Friday, July 6, 2012

Sleep for Thought

Sometimes people ask me if writing ideas come in the wee hours of the night.  (Why are they called wee hours?  They're exactly the same length as all the other hours.)  I tell them that I used to.  I remember those days.  I'd wake up at 1:00 in the morning, or 3:00, or 5:00.  I'd start thinking about this or that and sometimes those thoughts included my current work in progress.  And whammo!  There's something about brain activity in the middle of the night.  Ideas come and come and come and come.  And they're good ideas, too.  I'd reach for a pen and notebook, often annoyed because I was still tired, and sometimes excited because the ideas were plain amazing.  Then I read something somewhere that struck me as being not only a truth, but a hugely important one.  It goes like this:

Nighttime is for sleeping.

Reading that was like being in algebra class in the seventh grade and finally having that moment of 'Oh, I get it.'  Lack of sleep isn't good for most of us, and maybe especially me.  I've learned that lesson well over years of young motherhood.  I need seven to eight hours every night as well as a cat nap in the afternoon to function at my best.  What good are ideas in the middle of the night if you're not functioning in the middle of the day to put those ideas to good use?  I began forcing myself back to sleep.  When I woke up in the middle of the night, I would shut my brain down--think of absolutely nothing but sleep.  I'd keep my eyes closed, lay still.  If thoughts came, I'd ignore them.  'Go back to sleep.  Go back to sleep.  Sleep...sleep...sleep.'  It took some practice, but it worked.  I don't ever wake up in the middle of the night unless my kids need me or there is impending danger.  At which point I grab my baseball bat and become absolutely lethal.  (Lethal when there's danger, not when my kids need me.)  I know lots of writers do the writing in the middle of the night thing, but I'm a huge fan of taking care of yourself.  So, turn off the lights--including the light that comes from your computer--close your eyes, rest your brain, and SLEEP.


John Waverly said...

I completely agree. I write down ideas when I get up in the morning and am ready to stay awake, and I have plenty of ideas then.

With one exception, if I wake up from a scary dream with my heart pounding, I find I can get back to sleep faster if I write the entire dream down (as much as I can remember). Then I see how ludicrous it was and can go right back to sleep. Otherwise, my brain short circuits on the emotion and I have a hard time returning to sleep.

Also, I've always thought the wee hours was in reference to the small numbers on the clock: 1-5.

Melissa Lemon said...

I hate scary dreams! That makes sense about the wee hours. I never looked at it that way--always looking for some deep, profound meaning that usually isn't there. :)