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Skin Tones in Watercolor
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To Sleep Perchance to Dream
News for January
Journaling Your Dreamsby Jennifer Broschinsky
I can't count how many times Iíve awakened from the most interesting dream only to have it escape me as the droning buzz of my alarm started me thinking about the day ahead. I'd go through my routine getting glimpses of my dream... a sound or smell would remind me of snippets, or someone would say something that would jog my memory, but usually the whole dream would be gone. I got fed up, and started a trial-and-error effort to remember my interesting dreams through journaling. Hopefully what I learned can help you.
First off, I am an artist and erstwhile writer, not a sleep scientist. (I'm an "armchair scientist" at best... I'm interested, I read the National Geographic, I watch PBS documentaries... but that's as close to an original source as I usually get.) But I have very vivid dreams.
I realized early on how useful dreams can be to creativity, story-building, and art, and I wanted to remember them to use later. Besides, my dreams were very entertaining and I just wanted to share them. I mean, I got to fly, ride dinosaurs, transform into dragons, and Ė for heavenís sake Ė be a Jedi Knight! Thatís exciting stuff!
How to remember
The first thing I did was start keeping pen and paper by my bed. As soon as I wake up I can jot down everything, and as I write it down, I remember more. I also sketch images that come from my dreams.
You can do the same. All it takes is practice.
As you realize youíre awake, before you move or anything, think back on the thoughts, feelings, and images that were going on right before you woke up. I usually can remember brief images, and if I think backward, I can work out the storyline of the whole dream. Once you have everything in mind, grab that pen and paper by your bed and get it down as soon as possible!
Often thereís no storyline... just flashes, impressions, and images. Get those down as best as you can. For the sake of creativity, itís the ideas and imagery that are more important than the things that make sense as a storyline. I have a few dreams now and then that have distinct storylines, but more often I just have vignettes, strange imagery, feelings, and ideas. Snippets can still useful for stories and artwork.
The challenge is that the dream you just woke up from is only in your short-term memory, until you concentrate on remembering it. If something else wakes you up (alarm, cat, husband, kids), and you start thinking about the day, your list of chores, work, anything else... then *POOF* your dreamís gone. Those who live in multi-cat or kid households, or who are over-tired and rely on the alarm clock to wake up have extra challenges.
The DREAMS Foundation recommends waking up without an alarm. They propose a method of suggesting to your body before you go to sleep that it wake up naturally at the time you need to wake. (This doesnít work if you are overtired or stay up late. Trust me.) To be safe, they advise setting your alarm for fifteen minutes later than your desired wake time. The point is, you want to wake without an alarm so you have the best chance of remembering what was happening in your dream right before you woke up.
What the Dream Foundation canít help with are children and spouses. I guarantee I remembered more dreams before I got married and had children, because I was better able to control when I woke up. I donít have that luxury anymore. However, you can enlist the help of your spouse either by asking him to intercept the kids (if you have children), or by just giving you some time to lie awake while you consider what your mind was doing while you were asleep.
Choosing a Journal
What you use for your dream journal isnít important. Choose whatever feels good to you... lined, unlined, small, large, loose-leaf or bound... they all work. You may want to keep in mind, though, before you buy that fancy, leather-covered journal, that your handwriting when you just wake up is not usually your best. And when youíre first jotting your dream down, you want to write fast. I suggest using a spiral notebook standby for the initial draft, and then you can transfer it later, once youíre more awake.
Other Notes on Dream Memory
One - Repetition:
In my earliest dream memory, a recurring nightmare I had when I was very little, I would be playing outside (with or without friends; that changed from time to time) and suddenly the sky would go dark grey, the sun would turn black and shoot lightning bolts at anything living that stayed outside. I would have to run into the house to be safe.
You remember things that happen often. Recurring dreams fall in that category. I have a whole mental library of dreams about bathrooms. I almost donít need to journal them anymore, because when I have one itís like ďOh, itís another bathroom dream again...Ē Same goes with flying, labyrinthine buildings, and being able to call things to me a la the Force. (Man, I'd love to be able to do that in real life... I can't count how many times I've just woken up and tried to will my book to come to me with the power of my mind, because I could in my dream... It hasn't really worked for me yet.)
Two - Impression:
In my second-earliest dream memory, a group of crazed lady-bug-like monsters turned me into one of them. I rose from the ground like the Frankenstein monster, with my curly hair all frizzy and sticking straight up from my bug head.
You remember things that are just downright strange and memorable. Youíre more likely to remember flashes and images that really stand out, like Frankenstein monster-bugs, ships made of carrion, super-huge silver spacecrafts bombing your house...
Three - Immediacy:
My third-earliest dream memory is from the night after my parents took me to see The Empire Strikes Back in the theater. (Yes, the first time it came out. Man, I'm old...) That night I dreamed I was with Princess Leia and Chewy when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite, and we started planning how to get him backÖ but mostly we were very, very sad. I woke up crying from that one.
What happens just before you go to bed can affect what you dream, whether it's something you do, something that happens to you, or just something you're thinking about. If I want an interesting dream, I can sometimes influence it by focusing on an interesting idea as I'm getting ready for sleep. For example, if Iím stuck on a storyline, I tell myself the story as Iím drifting off, and then I am more likely to dream about the characters. I donít always get answers to my storyline problems, but more often than not, the process helps me clear my thoughts.
Your dreams can become a priceless creative resource for you, if you can figure out how to remember and use them. Journaling is just a beginning. Dreams can guide you in a quest of self-discovery. Mine your dreams for ideas, and use them in your art and stories. Or bore your roommates with them, the way I did mine. (My college roomies still tease me about some of my odd dreams that I shared with them.) But most importantly, have fun with it, and enjoy.
Jennifer Broschinsky has, since her youth, filled her sketchbooks with things feathered and furred, winged and scaled. She is currently working on a sequential art story called Songseeker, and is working on raising three sons.
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