I have cinematic dreams.
People that I have spoken to about them often encourage me to write them down or “you should do something with that.” Sometimes these dreams make themselves into the fiction I write or they end up in the dream journal. My conscious mind writes things out in a particular way and tends to go back to the same words and descriptions and situations and dialogue. Dreams do not work the same way, it is a great way to collect new ideas and perspectives.
For those who have asked, or who are interested, I am sharing my process, here is how it works.
I keep a large legal pad at the side of my bed, with a reliable pen and a night light that is bright enough to see what I am writing. I go to bed, sleep and dream. If I wake up directly at the close of the dream, I try and remember as far back toward the beginning of the dream as possible and grab the pad and scribble down notes. First broad stroke type of references and then drilling down to more detail. So for instance, the first round might look like:
Ashland, Murder, Harrison Ford and Z. Quinto in a convertible/red, OSF, AHS style strange sets, bright neon, hot librarian in a bathtub (bubble) kitten, supermodel/Slavic witches, door wormhole, broken toilet, blue keyhole pattern in floor…
The second round is full sentences, adding details before they are gone.
Bathroom attended has spiky blonde hair and buggy eyes, visual of eyes through the blue keyhole shapes in bathroom floor. As toilet is busted, you need to use the blue keyholes instead. Hot librarian LOVES her kitten. Always in a robe or the bubble bath. Red hair. Horny theatre students. Falstaff play. People keep getting murdered. Hitchhiking picked up by red convertible by Quinto and Ford. I am looking for work. End dream: country walk with supermodel (Minka Kelly) herky-jerky motion on a fence, like bad fx.
This is pure stream of consciousness notetaking; trying to get as much detail as you can before it has slipped away. It does not need to make narrative sense, it is a dream after all. You then review all the notes and add further detail as it floats in.
The last step is to write it all down in order. And then edit the thing for public consumption (or not if you wish to keep it for yourself).
From the sample notes above, the final published draft can be seen at:
There is no great secret, like going to bed at a specific time, or eating weird things before going to sleep. The most important thing is to go to bed at all. Because when you sleep, you dream. Sometimes I have bouts of insomnia – so no dreams come on those nights, but if I manage to drift off just as the sun is coming up, I might get a little dreaming in.
With practice and intent, it gets easier. When I started this blog project and happened to have a couple really great, vivid dreams I resolved to try and make it a regular thing. The more I do, the easier it gets … both on the level of retaining detail and writing it out the next day.
Do you have your own technique for dream journaling? Please share in the comments below.