My bed is an active tool in my writerly toolkit, so today I want to talk a little about the best writing technique I know. Sleep writing.
Sleep writing is not exactly like sleep walking; I'm not writing at the same time as I'm snoring. It's more like writing on the fringes of sleep, napping in the middle of writing sessions, rising from sleep and moving directly to the computer or the notepad.
Some of my best writing, my most startling revelations and memorable images, comes from that place. Maybe because when I'm fresh from sleep I'm unguarded, without my day-shell on. But there's more to it. More and more, I use sleep as a direct way to solve problems I'm having in my work.
I get exhausted when I write. I used to fight against it -- I'd nod off at the keyboard as I was trying to figure out what happens next? and wake up with drool on my check. (Not so hot for the keyboard.) Now, when I feel that drowsiness -- it's a particular sensation, an unrelenting pull towards sleep -- I don't get mad at myself for being a slacker, I welcome it. I go to bed and sink into a deep nap. Very often, I'll get up twenty minutes later with the simple answer to my problem.
I don't understand the mechanisms involved, maybe it has something to do with unconscious creativity, or Alpha waves in the brain, but it's no mystery to me why writer's colonies have beds in the studios. It's not (just!?) for all that hot wild colony sex that supposedly goes on. I would guess that for many writers, sleep is an intrinsic part of the writing process.
Related to this, I was deeply moved by the Jill Bolte Taylor video that's been making the rounds of the Internet for the last month. I've watched it three times now. I think it's changed my life.
Dr. Taylor is a neuroanatomist who had a severe stroke on the left side of her brain -- and in this speech at this year's TED conference, she describes what it was like.
If you have not seen it, go there now: it's an 18 minute revelation.
Back again? So... is your mind blown? Mine is.
(You DIDN'T go there now? I mean it, go watch. Right now. Come back and tell me what you think.)
Somehow Dr. Taylor's insights tie in with sleep and writing. Maybe sleep writing works so well because, when we sleep, the right hemisphere of our brain dominates with its thinking in images and sense of timelessness.
All I know is that I want to spend even more time hanging out in the right hemisphere of my brain.
(And now... I'm going to sleep on it.)