and-do-anything creativity, but you unconsciously feared that same creativity, so, like a thoughtful helper, your dream kindly brought this tension to light. Nobody wants to do it, but the first step is to feel the fear. What’s it like to feel your car moving of its own accord sans brakes? Where in your past or present have you felt this way? What language coheres to the emotion, what specific, concrete concerns does this bring up? Can you sit with your fear all the way to the end of the feeling, and be curious to see what might happen next? How does your creativity already move you, and maybe most importantly, can you guess how even more wants to come through?
Be every part of the dream—be the young man trying to stop a car that’s escaped control, be the unstoppable car charged with energy and momentum hurtling forward, be the mysterious force that’s arranged an automotive malfunction and engineered this thriller of an experience—and you are every dimension. However you go about it, when you decide to really inhabit the emotions a humble dream delivers, you begin to beam light into dark rooms. The radiation of your awareness transforms the problem and a new outcome will evolve. Dreams are a mirror, and creative mode shows up in our lives in precisely the way we show up.
Preview image: Curiosity Selfie by Jason Major
The Pamplet is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.