Sometimes my dreams are better than real life. At night, after I close my eyes and cuddle up underneath my sheets, my brain produces cinematic masterpieces with every point on the plot carefully crafted. Sometimes, I wake up wondering if I’ve just been to the movies. After I’ve gotten up, in order to remember my masterpiece I hastily grab for my dream journal I keep next to my bed. I scrawl down the basics, nothing too crazy, and then I nestle back into my sheets. What a good dream.
Is keeping a dream journal useful as a writer?
Keeping a dream journal is incredibly useful as a writer and you can use your brain’s natural creativity to dream up plots (literally) to die for. Dreaming is not only fun but is also your brain’s subconscious raw and laid bare for you to watch. If you’re stuck in a creative rut, dreaming can be a great way to not only relieve anxiety but also tap into your brain’s natural observatory state. Your brain notices a lot of things you don’t and we consume media every single day, so by combining those two things your brain can create a dreamscape. Now, everyone’s different. I definitely think it’s crazy that my brain can present a movie-like plot with exposition, rising action, climax, and moral lessons and that I remember it, to boot. Not everyone is the same, but I’ll provide tips for using the dream journal as a writing tool.
What if I don’t dream?
Everyone dreams! You just don’t remember your dream. The trick to remember your dreams is actually KEEPING a dream journal. Even if your dreams are short, they don’t make any sense, or are uninteresting, keep a dream journal. When you write up, first thing in the morning, write your dream down. Now, are these dreams going to be stellar? No. Are they going to be really short and make no sense? Probably. If you don’t remember your dreams, it’s because your brain doesn’t think they’re important. By keeping the dream journal, you’re telling your brain that dreams are something to be cherished and that it should remember them.
Where should I keep my dream journal?
My dream journal is by my bed always. It’s easy to access. I prefer writing my dreams down because I seem to remember them better, but having an audio recorder on your phone is perfect as well! You can then translate them to writing later and don’t have to work so hard in the morning. Once you make the habit of writing down your dreams, remembering them will be easier and easier and your brain will generate more content for you to work with.
Personalize your dream journal! Get something pretty that you love looking at, have decorated, and you enjoy writing in. The more enticing it is to journal, the better off you’ll be. As soon as you open your eyes, grab a pen. It doesn’t have to be the most elegant prose in the world, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Alternatively, you can keep your journal in a separate room with your alarm clock so you’ll actually get up and write if you have trouble getting out of bed as I do. Once you build the habit, you’ll find that keeping a dream journal is not only fun but powerful.
Why should I keep a dream journal?
Your brain comes up with all sorts of kooky stuff when you’re asleep. You would be surprised how inspiring it can be. Our brains use REM to process our stresses through the day. Stress = Conflict in writing. Therefore, when we’re dreaming our brain is learning how to sort through our conflict. This is a great way to find solutions to big problems and then write your characters coming up with those solutions. Dreams can also be prophetic and symbolic, so using those symbols in your writing can be very powerful.
Not only that, but your mind is at its most creative when it’s uninhibited. You may be able to come up with things you’ve never thought of before! By using your creativity at night, you can come up with amazing new plots, characters, and environments. Even if your dreams aren’t perfect cinematic experiences, you can use dreams as inspirations for bigger stories. Your new favorite character might just be waiting in your dreams!
How should I use my dream journal?
Here is a lovely exercise I’ve come up with to use your dream journal! Even if you don’t write it into a full-blown story, you can still use your dream journal to do a lot of bitty exercises. Get a dream journal, put it by your bed, and when you wake up, do this exercise.
- Write your dream down. IMMEDIATELY! Don’t wait. Don’t eat breakfast. Don’t even get up to pee. Every second counts, and especially if you’re early in on your dream journey, your dreams will be very easy to forget. Do yourself a favor and write it down or record it the moment you open your eyes.
- Once you’ve written it down, do everything you need to in the morning! Work out, eat breakfast, drink your glass of water, and go to work. When you come home and finish what you need to do, re-read your dream. It should all come flooding back to you even if you’ve forgotten it during the day.
- At that point, clean it up. Take your dream journal and pop it into a word processor. Using what you remember, add more details. Flesh out everything you can recall into one place.
- Now, analyze your work. What kind of story can you make from this? If you dreamt up a really cool character where do they belong? In what world do they live in? If you dreamt up a beautiful place, what kind of people live there? If you have some semblance of a plot, can you put the rest of the plot together? Use your imagination to fill in the blanks. This is where the really creative part of the process begins.
- Craft a short story. Your short story should be around 3000 words. Don’t feel too pressured to write anything huge. Take all the details and craft something nice out of it. Really take your time, work on your prose, and craft something really great.
- Done! You’ve created a top-notch short story based on a dream!
Who else has used a dream journal to write?
There are several artists who have written classics based on their dreams, and you know a lot of them! Stephen King often has terrible and terrifying dreams that have inspired a number of his works, including Misery and Dreamcatcher. He uses snippets of dreams to craft full stories in this way. In 1999, King was in a terrible car accident. He said he had terrible dreams around this time, primarily about four men in a cabin. That dream inspired what would become Dreamcatcher.
Stephanie Myer had a dream about a sparkly vampire in the woods speaking with a young girl. Apparently, her dream had been quite vivid. The two spoke about falling in love and the vampire was particularly attracted to her blood, which made it difficult for them to be together. Twilight isn’t my favorite book in the whole world (sorry, Twilight fans, but I hate it), but it is still a great example of using dreams to inspire fiction.
Other famous works dreams inspired include two famous Victorian classics, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. Robert Louis Stevenson claimed his ideas came from some unseen force. He dreamed several scenes for the book and talked about how the symbolism had existed in his mind long before the dreams came. His brain just put everything together in a way that people would understand.
A dream journal can and will be a powerful tool for you. Not only is it fun to remember your dreams, but dreaming also makes bedtime an adventure and something you can look forward to. Your dreams can be a deep look into your subconscious. Symbols and truth make stories shine, and your brain is superb at making sense of tragedy to find truth. That truth can be a powerful tool in your work and can make your stories, settings, and environments all the more real and emotionally touching. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and buy a journal… and sweet dreams!