I have always dreamt prolifically and have good recall. As a young girl I had three reoccurring nightmares that involved me waking at the point of gruesome death – salt water filling my lungs, flames engulfing my body or impact with a high-speed train. Although they became less frequent, they went on for many years. As a teen I enjoyed looking up the meanings of my crazy night-time trips in popular dream dictionaries – I had a glossy hard-backed one from Woolworths. As an adult I’ve worked on a deeper level, writing up my experiences and actually setting intention to purposefully journey in dreamscape (this gets easier with practice).
If you wake in the night from a dream, especially if it’s disturbing, then you can direct yourself back into sleep – use your imagination to point the last images into a new direction which is often taken up by your subconscious. The crucial advice I would give for morning recall is to not move the body in any way when you wake and to gently tease the memory as if pulling slowly on a fine thread. If you try too hard they seem to vanish. Once you’ve got it clearly you can write down the bones of it. I rarely write an entire dream unless it plays like a film which they sometimes do. Then it might be something that can be molded into a good story. Generally I make note of any specifics and the overall feeling. However you chose to record, what you are doing is writing and thinking creatively as soon as you wake up. That habit can often spill into the day flooding it with productivity. These ways of dream work take practice. I do this for periods when I want to gain insight or find writing ideas, but not all the time as the active process can sometimes disturb relaxing sleep.
I started writing my own dream dictionary which has the benefit of being personal to me and therefore accurate. Symbols can have very altered meanings for different people. I use a thick notebook with an A to Z and write down every creature, object, or incident that I dream, then unpack what it means to me both personally, with any accompanying emotions, and any generic meaning. Over the years this book has developed into an excellent tool on many levels. It enables me to understand my subconscious world more and it helps with creative writing by expanding possibilities for plot lines and character studies. I find if I write what my characters are dreaming about then they gain complexity. It’s a useful way of foreshadowing events to come. Having access to the wilds of dreaming can benefit a fantasy or dystopian genre by allowing you to stretch your imagination further.
At one time I used to make dream catchers – willow hoops woven into webs with metallic thread, studded with beads or quartz chips, decorated with found feathers from my hens or from buzzards up on the Iron Age fort near me. Perhaps it stemmed from my own night horrors – I was drawn to the idea of dark spirits and black dreams being trapped, leaving the dreamer safe.
“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy. ” Ray Charles
“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” Virginia Woolf
“Life, what is it but a dream? ” Lewis Carroll