Check out the rest of this mini-series if you’ve missed the previous sessions!

Part One: Introduction to Journaling

Part Two: Nature Writing

Part Three: Travel Writing

dream journal
Cats are so cuddly!

The Dream Journal

Dream diaries tend to be a very personal form of journaling. They are a record of the unconscious mind; the idea here is that, upon waking in the morning, you write down the dreams you had while you were sleeping. Often these journals are organized by a dating system to log exactly when the dreams occurred. Sometimes these entries will also be accompanied with extra information to give suggestions for why certain dreams may or may not have risen to the surface of the unconscious mind.

The extra information could include the type and time that food or drink was consumed the night before, the activity level that the person engaged in the day before, their geographical location (if they are at home or are traveling), any stressors which may have influenced dreams, and the emotional mindset of the person before falling asleep.

This style of journaling, because it is such a private document, can be written in many styles. Some people prefer to write in point form or just one or two sentences to trigger their memory of the dream. Other people like to write lengthy, detailed descriptions of their dreams. If you do not tend to remember your dreams, you may find that you will only have the vaguest recollections of your dreams. If, on the other hand, your dreams are vivid and you remember them with intimate details, you may find it more beneficial to write in a very specific manner.

Why keep a dream journal?

The main reason that people will keep a dream journal is so that they can learn something about their unconscious mind from the dream. There are many dream dictionaries that you can buy at bookstores which suggest that certain parts of our dreams have symbolic associations and meaning for our waking lives. Colors, people in our dreams, the shapes and objects within them, and our feelings and mood all could have significance.

When you keep a record in a dream journal, the more frequent that you write in it, the more vivid your dreams will become. You will find that you are able to recollect more and more from your dreams upon waking. You may be able to not only learn something about yourself from the dreams, but you might find that you are even able to control what happens in the dreams as you continue to write about them. For these purposes, it is best to keep the diary and a pen right beside your bed so that you can write them down as quickly as possible when you wake up. Even a minute of scrambling for a pen and paper in the morning can contribute to forgetting a good portion of your dream.

The drawback to recording a dream journal is that if you have nightmares, you may not necessarily find a way to make them stop. Recording the nightmares and analyzing them with a dream dictionary could only result in the nightmares becoming more strongly vivid, causing restlessness and difficulty in both falling and staying asleep.

I myself am subject to nightmares, and after years of keeping dream journals, I would advise against it to anyone else who also suffers from bad dreams and poor sleep. It might be that you will find the solution to ridding yourself of the nightmares, but I found that for myself, the act of recording my dreams and analyzing the dreams intensified them rather than helped them to go away. This is certainly not desirable!

Dream diaries are an entirely personal form of journaling, but for novelists then can be highly useful as triggers for ideas. Even for non-writers, dream diaries can be a good way to learn more about yourself and to get in touch with your unconscious mind.

Do you keep a dream journal? What have you discovered from recording your dreams? Share in the comments section below!

Start recording your dreams: