A Noctuary for Your Thoughts
n.1. A record of what passes in the night; a nightly journal; – distinguished from diary.
If you could see the future, would you write it down to remember? If you could see the past, would it be important to record it? If you saw honestly, would you want it inscribed, so it would last forever? If you could record your dreams, would you?
The answer, for me, is a resounding yes to all of these questions. But then comes the next question, why? Why would you want to record your dreams?
A noctuary is a dream journal. It is a place where ideas flow onto the page uninhibited. This inspirational concept has played a very important role in my creative life for the last five years. I am nearing the end of my seventh volume of my dream journals. I began keeping a record of dreams in 2010. For these noctuaries, I use a hardcover sketchbook (Canson 8.5″ x 11″). This gives me room to write on each page, front and back, for 9-12 months. I dream frequently, so having a dedicated place to record these dreams aids me in my creative disciplines.
How Does a Dream Journal Help with Writing?
The discipline required to hold a dream in your conscious mind as you wake, open a journal, and record it quickly, develops a keen understanding of the nature of creativity.
The dreaming mind does not fear the white page. Every opportunity to create and observe is met with anticipation.
There are bouts of supreme inspiration, when everything in the universe seems to align and make sense. And there are times when all is doldrums, and nothing seems interesting. The key to unlocking creativity is simply putting pencil to paper.
In addition to recording dreams, I also write down my brainstorming on creative projects in the journal. At the top of every entry I write the date and the broad topic, such as “Oz Brainstorming”, or “Angels and Dreamers Brainstorming”, or any other project that I have on my slate. This enables me to quickly see what the page is dedicated to so that I can find things when I need them.
As I was writing Emerald Spectacles (The Hidden History of Oz, Book Three), I transcribed my notes from the creative journal. This amounted to about thirty pages of typewritten text. This was the genesis of the novel. Once I had the notes on the page, I set about organizing them. Clipping here, pasting there, adding additional notes for thematic improvement. When that was done, I broke it into chapters, and I started writing. It took about 15 months of writing, but the book was published in March 2015. It would not have happened in that short a time frame without the aid of a creative journal at my side for the months and months of brainstorming beforehand.
Making Your Dreams Trust You
I believe that dreams have power to change lives. There is a fine line between dreaming and waking. Most people blow through that barrier in their hurry to get on with their day. Fewer are the dreamers that seek to capture the ephemeral threads from the twilit realm where imagination resides.
Recording a dream as it exists in your memory is vital. If you try to make sense of it, the dream will rewrite itself in your mind according to waking logic. It doesn’t matter if the jugglers in the circus organized by Weird Al Yankovic can’t really juggle as they debate tax law (actual dream I recorded on May 31, 2015), or the duct tape won’t keep the pterydactyl’s bill closed. What does it mean? I don’t know, but it is interesting. Looking back, it still doesn’t make sense, but that’s not the important part.
The important part of recording my dreams is proving that I am open to the ideas as they come. This is invaluable as I work on writing my creative stories. Thoughts may pop into my head and race through my fingers ‘ere my conscious mind is aware. When this happens, it generally stops me in my tracks and doesn’t make sense. However, the idea has imprinted itself on the page, and the story has spoken. If it doesn’t fit here, it will fit somewhere else.
One of the greatest feelings as a writer is seeing how the story fits together with the disparate pieces that leaped from my subconscious and planted themselves on the page. The Ah-Ha moment when things fit, and the story becomes that much more clear. It makes the challenges of writing worth the effort.
What do your dreams do for you? Do you keep a creative journal? Sound off in the comments below.