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Keeping a Dream Journal

Have you ever tried to document your dreams? Apparently it’s pretty difficult. About 6 months ago I decided that I wanted to record my dreams, mostly for my own amusement and in the hopes that it might inform my creative writing process somehow. If you Google “how to keep a dream journal” you’ll find about a gazzillion links to tips and tricks. I guess I’ll just add to that pile, but I’ll do it from my own experience and hopefully it’ll help you.

I began my quest with the goal of lucid dreaming. For those of you who aren’t familiar, lucid dreaming is basically the ability to make conscious decisions in your dreams. Pretty cool right? It’s like the ultimate trip. Kawabunga. But in order to get to the point of being able to lucid dream you have to practice. The idea is that you need to become familiar with your dreams and your subconscious; to become aware of this other world that you go to every time you sleep.

One way to do this is to record your dreams in a dream journal. Documenting your dreams is the first step in being an active member in your dream world. After some time keeping your dream journal you might be able to actually “take part” in your dreams. (I have no scientific data to back any of this up, by the way, so just sick back and enjoy the ride.)

So I began my dream journal. Every night I had my notebook and pencil ready to go the moment I woke up. Don’t be fooled, this is a long process that requires some getting used to. It wasn’t easy at first. I often would wake up and totally forget to write down whatever I might have remembered. But after some time I got better at grabbing that notebook and pencil to jot down my psychedelic subconscious immediately after waking up. If you try keeping a dream journal, you’ll find things that work and don’t work for you too. It’s a very personal process and you have to have patience to find what clicks for you.

How does one do this, you might ask? Here’s some tips to start your dream journal adventure:

  1. First you need a notebook and a pen/pencil. No, you can’t use your phone. Just don’t. Paper and pencil are the best bet. Keep them right next to your bed, in arms distance. Like on your nightstand or something. Open the notebook to a fresh page, ready for you to write on.

  2. Meditate a little before going to sleep. Some people say you should focus on the idea that you will be remembering you dreams when you wake up. Like saying to yourself “I will remember my dreams when I wake up.” I’m not so sure this actually works. But what I did find is that a bit of meditation goes a long way. Just focus on your breath. Get into the zone to sleep. Try to let go of the stress of the day and relax.

  3. Sleep. Duh!

  4. When you wake up (and this is the hard part that takes some getting used to) grab your notebook and pencil and write whatever you remember. Doesn’t matter how much or how little you remember. Anything is good. If it’s just one image, write it down. If it’s just a feeling, write it down. If it’s a whole story, write it down! And if you don’t remember anything, whatever! You’ll be sleeping again soon. Also, I found that doing all this with my eyes still closed and moving as little as possible worked the best. The more I moved, the less I remembered.

  5. Repeat! Do this every time you sleep. Make it a ritual.

Some tips to help:

  1. A cool trick I stumbled upon is to set two alarms: The first is set to about an hour before I’m supposed to actually wake up. The second is set to the time I need to wake up to start my day. I found that short bursts of sleep tend to yield best results for vivid dreams, and remembering those dreams. So if you have to wake up at 8am, set an alarm for 7am and 8am. When the 7am alarm goes off, write down your dreams if you remember any, then go back to sleep. When 8am hits you might have a whole new dream to journal! And for me, those little burst dreams have been the most vivid.

  2. Some people say that eating certain foods before sleeping helps too. I haven’t had any noticeable results from this, but maybe I’m just not doing it right. Things like sugary food, maybe some apple juice or some fruits, could help get that imagination going.

  3. Keep this journal religiously! Do this every time you sleep! Try to be diligent about it. The more you do it, then more results you’ll have. Pretty soon you’ll have a dream journal full of some pretty strange stuff!

If anything, this is just a fun thing to do. It might lead to some revelations about yourself, help you solve real world problems, or even inspire stories you’re working on! For me, I’ve discovered themes in my dreams that I never knew existed. Also the imagery tends to be really symbolic and metaphoric, which is super cool and has inspired me to approach some of my own filmmaking in different ways. Plus, like I said before, it’s fun!