Like all creative practices, there are many valid ways to get the job done, and what works best for me might not work best for you. Feel free to take what you need from this list, and tailor the rest to your own style.
LET’S GET ORGANIZED
Organization is key to keeping up a daily journaling practice, especially if you also keep a diary of waking life. We have two opposing ways to juggle multiple journals: keep everything in the same book, or keep separate books for everything. I’ve tried it all, and I side hard with the multiple-books approach.
Here’s why: it’s good to bullet notes on every dream you can remember, whether or not you plan to revisit them (with a couple exceptions I’ll get to in a future post on handling troubling dreams). It can be hard to gauge what’s meaningful right away, and recording everything helps you remember your dreams in greater detail. In time, you’ll recall multiple dreams per night, and they won’t all be compelling. That makes for a lot of subconscious noise in your diaries.
If you consolidate all your journals, your book can get overrun with dreams like weeds in a garden, to the point that it becomes hard to find specific entries when you need them. I recently lost three hours combing through hundreds of pages of old dreams, in search of one page of notes I needed to reference for a book draft. That sucked. Don’t be me.
Even re-reading diaries for pleasure can feel tiresome if you constantly ping-pong between waking and dreaming material. Keeping things separate lends a continuity of tone that makes it more enjoyable to browse back over your journals, and easier to find stuff.
If you like all your writings in one place, you can keep separate files for dreaming and daily diaries within a single computer folder, or keep divided tabs in a single binder or multi-subject notebook.
2. Title Your Dreams
Give each dream a title or keyword heading so you can more easily find (or avoid) particular dreams as you scan through your journal. Include trigger warnings in your titles if you need them. Titles and keywords can also help you track recurring dream imagery and, if desired, look for patterns.
3. Make An Index
This sounds so type-A it’s tough to swallow, but ever since I started bullet journaling, I’ve wished I’d put indexes in all my journals since always and forever. It takes so little effort for what you get back in time saved later.
If you journal for any creative or intuitive process, this step is your new best friend. You’ll want to review your writings periodically, and you will find yourself looking for particular entries down the line.
If you keep a physical book, leave a few pages at the beginning for your index. Pencil 2-3 columns per page, depending on the size of the paper and your handwriting. Number each page as you go. No need to kill your hands numbering a book’s worth of pages in advance. After each entry, flip back to your index and record the page number, date, and dream title. It’s even easier in a text file: set page numbers when you start a new document, and keep your index at the end of your writings.
Adding an index to your dream journal should cost about 30 seconds per entry, and can save you hours when you need to look back for something specific. Indexing also helps if you need to reference a dream in your other notebooks.
4. Date Everything
Dating your journal entries has obvious organizational benefits, but it’s downright vital if you’re dreaming for intuitive development. You need a clear timeline to scan your dreams for intuitive or predictive symbolism. Not everyone records their dreams for these purposes, but if you do, make sure you date and time your dreams. It’s the only way to track what you saw and heard in your dreams relative to what you saw and heard in waking life with integrity.
Depending on your intuitive goals and practices, you might note other conditions with your date and time, like weather, moon phase and sign, and other astrological details.
5. Leave Room For New Notes
You’ll likely have dreams that resonate only with hindsight. If you use a physical notebook, leave a little room below each dream entry for future notes.
Gauge how much room to leave by how sticky, evocative, moving, or confusing a dream feels. You might not leave any space below repeats of the same office stress dream you’ve already had a million times, whereas you might leave half a page for future notes below anything that haunts you in a way you’ll want to revisit.
6. Prep To Get Sketchy
Dreams are visual critters, and sometimes it’s quicker and easier to sum up a dream with a picture or diagram than with words. If you’re a doodler, consider keeping your dream journal in an unlined sketchbook, so you can easily blend text and pictures.
Don’t worry about whether you’re “good” at drawing. Your dream journal is for your eyes alone. All it has to do is prompt memories and communicate the themes of your dreams back to you. Drawing is a wonderful tool for this, no matter what your skill level is. You can also use collage and scrapbooking if that’s your thing. Let your journal speak to you visually, as your dreams do.
I type most of my journals now to save my hands for more illustration. If you keep a digital dream journal, add any dream sketches to your regular sketchbooks, and note the corresponding page number and dream title in the corner of each dream sketch. You can add snapshots of your dream sketches into your text file, but this will make your file massive and slow to load and scroll over time, so I don’t recommend it if you sketch often. Better to add a “see sketchbook” note at the end of any dream description with a corresponding sketch. Date your sketchbook entries so you can find your dream sketches.
Thank for reading and be well!