Writing Down Your Dreams: Suggestions for Keeping a Dream Journal

"Remember, kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down." Adam Savage, Mythbusters

Many dream journalers would never consider their practice as "science," but we can all benefit from the analogy with gathering data for further study. Because in order to do dream work, one must actually record one's dreams. This can be more problematic than it seems. First of all, dreams happen while we are sleeping, not while we are attentively taking notes or sitting at our keyboards. How to solve this dilemma? Here are some practices that will help.

First, place paper and pen -- or any recording instruments -- right next to you, within arm's reach, when you go to bed at night. Dreams are fleeting things, and the sooner you can start recording them, the better. And, especially if you are just starting, give yourself this suggestion at bedtime: "I'm going to be able to remember my dreams tonight and put them into words."

For anyone who writes in the dark,an illuminated pen is a handy thing to have, especially for those who share their sleeping quarters. Some dreamers select bound books of blank paper to record their dreams, and may even choose archival quality, acid free paper. Others just buy spiral notebooks or loose-leaf notebook paper that they then keep in three ring binders. These options allow you to save extra materials such as photos, news clips, or correspondence in pockets or plastic sheet protectors.

Some dreamers just use any scrap paper at hand because they then enter their dreams into their computers from their notes and print them out. Some may skip paper altogether, maintaining all their dream files electronically. Whatever you decide to try, make sure that you are maximizing accessibility.

When dreams waken us in the night, we are often tempted to fall back to sleep, believing that we will remember the details in the morning. Unfortunately this is rarely the case, and a fact of dream life that we all have to accommodate -- our memories just don't work as well when we're dreaming as when we're awake. As much as possible, record your dreams as soon as you can, even if it's the middle of the night. If writing an entire account is beyond you, record key words about the dream that will help to bring it back to consciousness in the morning.

Some people ask how to date their dreams. Dreams take place when one day is yielding to another, so it's not always easy to decide on which date a dream occurred. Whether you decide to give your dreams the date of the night you fell asleep or of the morning you woke up, it is best to be consistent and keep to one or the other.

When recording a dream, keep the account in the present tense. "We are driving to France," helps to keep you in the dream and able to recall more detail, whereas "we drove to France" leaves the action behind you, in the past. Then if possible, make up a title for your dream. If none comes to mind, take the most vivid image of the dream and use it; for example, "Bowl of Fire." If no images stand out, you can just use the first few words of the account, such as "Waiting at the airport." A title will help you to remember a dream at a glance, rather than having to read the entire account, and provides a means for you to review your dreams in the long term. You can even create a table of contents for a set of dreams, such as a year's worth, by titles and dates.

Many dreamers provide other details in their dream records, such as the time of the dream; their location at the time (important for those who travel); and their associations with the elements of the dream. It's a good idea to leave extra space after a dream, for more may come to light in the future. Precognition, déjà vu experiences and other synchronicities are only some of the possibilities. For, over time, a dream journal becomes a body of work that reflects not only the individual circumstances of any one dream, but a rich and multi-faceted history of personal psychic process.

-- Cynthia Pearson

Long Term Journal Keeping

Copyright 2017 Cynthia Pearson