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For writers it is like a mantra. In order to write, you must to take the time, sit down, and do it.
BIC HOK TAM, right?
Well, it’s true. There are no short cuts. Magic formulas are available for purchase, but on the whole, they don’t really work. Call me a cynic.
Writing takes an enormous amount of time and dedication. Most writers will tell you that struggle ranks high in the job description, or as sportswriter Red Smith said:
There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
But what happens when you’ve opened a vein (or 3 or 4) and you’ve still got nothing? What do you do when even those special prompts saved for desperate moments like this fail you?
My solution? Take a nap. Read a book. Make Rice Krispie treats. Do anything but write, because your creatively clogged brain is trying to telling you that it needs some time for itself.
When I need to get away from writing, my favorite diversion is napping, and I’m happy to say I’ve got science on my side.
A study by researchers at UCSD found that REM sleep was 40% more effective than the simple passing of time or quiet rest to enhance creativity, in particular for new problems. (1)
During a time when I wasn’t writing anything more than memos at work, my current WIP, a novel now titled For Purple Mountains, came to me in a dream. It was far from complete, but it intrigued me enough to get me writing again. Two years later, I’m still at it … happily … most of the time.
Other sleep-induced inspirations include:
- The tune for Yesterday, which came to Paul McCartney in his sleep. (If you watch that video, let me know if you agree that Paul is so adorable!)
- Golfer Jack Nicklaus’ whose career was crumbling. In a dream he saw himself holding the club differently. When he tried the new grip later, his game improved dramatically and he was back on top again.
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde, which was plotted in a dream by Robert Louis Stevenson.
- Mary Shelley, who is said to have been inspired by a dream to create Frankenstein.
Of course, these are big, definitive examples, but how many of us have woken up with a solution to a problem that at one time seemed unsolvable?
Sleep or otherwise walking away from your writing, isn’t always the solution because if you’ve committed any serious time to writing, you know it doesn’t always flow, and sometimes you just have to give it time. But for those excruciating moments, when you know you’re completely stuck, walk away. Then, when you’re rested, go back to your writing and open up another vein.
Join The Silent Writers Collective on Tuesdays at 9 PM Eastern and/or 9 PM Pacific (US) for the next Silent Write-In.