Friday, November 12, 2010

Bed Writing


Pay attention. The post title does not read "bed wetting" or "bad writing." ;-) Now that we've cleared that up . . .

Bed writing is how I often come up with titles, character names, development of and solutions to plot points, and entire paragraphs and sections. It isn't something that happens while I'm sleeping (that would be dream writing) and it isn't something that happens while I'm awake and alert (that would be normal writing). Bed writing happens when I'm tired and want to sleep but can't sleep. It's tied to the insomnia that's plagued me for years (and, since I don't trust drugs and don't have health insurance, will probably continue to plague me).

Last night, as I lay awake and sandwiched between JLA and Luna, and Cody was on the floor passing gas . . .

Okay, wait. Let me clear up this scenario, because right now it sounds like a Roman orgy. JLA is my SO, Luna is a sleek little terrier-lab mix rescue dog, and Cody is a not-so-sleek, dumber-than-dirt, shepherd-something mix rescue dog. (Maybe pit bull, but you'd never know it considering what a wussy sweetheart he is.)

So anyway, they were all asleep. I wasn't. My mind was churning. I don't know if this mental restlessness is the cause or result of my insomnia but suspect it's both. I'd been stressing a little over how to end my WIP, Visible Friend, because it's a strange story about a recovering heroin addict, the pitfalls he encounters, and his often unwanted companion. The HFN was there, but something was missing. The missing something came to me between rounds of wriggling from my right side onto my left side and back again in a futile attempt to get comfortable. I expanded and typed it out today, and like it very much.

Bed writing has also led to character names and a core idea for my next story. Maybe the title will come to me tonight.

This isn't any kind of technique. It can't be taught. I haven't cultivated bed writing; it just happens. It also has a tendency to interfere with my paltry attempts at working from an outline. Sometimes, in fact, it destroys those attempts.

Other than that and the fact it keeps sleep at bay, the biggest drawback to bed writing is that it isn't on paper or computer. Its output must be stored in one's mind -- a process that's iffy at best. (Oy, how many times I've wished there was some device I could just clamp comfortably onto my skull, like an electronic, thought-transcribing yarmulke, and transfer these words and ideas directly onto my computer! It's a little maddening when a whole section writes itself out in my mind and I can only hope it will be there the next day!)

So what's the point of this post? Only this: if you ever doubted that writers are weird creatures, doubt no more.

14 comments:

Chris said...

When I'm lying in bed in the morning (usually weekend mornings, due to no alarm), not asleep, but not alert, my brain often pops out solutions to work problems that have been plaguing me. Similarly, taking a mid-day break at work and driving a little bit can accomplish the same thing for me - it gives my subconscious a way to slip solutions into my conscious mind.

K. Z. Snow said...

Isn't it strange, Chris? That half-awake, half-asleep state must be fertile ground for the subconscious. And yeah, driving often works, too. (There've been times I've reached my destination and immediately pulled a notebook out of my purse to jot stuff down.)

I feel a bit guilty that I don't take a more organized approach to writing, but I can't seem to control these wanderings.

Val said...

OMG, KZ, you're so prolific with ideas! I don't tend to get as many ideas in the semi-sleep state, but I've been known to get one or two (and then to forget by morning) so I wouldn't mind having one of those telepathic yarmulkes. But what mainly brings ideas for me is repetitive work like weeding or washing dishes. I guess it lets the mind wander, but I'm still awake enough to get to the computer.

Tam said...

You need to get one of those little recorders that reporters used to use and you can lay there and mutter into it (much to the menagerie's dismay) then listen in the morning. You'll be one of those crazy old ladies who wanders around talking into it all the time, at the store, while doing laundry. But a magic yarmulke would work too.

I find I can think about things while driving and come up with ideas or just before I fall asleep. I never have sleep issues though (except for making myself go to bed) so the laying awake doesn't work. I also can't think if there is talk radio on, it distracts me, however music I can just have as background noise.

Congrats on finding a satisfying ending. :-)

K. Z. Snow said...

Yes, Val, "mindless" tasks can promote associative thinking too.

But you know, it's the quality of ideas that counts, not the quantity. I've also had plenty of nonsense running through my head. ;-)

K. Z. Snow said...

Tam, here's a bulletin: I'M ALREADY A CRAZY OLD LADY!

I actually do have one of those little recorders, but speaking the words sort of disrupts their flow. Besides, JLA would freak if he heard me--and he certainly would--and the dogs would think I was either offering to get them treats or let them go outside. (They have very transformative, and hopeful, hearing. *g*)

K. Z. Snow said...

Oh, and music? Doesn't work for me at all. Way too distracting. I can't listen to any kind of music when I'm writing.

Jenre said...

I'm so glad you wrote this, I thought it was just me!

I don't have much trouble getting to sleep, but I often wake up in the early hours and can toss and turn for a couple of hours before getting back to sleep. During this time I often think through the books I have to review, and little eloquent phrases pop into my mind.

I also wish I had that brain device, because sometimes when I come to write the review I've forgotten all the brilliant things I was going to say. I suppose I could get up and write them down, but that would mean disturbing hub in my quest to find my notebook and pen which I keep in the (very chaotic and messy) drawer next to my bed.

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Jen!

Some nights I can't fall asleep; others go the way you describe--waking up in the wee hours and not being able to fall back asleep. Either way, thoughts start tumbling.

Isn't it frustrating to lose those perfectly turned phrases? :-) I know exactly what you mean, too, about the jumble in the nightstand drawer. Every time I stick my hand in there, I fear it might not come out!

Kris said...

I never doubted when it came to you, KZ. :P

K. Z. Snow said...

Now why did I already know that?

Tracy said...

And here I thought it was just me. lol

This happens to me all the time and I usually come up with brilliant reviews in my head for books I've read...that I can't remember at all when I wake up later. :) Ok, I might remember a few words but really, not much...and they're probably not as brilliant as I thought, but you get the idea. :)

Bed writing - I like the name.

K. Z. Snow said...

Hey, Tracy! Between what you and Jen said, it sure seems the literary world is missing out on some awesome reviews. ;-)

There's definitely a desperate need for that thought-transcription cap I mentioned.

Selena Illyria said...

OMG! You do that too! After I've gotten some plot resolutions and ideas for moving the story forward, I kick myself for not having anything handy to get my ideas down.