"I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind." -- Emily Bronte
For over two years I've been keeping a dream journal, jotting down my dreams every morning. It's been a productive exercise and I encourage every writer to do so.
The very act of writing down my dreams seems to help me remember them more. Sure, there are days when I can't recall what night visions I had -- they were either so abstract and bizarre that I couldn't begin to comprehend where to start recounting them, or I was distracted by other things, and thoughts of my dreams quickly faded away like mist in the rain. But even on such mornings, I still write in the journal. It becomes a routine after a while, like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, writing in your journal. I haven't skipped a day yet.
Some entries are short, just a few words describing a symbol I remembered. Other times, they're more detailed, chronicling lengthy complex dreams, sometimes multiple dreams in one night.
The problem sometimes when writing them down is that I tend to force myself to make sense of them, to make them linear stories, to give them structure and logic, and dreams don't work that way. Most dreams are random and disjointed, not simple and straightforward. I just have to scribble down what I remember, even if it doesn't make sense at first, even if it seems disturbing or confusing.
Going back and reading the entries later is when it becomes helpful. I see the trends, the repetitive themes, the recurring images. Something that I didn't understand before suddenly has new meaning. Sometimes, it's like reading someone else's words, I don't even recall the dreams at all, I just have my written journal entry to remind me.
Keeping a dream journal, I believe, has helped my creativity and my writing. Certain visual tableaux from my dreams have stayed with me and might make their way into future stories of mine. I've even started writing a few specific new stories that were inspired directly from the recent dreams I've had. My anthology of stage plays, Dream Fragments, had its partial origin from nightmares I had as a child.
I've been using the dream journal called Dream Catcher: A Nighttime Journal. It's a sturdy notebook that suits my needs well. But any type of journal will do. Give it a shot. You'll be surprised at how helpful keeping track of your nightly dreams really is. Who knows what fascinating stories from your subconscious you'll remember?