It’s 3:41 am and I’m sitting at my computer typing furiously in the hope of getting that illusive idea down on paper before it’s gone. These ‘pop-up and then disappear’ inspirations that wake me in the middle of the night make me crazy.
Does this sound familiar? It’s about 2:00 am and I wake up with this terrific idea for my book. I decide that when I wake up, I’m record it and then let it flow perfectly into my current plot. I doze off and when morning shows up all I can recall is that I had a wonderful idea. I just can’t remember what it was. I walk around racking the inner creases of my brain trying to find a hint of what it could have been. Nothing materializes and I spend the rest of the day frustrated because just under the surface of my consciousness, I’m sure I know the answer.
I tried the “put a pen and paper beside your bed and write down the ideas as you get them” approach. I don’t know if anyone else has tried this. I’m told that many famous genius-level earthlings do this regularly. The ideas did come to me and I was capable of noting them on paper. I was absolutely thrilled the first time I woke, with no memory of writing, to find the pen in my bed and a cursive across the writing pad.
My book is a fictional account of a family set in a mid-eastern Ontario small town. There is no element of horror, sci-fi, vampires, aliens, or any other despicable creatures (other than the bad guys) in the entire book. That being said, I assumed my sleepy time ideas would be centered on my book’s plotline. It seems these other genres may have taken over my mind given the apparent extraterrestrial languages that appeared. My plot might be what they were about, but I was unable to decipher anything meaningful from the resulting hieroglyphics. I had to think about what would cause my beautiful penmanship to go directly down the tubes at night, other than possible demonic possession.
First of all, lying in bed with my head nested in my right hand, which I do every night, causes the fingers of that writing tool to go completely numb. Secondly, lack of glasses renders me nearly blind. I’m talking major bruises. I don’t even go to the bathroom without them. Thirdly, I’m unconscious and it’s dark. That leaves any dispatch just a bit clearer than my two year old grandson’s latest artistic pursuit. The stuff I wrote with no circulation in my hand, blind, while asleep, in the dark, is impossible to read.
It took almost an hour to turn the first scribble into “European laundry at café”. The next night, this gem showed up. “Silly sissy in flagon Poison apple breed”. I have no plan for these tidbits. I can only assume I’m misreading them. Maybe it’s the wine. I enjoy that glass (or two) before I hit the pillow. Maybe I need the wine before I try to read the nonsense; just in case there is a co-relation between the alcohol and this strange script. The pen and paper beside the bed idea obviously has merit for many people, but I don’t think I can be counted in that group.
To solve my problem, I decided to just get up and type up the text while the thought is fresh in my mind. Well that doesn’t always work either. By the time I’m awake enough to know I’m having a good idea, there are only bits and pieces left and most of it doesn’t make sense. I get out of bed anyway, find my glasses and robe, hit the bathroom, and get a Tassimo going, hoping it’s not too late. I try to visualize the details. As I take that first sip of coffee, I pray it will materialize. On that rare occasion I’m able to actually capture that fluid moment and get it on paper, I gleefully rejoice, knowing the effort of getting out of bed was finally worth it.
Then there is the other side of the coin. How can I not mention those memorable initiatives that are just totally ridiculous? They wake me just like the good ones, but the blatant stupidity in their content, makes them somehow much more memorable. My latest involved a sixteenth century flask, four centimeters long, with an opening too small to actually put anything in it, made of silver too defective to be of any value and lined with lead. The exterior was etched with a Jack Daniels logo and the entire object basically valueless. It had survived over five hundred years because of this comical curse it carried that gave you your deepest desire and then ate your soul.
In blissful sleep, I followed it over mountains and oceans and watched several of my own book characters be destroyed by the curse. It was so well-faceted and character specific that I unconsciously tried to incorporate it into my current writing. Why do I remember this twaddle in such vivid detail, when I remember only the tiniest glimpses of the useful stuff? Is this a prediction of what is to come? Is it the outline of the plot of my next novel? Maybe I could use this for a children’s book. Can you see me shaking my head?
Of course none of this would happen if I wasn’t always playing out literary scenes in my mind. My writing process involves being my characters, living in the plot, experiencing the scene and sensing the mood. I’m reciting the dialogue and honing my characters’ personalities, long before I actually type up the chapters. If a drama isn’t coming together, I start to act it out by verbalizing the various characters’ feelings out loud and just letting the dialogue flow. My hope is that the scene works and fits into the plotline. Occasionally the plot thickens as a result.
Building my book in this manner means I’m going to sleep each night with characters and scenes and plot twists running through my brain. I am constantly working at my writing, even when I’m not writing. Waking with new ideas is inevitable. Getting to recover these ideas only happens if I’m lucky. Those dilemma-solving passages almost always disappear in the exact same second I realize they exist.
Since I started writing almost a year ago, I’ve definitely become driven in many ways. I know I’m not the only writer who wakes at all hours with plots ticklers and scene descriptions running willy-nilly through their brain. I have the perfect solution to every writing problem locked up in there somewhere. I know it. I can feel it. But my body insists I engage in a total physical stupor called sleep. When in that coma, ideas flourish and try to emerge but the body yanks them back and refusing to let them surface. If there is a solution to salvaging all of them, I haven’t found it yet.
I guess writing wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if every idea came quick and easy. Of course, it might cut back on the frustration if I just got more sleep…