Writing advice

Writer’s Tool Kit: The Dream Journal

I am a firm believer that, as writers, we owe our best, most powerful images to the powers of our sub-conscious. It is the sub-conscious that links all humans. It is the sub-conscious that informs empathy and the compassion that allows humans to deeply imagine the experiences of our fellow beings. The human sub-conscious powers everything.

It is the free, unhindered (and unedited) flow of subconscious ideas that we writers are seeking when we talk of trying to enter “the zone.”

I also believe creative people, it doesn’t matter what medium they work in, are much more in touch with their subconscious than the average Joe on the street. That does not mean accessing the subconscious is easy for creative people. It just means it’s easier. Why? Because they practice it.

If you are fairly new at this though, and would like an easier manner to tap into the creative power of the subconscious, there is a way that’s available to everyone, but is often ignored. Our night time dreams.

Everyone dreams. It is an established scientific fact. Dreams are how the tangled mass of neurons we call our brains process and manage all the sensory data we’ve gathered over our busy day. If a person is somehow prevented from dreaming, she begins to develop psychological problems. Dreaming is necessary. You dream. I dream. Babies dream. Even dogs and cats dream.

Many ancient societies (and some modern ones) believe the dream world and the spirit world are one and the same thing. They believe that the dream state is the one and only time the average person can leave the physical world and experience existence as a solely spiritual being.

But some people have trouble remembering their dreams. Some cannot remember dreaming at all. Even the best of us have trouble remembering much about a dream within a few minutes of waking. The colors fade first, then the emotions. Soon, if we remember the dream at all, it’s a bare sketch of the actual event.

The way to defeat this tendency (or one simple way) is to keep a dream journal. What is a dream journal? Exactly what it sounds like. It’s a notebook of some sort you keep beside your bed along with a pen or pencil. As soon as you wake, while the dream is still fresh, you write down significant details and images from the dream. Maybe you’ll use this. Maybe you won’t. One thing is for certain though, if you don’t remember your dreams, you certainly won’t use any of those images in your writing.

Admittedly, I don’t myself use a dream journal at this point, though I am fortunate in that I do remember my dreams fairly regularly. In fact, one of my short stories “The Fish” came to me pretty much intact in a dream. I got up the next day and just wrote it down, embellishing as my instinct told me to.

But, if you have trouble remembering your dreams, a dream journal can be a valuable tool to overcome that. And, just possibly, as a bonus you might learn an extra something about yourself in the patterns of your dreams.

So why not give it a try?

It could prove to be a dream come true.


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