We’ve all been there: lying in bed, on the edge of sleep, when a brilliant idea floats in from the ether. Maybe it’s a fully-formed snippet of dialogue, or maybe something technical, like a major plot point. And before you drift off to sleep, you have to get up to write it down, or—it’s gone.
Maybe the idea won’t wait until you’re trying to go to sleep. You could be out with your spouse or partner, a group of friends, or even in a business meeting. This wonderful idea pops into your head, but it would be awkward or inconvenient to write it down. What do you do?
Take the Hint, Accept the Gift
One of my favorite writers is Hunter S. Thompson, who had a great, all-compassing expression: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” When it comes to inspiration, my advice has a similar structure: Take the hint, accept the gift.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation. Typically it’s when I’m close to falling asleep. (See my post on insomnia for more on that writer problem.) While I may not get much inspiration during the day—I’m naturally best at editing in the morning, creating copy in the afternoon—some of my most awe-inspiring ideas have come right on that edge of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep.
And yes, I’ve done both: selling myself the lie that I’ll remember in the morning, which I never do, or getting up and groggily writing it all down. I’ve regretted doing the former every time, but never regretted doing the latter. That’s how I’ve learned to accept these gifts when they come.
What If I’m With People?
It’s a fair question. Whereas rolling out of bed to write is one thing, walking away from people abruptly is quite another. Or do you just whip out your smartphone and start tapping away?
Personally, I’m a big proponent of the bathroom break for awkward situations. While a restroom might not be the most romantic place to jot down a few ideas, it’s infinitely preferable to ignoring a loved one or business associate. And no one can accuse you of being rude for answering nature’s call. They don’t have to know what you’re really doing in there, do they?
As funny as all this may sound, it’s serious stuff for us writers. Sure, we don’t want our sleep disturbed, or our relationships damaged, but the muse is not convenient by nature. I say it’s best to respond whenever possible.
What about you? Do you sometimes postpone a good night’s sleep, or interrupt a romantic dinner, with a quick visit to your WIP? Let me know in the comments.