Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sleep Writing

Everyone's heard of sleep-walking. I don't doubt that anyone might do it on occasion. Ah, but how many people write in their sleep? I do. I "always" have. I do more and more.
Trouble is: if it's possible to lose something while you're awake, it's positively easy to loose things while you're asleep: or if you pause to pee before fumbling the first image to the keyboard. Coffee en route? Absolutely not. Get the first sentence down, the first paragraph; then make coffee.
Faith. All is faith. There isn't anything that isn't faith-based.
Skepticism betrays a faith in intellect.

That's what popped my eyes open a short while ago.
Trouble is, for the life of me, I can't now remember what had made me think they were popping a short nap before then. That faith thing was the third, or nth, thing that tried to get me vertical.
The first was a God-thing. There. I've written the word. That might trigger the memory. If I look, it won't come; if I look away, it may.
What one writes in one's sleep, I, for example, may well be garbage. At some point you have to wake up and consider it. (Contrarily, what one has written while waking well may also be garbage: you have to sleep on it. There's a saying (could it be Arab?!?) that one should think both drunk and sober before trusting a decision: I want to think both asleep and awake. (I used to think drunk, sober, sleeping, and waking, but decades ago I eliminated the drunk part: for a complex of reasons, many of which should be obvious even to those who've never met me.)
Take my creation story for example. I'd slept on it for ten years before writing word one, but once finger hit Olivetti portable key, you wouldn't believe how much of it came as though dictated. I'd tell you: so we could test your credulity; but I no longer remember myself: only that it was a great deal of it. After 1,000 words I ran out of gas and went back to sleep. Exactly the same thing happened the next night at near precisely the same time: and that finished it: two sessions, each begun with, neither concluded with, sleep writing.
Still, that's only "half" of the point: thing is: the "All right. What's next?" opening popped me out of sleep at 3 AM, after going to bed no sooner than midnight, and more full of martinis than I can decently tell you. So that story was written while I was asleep, and awake, and drunk, and sober.
(Note: pk is never done revising things; but not that story. A word or two has been revised, once or twice; but no more. It locked itself in my mind. Now I can't touch it.)

So: at that time, a decade had passed before the thing birthed. Anyone who knew I'd thought of the story (and that was no one) might think I was never going to do it. So, when I'm sleeping, and some prose pricks me, and I sleep on anyway, I don't worry about it. Just because I don't know what it is or where it is doesn't mean that it's permanently lost. (By the way, two more decades passed before a single character of the sequels got processed. My Model was conceived 1958 or '59, first written in 1969 or so, and (for the moment) "finished" in 1999!)

Sleep finds things that hadn't been lost. Sleep finds things that had been lost. Sleep also loses things, but we never know for how long. (Likewise, we never know what we're gaining (or losing) by the loss.)

That's why I leave the Mac in sleep; shut down or reboot only when nothing is pressing me. (The Mac wakes from sleep in a moment; booting takes time. The faster they make the computers, the more they decide to boot with.)

I'm pausing now, but I fully expect to know, by this time tomorrow, what that God-thing was. Or close.

2005 04 04 So good to hear from Richard Wall (who's warned his friends that he's busy). In fact I think I'll cite the whole of his response to this piece:pk, I enjoyed your little piece about the sleep writing.
In response to it I found myself just saying yes, yes and yes.
It all starts (for me) from that eternal piece of advice - 'sleep on it'.
When you sleep on it, both the pace, and the planes, change. Sleep (dream) allows the memory to be invaded, sometimes in lingering fashion, more often in a flash, by both the 'old' (that which you or I, the writer, consciously or pretentiously excluded at the time of writing while 'awake') - and the new, which is what the activity of writing-while-awake evokes in the brain afterwards, as we drift from being awake to being asleep.
As you so aptly say, the fact that you maybe don't write it down right away does not matter. It has left its imprint on your writing consciousness and it will come back.
I also found that a literal change of pace (riding on a train, with or without that which I had written earlier as I sat at the keyboard) brings new shapes, new links, new formulations to the writing.
And it's always best to wait for these things to happen, rather than rushing headlong into print just to get that desired approval.
I responded:You're reminding me of something I could have added: Driving on a blank highway with a blank mind drives the muse wild: she just has to invade you.

1 comment:

little fish said...

I get like that I could stay up all night writing endless streams, don't give it up! as long as it doesn't affect your mental state of