I’m lying in my bed, staring at my dark ceiling and hoping desperately that I’ll fall asleep in the next five minutes because a) I’ve got an early class, b) I’ve got work early, or c) if I don’t fall asleep soon, I’ll get approximately X hours of sleep and then I’ll be something monstrous in the morning, all disheveled and grumpy and slightly murderous of anyone who chirps a “Hello!” before I’ve had enough time to regain control of my facial expressions.
I really do this to myself, you know.
But as I’m lying there, my thoughts swirl. They focus on what I learned in class the day before, or what joke my friend said that made me laugh, or even how the clumps of the paint job on the ceiling look a bit like a constellation if you squint and pretend that there isn’t a strange blotch of something right next to them.
It’s all innocent and fine, for the most part, until I start delving into my dream-prone mind. It’s where my mind drifts right before I dip into slumber, a way to calm my nerves about what the night will bring before I actually start thinking too much about it.
And then, it all goes to hell.
Because, as a writer, of course no good idea ever comes to me before I’m trying to sleep, right?
Those ideas are usually simple, kind of dumb, and terribly exciting. They are enough that my eyes flash open, and I’m suddenly awake, thinking hard: What if I made my main character do that? What if I cut this bit out and just stuck with this simpler idea? What if I change this word to that word? Will it make a difference? Will I make a difference with my writing?
A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article about writer’s block, and how it was literally the worst thing on the planet for any artist. Because, of course, that’s the thing—writer’s block comes in many forms and has many different names, but essentially, it all means the same thing.
I’m going to amend my earlier statement and say that having ideas come to you just as you’re going to sleep is the worst possible thing, and for several reasons.
One— Your brain wakes up. I’ve read articles and learned about studies that say that your brain needs to wind down from strenuous activity (I believe it specifically mentioned electronics and bright lights) for about an hour before you can go to sleep and fall into a proper REM cycle. But, of course, as a writer you think about your new idea, and suddenly, it’s like someone gave you a sugary energy drink, and bam—you’re off to the races. Your brain just goes and goes and goes, and sometimes, the soft light of morning is peeking through the blinds before you manage to stop and breathe.
And you definitely can’t turn on your light or turn on your phone to put your idea down, because then it’s even HARDER to get to sleep.
Two—you lose sleep, because you then stay up to think about your new idea, even when you’re yelling at your brain to SHUT UP and CALM DOWN and FOR MERCY’S SAKE, LET ME SLEEP.
Counting sheep? It’s more like counting how many times you have to repeat those words before you crash face-first into your pillow and start to drool. And, of course, you’re dreaming about your new idea.
Three—if you’re lazy, you don’t scramble out of bed to write your idea down. I’m pretty sure I’ve come up with some decent ideas in my years of life, but I’ll never remember them because the gentle pull of sleep was far too great to resist.
My brain knows I’m weak and that I love sleep, and it takes full advantage of that sometimes. But then again, I’m the girl who once thought to write an Ides of March-themed article, and I think my brain knew how stupid that idea was, so it shut it down really quickly.
So I guess it’s good sometimes.
Four—when you wake up, and you’ve written it down, you’re just full of new energy and inspiration and GOD that can be tiring. Believe me when I say that sometimes, people just aren’t ready for you when you’re like that in the morning. I myself am a morning person (as in: I like the idea of morning and getting up early, but I don’t like when I have to do it myself), and throughout my many years of schooling, I’ve earned myself more than a couple glares from my friends and classmates who thought talking about anything substantial before 7:00AM was a bit much.
It’s hard being a writer. Hell, it’s hard being an artist of ANY kind—writer, painter, sculptor, actor, singer, musician, whatever. Our ideas come to us at our worst moments.
But that’s the thing: they come to us at our worst moments for a reason.
It’s almost as if the Universe is saying, “No, not yet. Your brilliance isn’t done for the day.” It wants you to keep going, keep squeezing the life out of your muse or inspiration or those lemons Life likes to give us so much. It wants you to reach your potential daily, because if you can do that, you’re unstoppable.
And being an unstoppable force? That’s a pretty great thing to be. Especially for change, and we all know as artists that art can reach boundaries and limits we didn’t know literally existed.
So—as much as it physically pains me to say this—you need to haul up out of bed and keep going. Scribble that idea down. Yeah, it might be dumb when you’re in the throes of sleep, or even when you wake up, but it’s a good stone to step on while you’re on your way to reaching your fullest potential. Practice pushing those limits, and you’ll change the world someday.
Good luck, and I’ll see you at the finish line.