Some sound, if neglected, writing advice

People often ask me for writing advice, and they’re surprised when the first thing I tell them is to keep a dream journal… keeping a dream journal is perfectly sound, if neglected, writing advice ~Andrew Blackman on writetodone

This extract is from a blog post I read last week which had me punching the air – yes! The author says even people who don’t normally remember their dreams can become dream-recallers through practice. He recommends

  • recording whatever you can remember immediately upon waking
  • not trying to judge or analyse your dreams

Then he outlines the advantages for authors in keeping a dream journal, which boil down to inspiration, breaking through blocks and seeing the world differently.

I couldn’t have put it better, but there are a few things I might add about the dream journal itself.

My two most recent journals - they have to look and feel beautiful!
My two most recent journals – they have to look and feel beautiful!

When I first started recording my dreams over forty years ago, I wrote them in school exercise books, just the dreams, packed together with no extra content except the date. I’m not knocking it – that’s all you need in order to establish great dream-recall.

Then I studied dream interpretation using the Western psychological model, and began to include some brief details about what was going on in my waking life, so in effect my journal recorded two parallel lives, waking and dreaming. This threw up some real insights into how both dreams and waking life work, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if you’re looking to use your dreams as a creative resource.

Interpreting comes naturally with experience, in the same way as experience of life deepens our understanding, but if we approach dreams with this primary focus it’s easy to lose the bigger picture. Understanding dreams only as expressions of the waking life would be like understanding every piece of fiction you write as autobiography. It might be, but if you examine that too closely you can lose sight of the story and its own life.

My diaries have evolved: dreams, drawings, bits stuck in...
My diaries have evolved: dreams, drawings, bits stuck in…

Gradually, my dream journals have evolved so that although the core of them is my daily record of my dreams, and brief notes about events and preoccupations in my waking like, I’m also recording lots of other stuff such as

  • thoughts and observations that have engaged me during the day
  • sketches
  • plans
  • story ideas
  • tarot readings
  • notes on books I’m reading
  • quotations
  • scraps of paper stuck in with cellotape if I’ve jotted ideas down when I’m away from the house

This may sound like a mess, but it’s actually rather lovely, because I use different colour gel pens for the various different kinds of entry.

It may also sound like a major commitment of time but it isn’t. The only regular writing I do is the dreams – all the rest is random, and I’d be doing it anyway, only previously it was scattered about in various nooks and notebooks.

Pulling it all together means it adds up to a rich and satisfying record of my life, both inner and outer, which seems to provide a rich seed-bed in which my various writing projects can easily root and grow.

2 thoughts on “Some sound, if neglected, writing advice”

  1. This is really interesting! I’ve kept a dream journal for a number of years but will now start adding details of what is happening in my waking life.

  2. I think you’ll like it – just record whatever feels instinctive, as much or as little as you like, and soon patterns begin to emerge 🙂

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