Numerous people keep notebooks by their beds to record details of their dreams upon waking. There are various reasons why people take up this practice, but artists and writers who do this are often looking for inspiration for their projects. Sometimes putting nightmares into words or visual art or music can be cathartic for those who truly find them frightening. Those of us finding pleasure in horror genres may simply find nightmares too intriguing to resist sharing with the waking world.
I am not one to keep a dream journal or whatever you wish to call it. I do write down some details of dreams I’ve had, but only hours after waking when I’ve allowed my imagination to run with the images called up during sleep. Some people feel they need to write down their dreams as soon as they wake so as not to forget any of the details. I have found, however, that my more vivid dreams provide better story fodder as they are more likely to tell a story rather than just float from random scene to random scene. Waiting to write down these dreams allows me time to brainstorm plot details and character motivations to help fill in gaps in the story.
When I have a dream worth using for story or art inspiration, oftentimes the ideas generated get put on hold for a while. Many of my dreams give me only enough material to spawn a short story or novella, and I usually don’t want to stop work on my bigger projects to spend time on smaller tales. And inspired art projects for me can take a month or more depending on what kind of work space and free time I can wrangle away from my busy schedule. (It’s easier for me to find time to sit and write as it doesn’t require much in the way of setup or cleanup.) On rare occasions, a dream may give me an idea to plug into an existing project. Overall, dreams are only a tentative source of inspiration for me as vivid dreams are unpredictable in both timing and theme.
Whether or not you wish to use your dreams to help inspire your own creativity is up to you. Some people have very mundane dreams that may be difficult to pull ideas from or they dream about things they truly don’t wish to work with, such as their day jobs. But if something you dream does catch your attention more than usual, don’t be afraid to write it down. It may turn out to be useful to you later.