Friday, January 18, 2013

Writers In The Night



I liked this quote from Pulitzer Prize Winner and many other literary awards, Saul Bellow. He seems to believe that our best work comes to us during the night when our brain is hopefully at rest. For me, some nights that's true and on other nights, I'm more awake than asleep. But even during those nighttime wakeful hours, I often think about stories or essays I would like to write. 

Do I get up and write what I'm thinking about? Not very often. Somehow, the thought of leaving my warm bed and flicking on a bright light isn't all that motivating. I am afraid I might wake my husband by turning on the light in the office across the hall from our bedroom. Why, I'm not sure, as the man could sleep through a demolition derby being run next door to our home! 

But on a few occasions, I have gotten up, grabbed a robe and gone out to the living room to jot down the thoughts I had. Once, I wrote an entire creative nonfiction story that turned out so well that it was published by the first editor I sent it to. Another time, I had a vivid dream about gypsies on a train--old women and little girls. As soon as I woke up, I knew I had to write something about it, so I zipped across the hall still in nightgown and barefooted to write. What evolved was one of the better poems I've ever written. Once I'd written the opening line, the rest seemed to write itself. The images in my mind of the old women and the little girls was so clear. I did do a little editing later on the poem before submitting it. play, gyspsy girl, play has been published three times but beautifully illustrated at The Wordsmith. And I did edit and revise the other story that I wrote in the middle of the night, so I'm not sure I can go along 100% with Mr. Bellow's quote. 

I do think that we too often have those brilliant middle-of-th-night thoughts that blaze with glory in our minds. If we wait til the next day, the fire in them has died to a small flickering flame or even a lone ember. In the light of day and hours after the idea came to us, the story line may not be nearly as good. Some writers keep a pad and pencil on the nightstand so, if an idea comes to mind in the night, they can roll over and write down the keywords. Gotta tell you, though, that scribbling in the dark can often mean you have illegible gibberish to read the next morning. Take it from one who has tried this approach, too.

The point here is that we need to pay attention to those writing ideas that come to us during the night. Who knows, it just might produce your finest work. 

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