I've always been a vivid dreamer. In fact, much of my life, I've looked forward to going to sleep just to see what kinds of intricate, exciting and unbelievable dreams my brain will conjure up (my favorites are the ones where I can fly!). Being pregnant has only heightened those dreams and made them even crazier! But I'm always so frustrated when I try to remember the dream later in the day, sometimes even just minutes after I've woken up, only to have completely forgotten it.
This pregnancy, I decided to start keeping a journal of my dreams to see where my mind wandered in the unconscious. A dream journal is a journal where you can write down anything and everything you remember from your dreams. It's been an interesting study, and one that I can see now can be used to inspire all sorts of creativity.
In the past few months, I've been chased by alligators through a shopping mall, beaten off burglars in my bedroom, climbed a ladder to the top of a tower for my sister-in-law's birthday party, had dinner with Will Smith, saw my unborn baby through my transparent belly, went ice-skating over a snow-covered swimming pool full of furniture, and stressed out about having bought office supplies that were laced with drugs. Frankly, I'm glad my real life isn't quite THAT exciting, but it sure is fun to be transported every night into a new reality with a brand new story-line.
Although my journal entries are often as broken and confusing as the dreams were themselves, when I read them later, even those one-word stream-of-consciousness (or unconsciousness in this case) notes trigger my memory and bring me right back to the dream. Since I've been keeping my journal, I've found that I've remembered so many more of my dreams, and I'm glad to have them written down.
You can keep a dream journal in any form you want: composition notebook, spiral-bound notebook, large 8 1/2" x 11" or small 5" x 7", lined, blank, bound, stapled, truly any form you like that inspires you to write.
Note: The Zutter Bind-it-All is a great product for creating your own custom spiral-bound album with any papers and materials you like!
In my case, I've found that a small spiral-bound lined-paper notebook and a pen kept on my nightstand is the most productive way to get my dreams written down right away. I used to keep my journal at my desk, but even in the 10 minutes it takes me to go from my bed to my desk in the mornings, I'd often forgotten my dreams and my mind would already be refilled with all kinds of to-do lists and plans for the day. Once I moved the notebook to my nightstand, I was able to reach over, write down the dreams (in terrible handwriting, I might add, since I was barely conscious) before I even sat up for the morning. That seemed to be the best option for maximum recollection.
Originally, I tried writing down my dreams in chronological order and complete sentences, and tried to fill in gaps where I couldn't remember specific details. I gave that up quickly and now just jot down notes, phrases, words, and descriptions as they came to me. I seem to be able to remember more details when I don't try to use my conscious mind to fill in the gaps (which with dreams are inevitable). Don't worry about being grammatically correct or coherent as you write. Often, once you've written down all the trigger words and little tidbits you remember, the big picture of the dream will come together.
In addition to writing down words and phrases, sentences and descriptions, you might also try drawing pictures (however rudimentary they are) to help display the things you saw and experienced in your dream.
I found these tips helpful for dream recording from the book A Dictionary of Dream Symbols by Eric Ackroyd:
- Write the day and date at the top of the page before you go to sleep. This is an outward expression of your serious intention to take note of your dreams.
- Using the present tense in your recordings helps you to relive the dream more vividly.
- Record your dreams in as much detail as possible. Make note of colors, shapes, direction of movement, placement of items, numbers, seasons, or anything that you can recall.
In addition to your while-you-were-sleeping dreams, you could also record your daydreams (ever watch Scrubs or Ally McBeal?) or fantasies or life-long dreams and goals in the same notebook. Make sure to differentiate between the types of dreams. You might not remember years from now how that idea popped into your head!
Now that your dreams are recorded and you have a beautifully designed notebook to keep them in, how can all this dream information be used? There are several options. You might want to explore dream interpretation with the help of books and online sources such as The Online Guide to Dream Interpretation. Maybe you want to use your dreams as kick-starts to writing stories, creating pieces of art, or even designing scrapbook pages. You could design an inspiration album based purely on your dreams. Or, perhaps you just want a journal of your unconscious mind to record a totally unique part of who you are.
It's been a fun study for me during my pregnancy, and I imagine I'll try to keep writing down my dreams...because even as I leaf through my notebook now, I'm reminded of funny moments, crazy plots, and even scary encounters that I would never have remembered otherwise.