I’ve been a lucid dreamer all my life.
A conscious one too. I almost always know when I’m dreaming, and often find myself, in a dream, asking why it’s going the way it’s going. Why am I on this hike? What does this mountain mean? Why am I in a run-down house? Who are these people I’ve cast in the dream? Why do they have faces (or not)?
Early on I became aware that the dream world has no more detail than the story requires. This, more than any other distinction makes the dream world different than the waking one. Here in the waking world, there are details in abundance outside our selves. In the dream world, we are the generators of detail, and can produce no more than the least required—and often fail at that.
This is why my standard approach to waking up in a dream that’s hard to shake is to grab a book and start reading. The inability of my mind to construct a page with a stable array of words and sentences on it — an objective and detailed reality—breaks the dream by making it too absurd and unreal an illusion to sustain.
There are times I regret leaving a dream because it’s so pleasant. This often involves people I know who have died, such as my parents. When I was young it sometimes involved girls I had a crush on but would never approach in the waking world. (I had a lot of those. An alpha male I was not.)
There are also times when I become creative in dreams. I once laughed myself awake while doing stand-up comedy during a dream, and then got bummed that I forgot the jokes I told.
Mostly, however, my dreams are ways working on issues that occupy my waking life, though that isn’t always apparent until I’ve been awake for awhile, meditating on the subject of the most recent dream.