why keep a dream diary

Published: essays

Since so far I've mostly been using this site as a place to dump my dream diary archives, I thought I'd take some time to mull over what makes keeping one so compelling to me.

art installation of lighted discs

This won't be a particularly structured argument or anything, just some odds and ends as to why. I will probably revisit this to make it a bit less of a rough draft in the future.

The reason I first started keeping a dream diary was much the same reason as anyone else these does, which was that it is the first step on the way to learning how to lucid dream. I've managed that once or twice, and while it was a beautiful experience, I honestly haven't felt the strong desire to wrangle hold of my dreams in that way since I started keeping it.

I find that I like to see what my subconscious mind generates on its own, as it is usually very interesting. I like seeing the patterns and recurring locations in my dreams and mulling over what they could indicate, though in all honesty I have not dug very deeply into this either. I do not buy into the one-size-fits-all-get-your-symbology-here pop psych stuff, though I do think there is something going on beneath the surface. I enjoy Jung's writing on dreams, my friend lent me a copy of Jung's "red book" a while ago, which records his attempt at self-actualization through recording and deciphering his dreams. It is very literally a real life dream-quest. I found it so laden with imagery that it was quite difficult to read much at a time, but I'll probably be making another attempt in a while. If anyone can make heads or tails of some of my dreams, I'm all ears for any interpretations.

Anyways, why do I do this now? Well first off as stated above, it is just fun. You spend so much of your time asleep and yet its possible to let it fallow, keeping a dream diary is a way of getting both enjoyment and some form of meaning from sleep. Remembering dreams is actually a skill you can develop. The main means to do so is to make yourself recall as much detail as you can from your dreams. This basically creates a feedback loop in your brain where it says "oh, I should be remembering this."

You can technically just spend some time meditating on your dreams after waking up, but I find that details often lead to other details when writing. It is much easier to meander through a dream in this way. I find myself surprised, again and again, at how I can pull on that one little thread of a dream that I still feel vaguely floating in front of myself in the morning hypnagogic haze and find a whole story spill out.

In a similar way to a drawing reference, dreams provide wonderful raw material for writing. It is nigh-on impossible to capture the full essence of a dream, but the attempt itself helps to improve and hone my writing. I get to fully leave aside that part of writing where you must generate the ideas themselves, and dive right into sketching, and roughly sculpting out the prose. I quite enjoy doing this. Generally, I am writing on a phone journal while still lying down in bed, as that is where I best remember the dream. It is much more enjoyable than going through the usual phone-check motions when waking up, and really helps me warm myself up for the day better. It is nice to start the day with this sort of meditative ritual, one that feels self-observant. Sometimes, it makes it very obvious why I feel off-center, or calm, or excited when I wake up. Other times it's an interesting window into myself.

I'll probably do some writing on more specific parts of my dreams later on, perhaps after I have a better hold on how to interpret them on a higher level.