ell, it happened again last night.
I have this… idiosyncrasy. Most nights I have no problem falling asleep. I just open the window behind my head, the night airs breathing around me. A kiss to the wife, the lights out, the hop of the cat coming in the settle across my legs (only after the lights are out, mind). And then, the bliss of unawareness, the detachments from work stresses, the latest Go game, traffic, club issues, writing problems, everything. Gone.
But some nights I start to think.
When I was a kid I’d lay in bed at night imagining intricate half-sized cities I could drive go-carts through. Or I’m dream the details of vast machines I could ride through. All sorts of strange and wonderful things. I recall permitting myself to do this on Friday evenings (so I could wake up to cereal and Saturday morning cartoons when I damn well pleased), actually willing myself into this mental overdrive state.
Now I no longer invoke it. The difference between my adult mind and my adult mind on overdrive is not so much different (or perhaps the overdrive is less). But sometimes I’ll go to bed and my mind kicks in. Be it a game I’m coding, a story I’m writing, a model I’m building, a ride I’m planning, anything at all and suddenly it’s 1am… 2am… 3am. And once it starts spinning, it is not easy to stop.
I know when my brain does kick into overdrive, laying there and pretending I can just settle into sleep is impossible. Like children at a sleep-over, everyone settles in and then someone giggles. Another thought pops up. And then my mind is racing off, examining this whole new thought, marveling at its shininess, hefting its wait and practicality. No, there is no obtainable stillness. For me, I have to pull myself out of bed, go out to the living room and plunk onto the couch. From one of the bookshelves, one of the books cracked open to a random page. A small glass of milk or a slice of bread lathered in butter always helps. The cat sits on the armrest, having followed me out, blinking slowly. I read a couple of chapters. I enjoy the bread. The mind resets.
Then, as carefully as a nurse in a nursery full of colicky babies, I shut off the light and drift back to bed, not allowing my brain to even consider whatever it had spun so madly on. Chances are I can lay in my bed, the sheets so cool and the nightsounds so relaxing, and drop right off. I did that trick last night and it worked like a charm.
The thing of it is, Fellow Writers, that when this does happen, when you are afflicted with overnight ghosts whispering overnight plots, make sure you retain it when you wake. A notebook by the bed helps. Often a plot sticking point, a difficult scene or a wondrous image will still be fresh with you. Write it down (or, at minimum, counciously own it). Make it yours.
After all, you worked very hard to come up with it.
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