Writing the dream: my experiences with dream journaling

November 6, 2023 — by Florence Wei
Graphic by Amelia Chang
“Inspired by my dreams under the moonlight, I write!”
Don’t sleep on this great method of creating ideas!

As I drift to sleep every night, my mind becomes a canvas for the most vivid and whimsical imagery. Sometimes, bunnies cavort among clouds in a crimson sky. The sun comes out at midnight, and I become a dragon facing off a knight clad in gunpowder-gray armor. Other times, it’s simply a vision of grass that grows too long or a river that flows too far. I can’t get these scenes from anywhere other than the depths of my slumber.

As a creative writer, I try to cling to ideas and images. When I wake up from a dream, I rummage around the desk for my phone and hurriedly jot everything down. Before the contents of my dream fade to mist, I squeeze my brain out of everything that I remember. Words spill onto my Notes App, and I don’t stop typing until every thought is off of my mind. 

After everything is dumped from my head, I sift out the most precious ideas with the best potential for stories. Historically, many well-known works, including Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” originated in dreams.

I once dreamed of a doctor who didn’t know what he was doing. I filled in the missing pieces with conscious ideas while I was awake, and with each golden thought, I refined the nugget into a gold coin. Along with my dreamscape, I imagined ethical concerns from real life. My final idea: The doctor uses artificial intelligence to treat patients, but it backfires on him in the end.

At first, I thought the idea of dream journaling was useless — who even wants to hear about something so nonsensical? Now, it’s become a necessary habit for me to overcome writer’s block.

Before dream journaling, I had a long period of writer’s block. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t develop any ideas to form a good story. In this struggle, I discovered tons of ideas through dreams.

Even though my writer’s block has worn off now, I still tap into my dreams for source material. If I am not motivated to write in the morning, at least I can do something with my free time when I sleep. Writing is simply much easier when I steal ideas from my dreams.

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