Does this happen to you? If you’re struggling with a plotline, say, or trying to figure out the dramatic arc of a story, or coming up with a killer title – do brilliant ideas magically pop into your brain when you’re in bed about to drift off? Me, too! It’s downright mystical when you think about it. Like the answers are coming from the Great Beyond or something – another dimension. And you don’t even have to be a follower of Deepak Chopra for this to work (although I do believe in his basic philosophy and own several of his books).
[Quick sidebar: If Oprah Winfrey married Deepak, she’d be Oprah Chopra. But I digress…]
Nancy Lamb calls it “the magic hour” in her book, The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children. “That time between sleeping and waking. . .when we drift without judgment, when unconscious thoughts bubble up to the surface without interruption from our conscious minds.” How cool is that? She suggests slow, deep yoga-style breathing, relaxing your entire body, etc. “Allow your mind to drift over your story,” she says. “If you’ve got the seed of an idea, let it float free inside your imagination.” You’re supposed to be open to random thoughts without focusing on specifics and observe what floats in your mind. “The goal is unimpeded access to your unconscious.”
Ooh, I just got a little chill.
Lamb also suggests keeping a notepad by the bed and to write down your ideas no matter how silly they may seem. She has a point. I’ve gone through many nights of idea overload where if I hadn’t propelled out of bed to write them all down on the first thing I could get my hands on – the back of a phone bill, my tax returns, the cat – I’m sure they would’ve been lost in the ether of my subconscious mind forever. And sometimes – mark my words – you’ll lie there thinking, “This idea is way too good. You don’t have to get up and write it down. You’re not gonna forget.” WRITE IT DOWN. YOU WILL FORGET.
One last caveat: If you have an important appointment in the morning, the aforementioned process should be avoided entirely. A teeny morsel of an idea can lead to a landslide, which can have you shredding the sheets into the wee hours resulting in a productive, however painfully sleepless night. Which is precisely why my brain is a bagful of feathers right now as I blog. (Yawn.) I’m glad it’s Sunday.