Tips to Help You Remember Your Dreams

We all dream, but we often don’t remember them. But catching dreams can help us see repeating patterns, solve problems, grow our creativity and spark our imagination. Writing down our dreams gives us a record and reminds us when symbols and situations repeat. Repeating patterns in dreams are things we need to pay attention to. It’s our own way of making ourselves aware that something needs another, closer look.



How can we help ourselves remember our dreams?

1. When you wake up, don’t jump up, turn on the TV or radio. Stay still. Lie in the position you woke up in.

2. Try to remember any details of dreams you had. Keep your eyes still and let your body experience details or emotions you felt.

3. If you recall some of the dream, give it a descriptive title. Keep it short, something like “Trip to Rome in a Boat,” or “Flying Through the Night Sky.”

4. If you can’t remember any dream, explore the emotion you feel as you wake up. It’s often the leftover emotion from your dreams. Are you happy? Wistful? Angry? Feeling the emotion might bring part of the dream back.

5. Write down the emotion, any dream fragment, or a word that describes how you feel. The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory when it comes to dream. Even dreams that you remember in great detail vanish in about two hours if you don’t make an effort to capture them.

–Image: The Dreamer, colored pencil on Bristol Board, Quinn McDonald

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and writer who studies dreams and their power to free us from our self-limiting beliefs and actions. You can find out more about daydreams, too, in 10 Steps to Creative Daydreaming.

(c) 2008 All rights reserved.

Showing Up on TV With Dreams

On this Thursday, July 10, I’ve been invited to appear on Arizona Midday, a show on the local NBC Affiliate. The smart thing would be to watch it once or twice, but I don’t have a television, and I’m working on most days at 1 p.m. when the show runs.

The reason I was invited is that I’m teaching a course at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe on Dream Journaling. The course came from some research that started as an interest and developed into a keynote speech, “Daydreams, Nightmares and the Power of the Imagination.” I’m a professional speaker, and most speakers choose a topic and specialize. Most smart speakers choose big topics like communication or life/work balance, something they can tailor to many situations.

I chose something I was interested in, something I could feed on intellectually, spiritually and artistically. Something that would change as I learned more, and push in front of me in wonder. Dreams. What they mean, they symbols they bring, how to interpret them. How popular it will be as a speaking topic remains to be seen. Personally, I think more corporations ought to spend time daydreaming (there’s a link at the bottom so you can learn how) because daydreaming and night dreaming are both respect ways to solve problems.

The jar of stars

The jar of stars

What I like most is that interpretation is individual. No sense looking up dream symbols in books and curving your thoughts around what your dreams are “supposed” to mean. You don’t get your life explained to you in symbols. Life is not Bingo, where picking the right number lines up a win. Dreams are personal, deep symbols that can be interpreted in different ways. You have to figure it out. You might be wrong, but won’t know it. You might be right, and still not know it. That’s the mystery of symbols. And life.

Back to the TV appearance. It’s a 3 to 5 minute segment, and I have to stuff it full of content. Not only because that’s what I do–as a writer, content is my life–but because I am neither blond, attractive, slender or young enough to have the camera focus on me. I have to bring visuals. It’s hard to bring in a dream.

So now I’m honing down the material to three interesting minutes. What do I focus on? How Hannibal dreamed that the way to attack Rome was to use elephants and bring them across the Alps? That would have been a really hard symbol to accept. How the Hebrew word for “dream” is a homonym for “health”? Should I demo–without practice–how the same symbol could be totally different for different people?

It’s only three minutes, and yet, it is a whole three minutes. Time for a dream to develop.

–Image: “Jar of Stars,” collage by Quinn McDonald

–Read “10 Steps to Creative Daydreaming”

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who has never dreamed of being on TV, but is about to do it anyway. See her work at

The Dream and the Dreamer

For years I’ve been interested in dreams. I’ve had recurring dreams, meaningful dreams that I still remember vividly, and dreams that have come true much as I dreamed them. I once dreamed a portion of someone else’s lif and had them verify it.

Dreamer by Quinn McDonald (c) 2008What’s bothered me about dreams is that they seem personal and meaningful, but dream interpretation seems to be a impersonal, reduced to symbol searches. Many books list the items in dreams and assign them a meaning. You dream of flying, it’s a sign someone is going to die. In another book, flying is sex. (In that book, everything is sex. It doesn’t need to be 300 pages long, one would have been plenty.) [Editor’s note: WordPress automatically assigns links to posts based on keywords. Please be careful before clicking on the automatically generated links below this post.]

Another school of thought says that you are everyone in your dream. I’m not sure that works for me, either. Many of the people in my dream are known to me and many unknown that represent an idea or warning for me, but they aren’t me.

I think dreams are far more meaningful, and I don’t believe they are random images your brain fans out because you’ve eaten pepperoni pizza late at night. I believe dreams are a connection to the collective unconscious–the past of your cultural ancestors. I think dreams are a map of our lives, a colorful tapestry of adventures, a guide to the path we have chosen, an illuminated manuscript of both our imagination and our possibilities.

Currently, I’m enrolled in a seminar on dreaming, run by Robert Moss, the originator of active dreaming. Moss believes we can re-enter dreams, either in meditation or in subsequent dreams.

I’m keeping track of all this dreaming for both my dream journaling course and for some workshops on how to wake up to dreams, making them a useful part of your daydreams and waking life.

May 9 update: I had a dream in which I saw a woman who was a potential client in a crowd. She was very blond, almost glowing. The rest of the crowd was very dun-colored, as if a gray wash had been put over the whole scene. She began to bekon to me, but I couldn’t get to her, the crowd was too thick and not moving. [end of dream] I woke up and had this strong urge to email this person. So I did. Two days later she called me and said she had had a job come in, and hadn’t thought of me until she saw my email. I accepted the freelance job. I’m calling this a Quinncidence.

–Image: Dreamer, color pencil, aquarelle pencils on 100-lb. Bristol Board, Quinn McDonald (c) 2008 All rights reserved. This post is also under copyright by Quinn McDonald, who is a workshop developer and leader as well as a certified creativity coach. See her website at

Light In New Orleans

New Orleans was in full bloom when I was there last. We’d eaten at Acme Oyster, the briny mollusks cracked open by a dark man with a white scar running down his face. I didn’t ask how he got it. He didn’t tell. Afterwards, we wound through the twilight-blue streets, the weight of the moisture in the air rich with the smell of ocean, mud,  trees in bloom, perfume and laughter.

In the hotel, a frantic message for my husband. He had to attend to business 1,00 miles away. Right away. Plane ticket waiting downstairs. I decided to stay.  He raced to catch a plane. I wasn’t sleepy. I went back into the evening, walking aimlessly.

The French Quarter is laid out in a grid, so I didn’t need to pay attention.  I could always use the Fibonacci escape. (Using the Fibonacci sequence, make a right turn at every number in the sequence. You walk a large spiral—gets you out of any grid-pattern neighborhood.) Music spilled from a bar, laughter tumbled down from a second-story railing, high heels tapped to an assignation.

I turned by a big urn of Black-Eyed-Susans and walked along a high barn-wood fence. There was an open gate.  The street was dark, but at the end of a narrow walk a fountain,  blood-red cannas in bloom, and a porch, bright and warm in yellow light. Sassafras and spice wafted up the walk. Without another thought, I strolled toward the porch. The front door opened; an old man stepped out.
“Been waiting for you,” he said.
“I’m here now,” I replied, not frightened, interested in the game.
“You come to have your cards read,” he said reaching into the corner of a porch swing, picking up a deck of Tarot-size cards.
“Yes,” I said, figuring that he must do a lot of card readings by leaving the gate open.
“Money first, so we don’t get no distraction.” He named a reasonable price. I paid him.Over the next hour, he flipped through the homemade cards, intricate collages of words and images. They were worn but clean. He was amazingly accurate about details I carefully kept hidden; often from myself. He pointed to an ability I had to know people, of the colors I see around them, of things from the recent and deep past, of a few things from the future.
Finally, he put the cards down.
“You know what you gotta do. You don’t, your heart die. Won’t be easy, but there will be a light to guide you. You won’t always want to follow it, but it’s true.”
“What light?” I asked. “You’ll find it within a year of doing the right thing,” he said, patted me on the shoulder and went inside the house, leaving me alone on the porch.
I got up and walked through the French Quarter, knowing what I had to do, not wanting to do it.
My husband was back the next day, leaving a lazy day for us.
“Want your cards read?” I asked, knowing he was up for things I believed in, even if he didn’t.
“Sure,” he said.
I knew the way. I have a good sense of direction. We walked with determination for over an hour, but there was no urn, no flowers, no fence, no gate. I’ve been there five times since, and have never found it again.
We returned home, and three months later, I went to coaching school, quit my soul-searing day job, followed my vision to be an artist and creativity coach. The tag line for my coaching business? “Stand in your own light.”

–Quinn McDonald is an artist and a certified creativity coach. Learn more at Quinn Creative
Illustration: Stand in Your Own Light, note card by Quinn McDonald