Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


In my dream this morning, I was teaching a writing class. In the dream, there were some well-known writers there and I planned to quote from their books. I read a passage from one of the books, then asked the class to think about the words, the language, the thought. Then, I handed the open book to my wife and asked her to conduct the class. In the dream, she was a tall, young beautiful woman with long dark hair. She was wearing a white toga that might have been made in Rome during the time of Plato and Socrates.

I strolled onto the marble courtyard, with its Ionian columns, stone benches, floral explosions in loamy beds, thinking of an object mentioned in the passage. The object then began to take on many forms in my mind as I was mentally explaining to the class that we must look beyond an image to see its many manifestations. The image began as a single ruby in a silver setting, but it became a small loaf of dark bread, and then water, changing into music, then into language, and finally, into pure energy.

I thought of the mysterious dark matter of this universe and the ancient phrase referring to the "music of the spheres," referring to the planets in our solar system. The energy became manifest as harmonics, the subject of a book I've been planning for some time, but so complex it took on daunting proportions, and the basic research lies in several file folders in my office cabinet.

As I swam upward through layers of sleep back to consciousness, I thought of this blog. I had intended to write on the subject of meditation, but the title FORMS intruded, and then became FORMLESSNESS. I realized, in the dream, that FORM AND FORMLESSNESS was the true subject of the dream, and that we begin writing a story, an article, an essay, a novel, a poem, from that basic stepping stone in the ancient courtyard.

The idea takes its own form. Like a fetus in the womb, it may go through many transformations. If one were able to view the entire process from the moment the swarm of sperm swim up the channel to to the ovum, and but a single one penetrating the egg, to the final day of gestation, we would see every form of living creature in the process, from a tadpole to a fish, to a bird, to a primate. The emergence of a human being, to be held and loved and named and nurtured would be the sum of a miraculous creation, a human baby.

All things are created in the mind before they are made manifest. In the beginning was the thought. The word came later, for we must name those things we create from thought. During the process of creation, the idea may take many forms. Forms beget other forms, and somewhere along the way, there is an assemblage, a coming together of thought and forms, until there is something concrete, something tangible that we can hold in our hands and call by name and present to the universe.

So it is with story. Somewhere in our minds, in that part of the mind we come in contact with when we meditate, when we sleep and dream, there is the very DNA of storytelling, that substance that is transformed from truth and experience into myth. And that myth is the seed that continues and assumes many forms through countless lifetimes, perhaps through countless reincarnations of a human soul. Whatever form that seed takes, it is always there, reachable through meditation and thought, always waiting, as sourdough bread or water and sugar. In my dream, the loaf of bread became a tray of Jello, the color of that single ruby in its silver setting.

As the dream evaporated in my conscious mind, all of the forms disappeared. But, their images lingered as tattered remnants of vivid objects, dulled by wakefulness, but shining and brilliant within the context of the dream. And, I question myself as a writer, wondering which was more real to me, the dreamscape with its odd, but realistic world, or my waking state when I am surrounded by objects already created by others.

The stories, their forms, spring from just such formlessess, that Void which was always there, that inexplicable dark matter of space, which may well be a form of music, audible to only a very few on a conscious level, but heard subliminally by all creatures, all forms of life, be they made of stone or wood or flesh. We see what we wish to see. We create what we think. We live in several worlds, it seems, and one of these worlds is what we call a dream. But, to the artist, the dream world is every bit as real as the waking, and when we write, when we put into form what was only imagination and thought, we bring the various worlds together. We create myth that lives on in the collective unconscious. We add another rung to the ladder of DNA, we connect the interstices and send the messages of creation along their various and varied paths.

That is the wonder of life for us humans with our finite minds. That we can find form out of formlessness, that we can deduce patterns and shapes in all things and come to realize that this is, indeed, the image we were given: that of creator. Walt Whitman certainly saw that connection. In Leaves of Grass, he was all things. He was everyman, and he was every woman, too. He was the world and he was the universe.

And, so, too, are we. Forms that change from moment to moment, from lifetime to lifetime.

Yes, it's an awesome concept.

But, in the dream state, it all makes perfect sense.

Jory Sherman