I have a lot of dreams, which I usually remember for a little while after I wake up – and then they start fading away. Many mornings I wake up pulled from a really good dream, and then spend some time trying to fall back asleep so I can get back into my dream.
Not that this usually works. But it’s worth a try, and on the odd occasion I do manage to find my way back to the dream, it’s so good.
But one thing I’ve never really done consistently is write down my dreams. I’ve had dreams that were just so epic (and I really mean “epic”, not as in “awesome” but an actual epic) I absolutely had to write them down. But those have been far and few in between.
All this changed early last week, when The Art of Neil Gaiman inspired me to start a dreambook.
I’m nearing the end of this book, a biography of Neil by Hayley Campbell. It’s really good, because it’s based not only on interviews with Neil but also on the trunkloads of papers and notebooks he keeps up in the attic of his house. A real treasure trove for fans (although I must admit to finding his handwriting difficult to decipher!).
And in one section of the book, there is a spread from a few of his dream diaries:
A few pages later, Neil had this to say about his dream diaries:
When I was writing Sandman I would occasionally steal imagery from my dreams, almost never got plots, but occasionally images were incredibly useful. And to this day if there’s a dream that’s just sort of affecting emotionally, I’ll write it down. Which was something I learned to do while I was doing Sandman.
… I would write them down partly because you’d never know what was going to be useful in retrospect, or what might be important in retrospect. Which isn’t to say that I ever went back and reread them, but it is to say some of the time the action of writing stuff down moves it from this weird box in your head of stuff that will evaporate … it moves it from being written in melting snow, to being written onto paper. In terms of the boxes of your mind things are in, it’s changed. (emphasis added)
This really called out to me. … some of the time the action of writing stuff down moves it from this weird box in your head of stuff that will evaporate it. I’ve experienced that fading of a really good dream so many times, and I really liked the idea of moving my dreams out of that weird box in my head where stuff evaporates.
So the next morning, I woke up from a good dream, and thought to myself, no time like now to start, right? So I popped into my office and grabbed a blank notebook, then sat up in bed and jotted down all the bits of the dream I wanted to remember. I don’t have the book in front of me right now, and despite my writing it down, I couldn’t tell you at all what it was about. But it’s there now, on paper, and if I ever get a moment when I get curious about the first dream I wrote down in my dreambook, I’ll be able to go back and read it.
Not to say the whole writing-down-your-dreams-in-the-morning thing has been going smoothly since I started. For the three or four mornings after I jotted down that first dream, I had such mundane dreams. One of them was about going to a BBQ at my sister’s place (and coincidentally, I was going to a BBQ at my sister’s place later that day). I did jot down a dream in which I was merely an observer, although it wasn’t particularly exciting. It was basically an Anne of Green Gables scene, plotted from beginning to end, set in modern times with a totally different but still sufficiently Anne-ish girl.
And then I had a night when insomnia hit me, and there were no dreams the morning after that!
Still, this feels like a good habit to me, so I’ll keep on doing it for the fun of it.
How about you? Do you remember your dreams? Do you write them down in a dream journal or a notebook?