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Thursday, February 16, 2012

In the Still of the Night

Like many folks, I keep a pencil and paper by the bedside so when story-provoking thoughts come to me at night, I can write cryptic notes.  This paper-by-the-bed habit began back in the days when I was a stressed Recruitment Manager.  A solution to a problem would occur to me when I was lying there, and I’d stay up for hours, afraid I’d forget the brilliant concept that slid in when my mind was less congested.  Once a reminder made it to paper, I could sleep again. 

It was easy to keep up the practice when I started writing regularly, so when a good idea formed like a cartoon bubble emanating from my mind at 1:30 or 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., I’d roll over, scratch it down and let it go until the morning.  

Lately though, after I write things down, I remain awake.  I know.  It’s an age thing.  But having come to anticipate the insomnia that snaps my turn-on switch when the rest of the world is quiet, rather than sighing in exasperation and yanking at the covers, I tune my thoughts to my current writing project.  Each night I probe places where a story line doesn’t flow, or where a character lacks depth.  Instead of plumping my pillow, I set myself to imagining layers or creating complexities to improve where important pieces are lacking. 

During these pre-dawn hours, it is as if the story recognizes my brain has time, and treats it as a landing pad for creative twists I may not have thought of during the day.  Delicious metaphors arrive as if snuck in by welcome burglars.  When I finally fall back asleep, it’s with a sense of a midnight triumph. 

After nights like this, I wake up tired, but never grouchy.   Before day takes over I rip the notes from the pad and head to the computer, accountable to this job as facilitator to the forming story; my obligation to record the action before it drifts from my brain.

12 comments:

Yvonne Osborne said...

I love the predawn hours. The quiet gray of a day about to burst. The coffee hot and the furnace on and nobody to bother me with a single word.

It's a good habit you have.

Old Kitty said...

Blimey! You sound so disciplined and focused! Good for you!! Me - my brain is mush at the best of times - but most especially in the mornings! take care
x

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I doubt I could form a coherent sentence before six in the morning!

Angeline said...

It's good it works for you. I'm a nightmare for forgetting things I think of at night - I can never find the energy to lean over for the pen and paper!

Catherine Denton said...

I love how you are using your insomnia for good. This line struck me, "treats it as a landing pad for creative twists I may not have thought of during the day". What a beautiful concept.
Catherine Denton

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, I admire this dedication. I don't keep a paper or pencil by my bed, and I don't write ideas down. I figure if they're good enough, I'll remember them... Ha! Maybe I should write them down...

Juliann Wetz said...

I can relate to both the jotting down of ideas and the insomnia that occurs when these thoughts pop into my head at night. Unfortunately, when I wake up in the morning, they don't seem to make much sense. I think I probably need to wake up and write instead of making cryptic notes.

Catherine A. Winn said...

I have done what you've described a lot of times. I began losing sleep because I couldn't settle down afterwards. Now, I just roll over and hope I remember. (I usually don't)

Stephen Tremp said...

If I had all the thoughts that drifted from my brain I'd have ten books written. Dreams too. Sure wish I could remember them.

Jolene Perry said...

Yes, I really, really need an "off" switch so I can sleep.

Though, I think I'd always be afraid to use it.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Everybody has different creative hours. For while I was waking up early and working more then, but ever since I started working out more, sleep has won out and I work a little later. But I have to dig deeper for the creative juices to start flowing as a result.

Carol Kilgore said...

I get these spells at different times. Sometimes just as I lie down to go to sleep. Sometimes I awake in the wee hours, like you. Sometimes just as I begin to wake up after sleeping all night. I keep a stack of index cards and a pencil on the nightstand, and I've gotten really good at writing in the dark.

Happy Weekend!