Feb 27, 2013

Keeping a Dream Journal -- 7 Tips

Dreams disappear quickly upon waking. One way to hang onto those fragments of inspiration is to keep a Dream Diary. From your dreams you can take the abstract idea 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 or Audible 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:

Ever wondered why we forget our dreams so easily? 

The Naked Scientist tells us dreams create short-term memories, and because we often don't consciously move those images to our long-term memory, we quickly forget them. This is why you are more likely to remember a dream if you are awakened during it.

Freud's idea was that dreams are our secret wishes and desires, so we decide to suppress them. That doesn't really work for me because there are plenty of dreams I wish I could have suppressed, but didn't.

And because we move in our dreams through our imagination we are tying our memory to that kinetic memory, but when we wake we move our body physically (stretch, sit up or reach for the alarm) and this breaks the link between our dream state and physical state. This theory suggests lying very still upon waking, with your eyes still closed to recall your dream before moving your body.


  1. I often dream about working, because I'm usually studying or grading papers up until I go to bed. I try not to watch TV right before I go to bed, because then I end up having nightmares where the Kardashians show up.
    I like the idea of keeping a dream journal, though. I carry a notebook with me during the day so I can write down interesting things I see/hear/think, but I haven't written down my dreams before.

  2. I very rarely dream at all, or I lose them on the moment of waking up :-(

  3. As I get older I find I dream less or at least remember less. I should eat more cheese before bedtime.


  4. I dream aaallll the time! Some I write down, some I don't. Like you, I'm blurry eyed for a bit. I love tip #3. I never thought about talking to my characters but it definitely makes sense. Thank you for these tips. I'll be using them. :) - Thank you for stopping by my blog and hitting the "like" button for my fan page. Always, always, much appreciated. I'm happy you found me so I could find you! :)

  5. Good tips! I was writing my dreams down for a while and need to get back into doing it. Also wish to start meditating right before bed again too. It's also something that I used to do and found great success with. Thank you for the reminders and new ideas. I appreciate your stopping by my blog Charmaine. Feel free to stop by again. I'll definitely be back here. :)

  6. Oh my goodness!! This is one of the most amazing ideas I've ever heard!!

  7. I never remember my dreams. Maybe I'll try what you said and just keep still for a moment when I wake up. The challenge now is to remember that :)

  8. Love this piece, Charmaine. The book that most inspired me when a new writer was 'Becoming a Writer' by Dorothea Brande which was published in 1934. She encourages to write immediately on waking, before speaking or doing anything. Need to read it again in light of your post!

  9. Good tips. I definitely keep the Post-its handy!

  10. Hi Charmaine

    I think some novels would stimulate more vivid dreams than others. I'm always amazed at people who say they never dream. Find it hard to believe. Mine are so vivid I don't have any trouble remembering them.
    Great tips.


  11. Hi Charmaine

    Thank you for this. I love dreaming. Lots of colour and a cast of thousands, sometimes. I have written down lots of my dreams, great material for writing later on. I agree with Denise about people who say they never dream. I suspect they just don't remember them.