The Dream as Muse

Keep a Dream Journal and Question the Dream

By Molly Anderson | Posted 7/7/07 | Updated 8/17/23

In my dreams, I am a raven hunting the night on oily wings. A queen in a lonely blue tower. An octopus escaping shyly into a cloud of indigo ink. In my dreams, you are a hummingbird sucking sweet nectar of paradise from a bloom the color of sky. A bat, biting his dinner out of the air. A man who never stops to ask for directions and travels long and lost on deserted roads.

The symbols, images, people and places found in my dreams are my richest source of inspiration, wisdom, and self-knowledge. Dreams contain riddles, hints and clues, with red herrings galore and winding paths to lead you ever more deeply into your deepest heart. It is a lovely thing to dream, and more lovely still to awaken with a fabulous idea for a story, poem or painting.

Keep a Dream Journal

How do you shake those dreams out of your hair and onto the page? One way to begin working more closely with your Dreaming Muse is to keep a small notebook and a few pens by your bed. Every morning, take a few moments to sketch and write about the strange places you visit in your nightly sojourns into the Land of Nod. Give your dreams titles, and date each one. This is helpful later, when you try to tease out patterns or link your dreams to events in your waking life.

"But I never remember my dreams!" you cry. Don't worry. Practicing this simple method for a few weeks will actually help you recall your dreams more often, with added clarity. As you continue to work with your dreams, they will begin to reveal hidden wonders.

In re-reading my dream journals, I am often surprised and delighted by the powerful images and clear poetry of my night life. They are full of wonderful ideas for stories and poems, as well as gorgeous visual art projects of all kinds. Try sketching the characters, places, and symbols you dream of. Or, write a recent dream in the form of a short story or fairy tale, complete with a title and cast of characters all its own.

If your dreams' meanings are unclear, try to find a good dream dictionary for standard interpretations of the symbols and situations that are confusing for you. There are many good ones (and a few terrible ones, as well!) on the market; just browse your favorite bookstore and find one that feels right for you. But sometimes, the interpretations given by the author don't seem to match the true meaning of your dream, or sound like something you'd find inside a fortune cookie! You will marry a fair-haired man. Beware of false friends. You must tell an unpleasant truth. Is this really helpful or instructive? Does it reach down deep to get at the roots of your dream? Absolutely not!

Every dream, and every dreamer, is unique. You may need a more personal way of interpreting and working with your dreams to truly connect with their deeper meanings. To this end, you can create your own dream dictionary or make a set of interpretation cards. Each symbol or character is linked to your own thoughts, feelings, and memories.

For example, a black dog may symbolize fear or death to one person, while another dreams of his favorite companion as a child — his black Lab, Buddy. In a standard dream dictionary, both dreams might be interpreted in the same way. But in your dream dictionary or deck of interpretation cards, the meaning is personal, vital and real. Join a dream group for fun, or share your dreams with a close friend or partner for a second opinion.

I wrote my senior thesis on dreams in college, and have always been fascinated by the close bond formed between people sharing their dreams with one another. I joined a dream discussion group as part of my research, and was often amazed at the scarily accurate interpretations, excellent questions, and interesting ideas sparked in the other students when I described an image or situation in my dreams I didn't understand.

Dream Exercise: Questioning the Dream

One of our favorite exercises was "Questioning the Dream." If you do this with a group or partner, each of you will take turns describing a dream in the present tense, as though it is happening right now. When the dream has been told, others in the room take turns asking the dreamer detailed questions about the dream that can help to clarify certain points, illuminate hidden symbols or messages, and link the dream to a current situation or relationship in the waking life of the dreamer.

If you're questioning your own dreams, write a list of general questions in the back of your dream journal. Some of my favorites are:

  • "Do you have a message for me, or someone close to me?"
  • "What do you hope to teach or tell me with this dream?"
  • "Which aspect of this dream is most important for me to focus on right now?"
  • "Is this a dream about past, present, or future events?"

Leave a few blank pages between each dream you've jotted down. When you're ready, ask a question, and visualize yourself in the dream again in order to find the answers. Write, draw, or paint the answer on the pages following each dream you want to work with. As you continue, get more specific and zoom in on the details of each individual dream. "What was the significance of the bookstore?" "Why was my mother wearing red shoes?" "Does the bear in this dream represent me, or someone else?"

Sometimes, one particular animal, person, or place will capture your imagination. Try to create a collage with words and images that relate to your dream. Draw a comic strip with folks from your dreams making up the cast of characters. Paint a portrait of your Dreaming Muse. Dance with her, wild bells and tamborines, ribbons and flashing eyes. Dream a beautiful dream, and just remember — there's a dream, dreaming you!

©2007 by Molly Anderson. All rights reserved.


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