Thursday, August 17, 2006

in the middle of the night

Once in a while when I'm very tired and longing only for sleep, I crash into bed expect the delicious nothingness of sleep (dreams, if any are quickly forgotten), just pure rest - then an idea comes. Fatigued and not in the mood to think, I try to ignore it, but it sits there, blinking like an incessant light. I try to sleep - because, looking at the clock I realize it's already 4AM and I haven't sleep a wink - but the idea refuses to go away. It turns this way and that, suddenly folding and unfolding upon itself, exhibiting new patterns, new linkages, bringing over its friends, and soon the lone idea has grown into a small party, fed by my helplessly engaged mind that has given up on rest. So I get up from bed, careful not to wake my sleeping wife, and stumble over to my desk, turn on the laptop and wait for the screen to come to life. Then I write.

It is nothing mysterious, and in fact at times feels more like an exorcism than anything else. Certain ideas when they get hold refuse to let go until they are expressed in some way, a sentence, a paragraph, a vignette, waiting to be a story. Ideas in the middle of the night (or in the wee hours of the morning) trump any need for sleep because they are precious. Or seemingly so. Sometimes, in the harsh light of day, what seemed to be a groundbreaking thought turns out to be rather insipid, uninspired, and I wonder what possessed me to think it was so wonderful. But even those noctural writings I do not throw out immediately. I look at them, read them, and try to see what I was getting at. Perhaps my approach was wrong, perhaps I tried to it in the wrong structure. Perhaps it's not a story I can tell yet. Or at all.

Sometimes, one idea leads to another then another in a chain that is fragile and tenuous. Sometimes the linkages are illogical but beautiful. I take what appeals to me. Beauty is powerful but so is longing, so is hope, so are fear and love and children and endings and triumph and sorrow. Sometimes I follow the chain of ideas until I come across something new, something strange. Like an intruder in a guarded garden, I take it and climb back over the wall, and flee with my prize.


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