Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Does anybody else do this?

A few nights ago, I got some ideas for one of my stories while I was lying in bed.  This is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, time this has happened.  I typically try not to think much about writing while lying in bed, because I have enough trouble falling asleep as it is.  However, there is nothing I can do about the occasional flashes.

In the past, I used to try to remember the idea the next morning--which is a really bad idea.  At least, for me it is.  The problem is that, more often than not, the terrific idea I had at 1:00am will run off in the middle of the night, to be only vaguely recalled the next day like a half-remembered dream (sometimes I'm not even sure I had an idea, maybe it was just a dream.)  It didn't take me very long, even years ago before I started enacting writing-self-discipline, to learn to keep a notepad and working pen on my bedside table.  I also keep one in my purse/backpack/diaper bag at all times.  All times.  You never know when lightning is going to strike, and you need to be ready!  It also comes in handy for jotting down phone numbers, prices, and other miscellaneous bits of information that you may, one day, need.

At any rate, the notepad and pen on my table meant that I didn't have to do more than roll over to write down my ideas and clear my head so I could sleep.  I drifted off, content that my thoughts were safe.

Until I woke up, and realized that only half of what I wrote was legible.

The biggest problem was that I was writing in the dark.  I don't want to turn a light on, because I don't want to wake my husband, so I just felt my way across the paper.  The result of this was a few lines that had huge gaps between them, and others that I wrote right on top of each other.  Some lines even crossed like flattened Xs.  As a result, my notes look something like "on friend, bristles asks him bar 2 why he..."  And those are just the words I can decipher.

Another problem is that my middle-of-the-night handwriting is crap.  Well, to be honest, most of my handwriting is crap.  I can write neatly, if I'm (slowly) writing a short note on a birthday card or copying down a recipe, but most of the time my writing looks like chicken scratch.  I can never write stories longhand because my story looks legible for about a paragraph.  Then it looks messy for another two or three paragraphs, and then it gets so bad that I have trouble reading it; plus, I can't write as fast as the ideas come, so my writing gets even worse as I try to keep up with myself.  This is even more true now than it was, say, eleven or twelve years ago, when I was in high school and writing longhand regularly.  Now that I utilize the hand muscles for typing but not for writing, I really can't sustain longhand for much time.

But I digress.

Luckily, this time I remembered most of what I'd been thinking about, so deciphering the notes didn't take too long.  But I haven't always been so fortunate.  I suppose I have yet to learn to keep a flashlight on the bedside table too.


Anonymous said...


Anne Lamott - Bird by Bird.

-- Brian

Ben Godby said...

I used to keep track of my dreams, so I'm used to writing in the dark. But now, if a good idea pops into my head while I'm sleeping (or trying to), I tend to lie very still until it's had time to fully develop, and then rush to my laptop. My brain simply works too fast for my hands these days...


Happily Cheesy said...

I'm a composer as well as writer, so midnight inspiration is two-fold. I have a digital recorder that goes everywhere with me. Early AM whispers may be a positive alternative to sloppy handwriting. =)

Sela said...

You need a book light so you don't have to hold it while you write. They're amazing for late night scribbles :)