I had a dream — and so did you. Whether we remember them or not, dreams are an integral part of normal sleep. Dreams have rich potential for lifewriters and memoirists, but this resource is seldom tapped. In fact, this resource is seldom even remembered. But considering that the average person spends about two hours a night dreaming (that adds up to something like six years total over an average lifespan), our dream life is definitely worth further exploration for the insight it can provide. and including dream content in stories can add poignancy to our writing.
If you write about your dreams at all (sleeping or otherwise), your probably do it in a journal. Journal therapists frequently urge people to keep a special journal by their bedside to record dreams as soon as they wake. With practice and firm intention, it becomes easier to remember dreams and record the key components. Since ancient times people have been curious about what their dreams meant. Information on dream interpretation abounds in print and on the Internet, but in the final analysis, it’s your dream, and it’s your analysis that counts.
I find that journaling about a dream usually leads into writing further thoughts on the dream topic, and a page or two of this kind of freewriting often clears up ambiguities in my thinking about all sorts of things. I’m not an avid dream journaler, but I have begun to remember and record them more often and definitely recommend the process
While dream journals are not uncommon, few people take advantage of the depth and richness dreams can add to stories. Linda Joy Myers, president of NAMW (the National Association of Memoir Writers) begins her memoir, Don’t Call Me Mother, with a dream about riding on a train. That dream is a powerful image and draws readers into the story like a magnet. Linda Joy references that dream often as she develops the story, using it as a sort of metaphor for her relationship with her mother and a cornerstone of her story.
A conference speaker I heard awhile back (I wish I remembered who she was so I could give her credit), had a fascinating observation about dreams: nobody can argue with the truth of a dream because they aren’t “real” to begin with. So, she advised us, “If you have some difficult truth to tell, consider using a dream to tell it.” An audible gasp went up from the room at the thought that she was recommending fabricating dreams! Some were horrified; others were stunned at the cleverness of this solution.
Since there is no scientifically definitive explanation of what a dream is or the purpose it serves, dreams can legitimately be whatever we want or need them to be. For example, day dreams are dreams. We have hopes and dreams. So if we dream of a certain circumstance, whatever the time we envision, is that any less real as a dream? If I had any doubts before, they were resolved that day. You can always use some disclaimer like, “Did I dream that?” Or, “As I awoke, I recalled a dream about riding the train ... ." As I thought about the dream, I realized that (this certain circumstance) was a lot like that...” Or perhaps some unfolding event “took on the surreal quality of a dream...”
At the bottom line, dreams are the ideal solution for ducking disputes about the accuracy of imagination and expressing the way you wish things had been. Given the amount of time you spend having them, don’t you think your dreams deserve more attention and space in your writing?
Write now: start a dream journal or log. It doesn’t have to be fancy — a small spiral notebook, or even loose sheets of paper kept in a folder, and use a dream as the basis of a story or story segment.