Oct 25, 2010

7 Tips for Keeping a Writer's Dream Diary

As part of our NaNoWriMo preparations, we (the family writing group) are keeping diaries of our dreams. You have to be quick writing them down because dreams disappear quickly upon waking. Hmm, I wonder why that is - do you know? I'm sure there will be a fascinating scientific reason we don't keep those memories handy.

The idea is we can take the abstract dream ideas and brainstorm story plots. Do you record dreams? Here's some tips:
  1. Make sure your paper and pen are right by your bedside, chances are you won't bother getting up in the night to find them.
  2. If you can't see well enough to write immediately (my eyes are blurry for about an hour after waking), you can say the dream out loud to help solidify the memory.
  3. Think about your WIP as you drift off to sleep. Talk to your characters, this might help you dream about them.
  4. Don't try to write a sensible narrative of your dream, just scrible images and interactions as you remember them. They don't have to make sense, you can use them as writing prompts later.
  5. Meditate before sleep to promote vivid dreams. I've posted about hypnosis for writing before in Stories from the Subconscious I use a hypnosis recording on my iPhone. You can also learn self-hypnosis. Try iTunes for plenty of free hypnosis podcasts.
  6. Fall asleep listening to an audio book. I do this accidently sometimes and it always prompts weird dreams.
  7. Reading fiction right before bed can get your brain in an imaginative mood.
Here's some recordings that I use:

Do you have any tips on encouraging vivid dreams?


  1. I know so many people who can 'dream' about their WIP and characters. I wish I could--it would make my writing flow much easier!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. I think it's because every memory needs a trigger and sometimes our dreams are so way out there we have nothing in waking life that triggers the memory of the dream. Just a theory.

    Great advice :)

  3. This is such a great idea! I've now decorated a spiral notebook and have it and a pen next to my bed. Thanks!

  4. Occassionally I need to take Melatonin to get to sleep. This always gives me funky dreams that I remember the next morning. I qucikly get up and jot them down. Sometimes there's something good there I can use.

    Stephen Tremp

  5. Angela - maybe you can find a way to make your unrelated dreams 'fit' into your WIP, that could be fun!

    Lynda - I'll do some research on the reason we don't remember dreams well, I just think it will be something really peculiar and fascinating.

    Alleged Author - I think it's adorable you've decorated your notebook!

    Stephen - Yes, sometimes if I'm on any antibiotics I have really weird vivid dreams. But once I was on 'Tamiflu' for Swineflu and the nightmares were so horrible I had to stop taking it!

  6. I've tried recording my dreams from time to time, then give up. Lately, I hardly dream at all. Wonder what that means?

    I'm sure it's a good practice. Good to get ideas from one's subconscious. A most creative place.

  7. I DO in fact get out of bed to record them on occasion, as if I tried to record them IN bed, I would be divorced. Hubby is CRANKY about a great many things, but interrupted sleep ranks high.

    I don't dream my STORIES so much as really striking set-up or a scene. Never dream about the current WiP, at least not that I can remember. I also do some half sleep/half wake connecting. I think a relaxed brain does that better than a normal brain (though paired with a busy body--like exercising, is best)

  8. Myrna - I think everyone dreams but the hardest part is having any memory of them. Maybe your mind is very distracted at the moment so you think of all the things you have that day rather than your dream? Today I'm doing a bit of research on dreams, so I'll share what I find soon :-)

    Hart - I could use my husband's head as a table to write on and he wouldn't wake up. But I do get some of the same issues in our house having kids - I sometimes feel like the only adult.
    My dreams are really weird snippets and don't actually make stories, but when I retell them to myself I seem to add the story. Good point about exercise (although I wish it weren't true). :-)

  9. Number three has worked for me so many times before that I think I do have to try that. I will definitely try the number one also.

  10. M.J. - Number one tip means you dong have scrawl the memory of your dream on your pillowcase :-)