Dreaming on the Page

Some days, recording dreams in my journal feels as unnatural as saving nail clippings or strands of hair caught in my comb. Wouldn’t it be healthier to rinse dream residue away in the shower each morning, rather than gather each one in notebooks that collect in my already overstuffed closets and basement?

I tend to revisit this question when packing to move, or when I need extra storage space for winter clothes and I’m confronted by the accretion of nearly a half-century’s worth of journals, each one probably half full of dreams, crowding my shelves and overflowing from storage bins. But I continue to write down dreams, and keep my journals, in part because the first and firmest thing we learn (and that I teach) in any dream workshop is the importance of writing dreams down.

Plus, I’m a writer. And judging from the frequency with which dreams appear between the covers of books, they are particularly valuable to literary sorts. Poetry, fiction, and memoir abound with accounts of dreams, and writers regularly attest to the fact that some of their best ideas arose from dreams. Plots may turn on the appearance of a protagonist’s dream and crucial information about characters’ inner-lives is often communicated through their dreams.

Writing, I have found, acts as a bridge between the conscious terrain of the literate mind and the subconscious realms of the dreaming mind. Making these distant shores accessible to one another opens possibilities for cross-fertilization that enrich us on all levels. And as writers, when we are literate in the language of dreams (symbol, metaphor, image, and emotion), we gain access to fonts of understanding, imagination, and information that are immeasurably valuable to our craft.

But in case you’re still not convinced that it’s worthwhile to place a notebook and pen or pencil by your bed, read on.

5 good reasons writers should record their dreams

  1. Know thyself. Journaling dreams helps you better understand yourself from the inside out. Which in turn helps you understand your characters better, brings deeper empathy to your work, and makes you an all-around more interesting writer.
  2. Write regularly—and better. Building the habit of writing dreams each morning is a great way to build writing into your everyday routine.
  3. Never have to scratch for ideas again. As you record dreams in your journal, you are creating an encyclopedia of plots, landscapes, characters, themes, and ideas you can return to any time. You will never again have to begin a story, essay, or poem from scratch.
  4. Build a better relationship. As you interact with the raw and complex narrative structure of the storytelling subconscious mind on a regular basis, you build a relationship to your inner narrator. Over time you develop confidence in your ability to dream into a story any time of day.
  5. Tone your metaphoric muscles. The metaphor-making part of our mind is highly activated when we’re dreaming. Writing dreams is a great way to build flex our literary muscles, including those that help us create metaphors and similes.

© 2021 Tzivia Gover

For more on dreams and writing, see these posts:

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