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And If That Mockingbird Don’t Sing

A writer recently confessed that he napped a great deal when starting a project. Sometimes taking two and three naps a day. Of course, one wants to imagine pole vaulting into a new project, high diving off a great promontory, covering one’s body in red clay. One wants to be bold, to spar, to find the chord progression, the last turn of a rusted key. You do not want to be drooling on your satin pillow, body fetal, a sinister mosquito lazing around your ear. You do not want to be dead to the world when the world is calling. I get it, though I have different psychosomatic writing symptoms. I think, and I’m not sure if this is a technical term, but I think all this napping is about fear. It’s about the daunting task ahead. It’s about shutting down, over and out, where’s my bankie, and please shut the fuck up I’m trying to get some sleep around here.

Literary narcolepsy; can you relate?

38 Responses

  1. Totally. Nothing like starting a new project to put me right to sleep.

  2. Absolutely I can relate. In fact, I’m approaching a very good place towards completion of the next stage of my book and I can’t help but take a deep, 2-hour nap every day. It’s bizarre.

  3. I’m of a dual mindset about this as I imagine that fear and resistance can be a part of the shutting down into naps, at least it is with me. But also, going away for a bit–especially via sleep–can allow the ideas to kind of download right into your brain, sometimes fully formed and whole.

    As much as I’ve used naps to escape the abject terror, I’ve also woken up having the perfect answer to some connection or structure problem just sitting there, whistling a tune, waiting for me.

  4. I don’t necessarily nap, but I find plenty of supposedly writing related things to do. Books to read, books on writing to study, considering a new computer or time schedule to write on. You get the picture.

  5. If I’m napping at odd times of the day it’s either an omen for an impending migrane or I’m getting sick. The curse of the Type A personality is rejecting sleep ’cause you won’t get a-l-l your self-appointed tasks done. Drinking a pot of coffee a day also prevents me from being able to nod off. Lord, I am a mess.

  6. I never have enough time to write, and whatever I do will be rewritten many times. Craft and imagination seem to answer my fear of not being good enough. I wish I didn’t have to sleep.

  7. Today I learned that when people say, “Make yourself sit down and write,” it works.

    Mosquitoes always have clearly stated and apparent agendas.

    • Virginia, earlier this year, I spent four nights on an isolated river, then two more on uninhabited isles. There is stuff that will keep the mossies from biting, but nothing that will get them to leave you alone. It occured to me that if writers were as tenacious as mosquitos, we’d be awash in work, or perhaps just abuzz.

      No-seeums, which are invisible flying teeth, are another thing all together. It’s good that they aren’t as determined as mosquitos.

      • No-seeums, are without a doubt, invisible flying teeth.
        Godzilla is nothing compared to no-seeums.
        Someone should make a movie about a giant no-seeum which attacks Duluth. Do they have no-seeums in Duluth?

      • Alternate name: you-feelums.

      • Mike: oh, so that’s where TSA agents get their career start.

      • I have luck only with Deep Woods Off, but it hasn’t helped my writing at all. No-see-ums are sometimes called midges or black flies. We had a plague of them in Illinois a few years back, but not a usual pest. I had so many munch on me in Florida before I was initiated that I had flu-like symptoms. I think they might be able to kill you.

        Here we go OT again.

    • In my days of taking long walks in the woods, micro naps were called combat naps, and yes, they were surprisingly effective. They don’t require getting prone, either. Leaning against something works fine.

  8. I love my couch.
    Sometimes I recline during the day, brightness trying to invade my lids, fighting, screaming, “…get the fuck up it’s daytime you lazy bitch,” it yells, and sometimes the quiet of the house envelopes me like warm water in a deep tub.
    I love naps, 15 minutes of caffeine without the coffee.

  9. I could stare at that cat picture all day.

    Yes, I nap often when I start a new project, in order to dream about the book I’d rather be writing because whenever I start a new project I immediately get ten ideas for the books that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. It’s exhausting.

  10. At the beginning of a project, I stay up until all hours, elated and frantic to get everything down before it disappears.

    At the end,the literary sleep dep catches up to me and I try to get my fingers to type out sentences that are half-blocked by my twenty-pound eyelids.

    So, yeah. I’ve got a Pavlovian yawn response to MS Word going on right now . . .

  11. Nah I just put on the red clay

  12. Well, I got a different theory about napping: you’re tapping into your unconscious, where all the brilliance and connections come from. Of course, you sleep and dream. Therein lie the answers.

    I’m not kidding.

    • That was my first thought when I read the post. Dorothea Brande writes about that dreamy state that is conducive to writing, and John Gardner writes about fiction as “vivid and continuous dream.” How can you write a dream unless you dream it first? Of course, the sleepies can also be a form of resistance.You have to judge by the result, no?

      Napping (one per day, when I do) does me a world of good and makes me feel like I get a second chance, a second morning, in which to start my day better than I did the first time. I call it “rebooting.”

  13. I rarely take naps. I can’t recall the last time I had one…although one time I was writing and it was so damn boring I did fall asleep with my fingers on the keyboard and a long line like this; ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt showed up across the page.

    Sometimes I think I’m emotionally naive… or maybe it’s the fact I lack the literary angst that seems to be needed to write brilliantly. In other words, I’m not a tortured soul. I don’t get all twisted out of shape over starting something new, or even a WIP…more like I’m excited and eager to see how it all shapes up. That’s not to say I won’t get stuck, and then get frustrated, but a nap isn’t usually what I want.

    There is only one time I’ve ever wanted to escape something through sleep – and that was just recently. One word – Bella.

    • Donna, I gotta say- I think angst is highly overrated as a creative force, or much of anything good. Yeah, angst happens, like the swine flu. Yeah, my soul has been waterboarded, but the best that has come from it is its ending.

      My best has come from wonder, found in a face, an experience, a place, just being knocked out by it. Maybe I’m easy, but there’s much that amzes me.

      • I’m glad to hear it…and you and I might just be kindred souls, because there’s much that still amazes me too…I can get mesmerized by a sun that comes up just when the sky has enough clouds to turn them cotton candy pink. I could stare at that sky for hours….which is why it’s probably a good thing something like that only lasts a few seconds…otherwise I’d get nothing done.

      • It is the artist in us which notices that which others dismiss. Colors, smells, sounds, how beautiful and how quirky…we notice them because we are more aware I think.
        Frank just today i was thinking about you sailing during that snowstorm. I can’t get the image of it out of my mind. The way you wrote it. The quiet of it seems symphonic somehow. Amazing writing… that.

    • I was sorry to read of Bella’s passing.

      For me most of the obstacles to writing disappeared by being sober and writing every day. That doesn’t mean I always write well, but I always have something to rewrite. Literary angst is real, but so is faith in the process.

      • Thank you Dan…Bella was extraordinarily special to me. Being sober is HUGE, and writing every day is therapeutic (for me anyway)…it doesn’t matter if it’s bad, and like you…I believe faith in the process is all that really matters.

      • Thank you, Wry. That was an experience I’ll never forget, and you’re right- the quiet was symphonic.

  14. Napping scares me. I think I associate it with growing old. Or baby/toddler days, either end of the life transition spectrum. I did like when my daughter used to take naps and I had time to get things down on paper. I kind of miss those days. The other thing is I awake from naps as disoriented as an old man in a Buick with a malfunctioning GPS. I feel like my sleep world should exist longer and wonder what the hell am I doing back in Kansas. Instead of relaxing, I just get freaked out. Bummer. No naps, but long walks I will take and the internet I will search.
    And when I am writing, when things are going good, it’s trance time; do not disturb. I have a brain, it’s just not here.

  15. I believe lying down.
    I believe in naps.
    I especially believe in the bath tub.

    Amen.

  16. It’s August. It’s hot. I nap.

  17. I adore weekend nap time; it’s a ritual in our house and has been since my kids were old enough to pipe down and do something on their own for an hour or two. While the nap is great and restorative, the best part for me (and for my writing) is the falling asleep and coming awake. My mind is untethered and that’s when I make some of my best connections and have some of the most interesting ideas.

    I love naps.

    P.S. Betsy, how do you feel about red ink? Love it, or regard it as a nefarious instrument of torture? http://comingofageinthemiddle.blogspot.com/2012/08/out-of-red.html

  18. Sleep and I, we are not friends. She knows I don’t care for her company so she spends as little time around me as she can.

    She has a mean sense of humor but that is because of all the years I did not treat her well. She often sneaks up on me at lunch and teases me by tapping on my eyelids while I’m trying to read.

    She sometimes insists I lie down with her in the evening before my working time is over; she often leaves me at three in the morning, cackling drily, even spitefully, saying, You wanted me to stay away so you could work–I’m gone now–I’m not coming back until the next time I sneak up on you–you want to work?–you’re such a big strong writer-man?–then get up and work–don’t expect me to come when you call–don’t expect anyone or anything to come when you call.

  19. I’m on day 3 of sitting in governing council meetings taking minutes. The narcolepsy I’m experiencing has nothing to do with writing.

    I’d give my left nut to be able to actually write right now. Funny how that works. Two years of unemployment never made me feel so much like banging out words on the keyboard.

  20. Rarely a day passes on which I do not partake of a 20 minute snoozle.

  21. When I was writing my novel, my schedule was: work half day or goof off, long walk, eat a sandwich, nap, write. Such a weird schedule — I remember looking out the window at people going out to bars while I wrote. I was preggo and writing a novel, so I lived in a different world.

    But in general, rolling out of sleep into writing works well.

  22. Naps feel better after the morning work is done. Less guilt that way.

  23. I love napping. Though I have actual narcolepsy, so not only do I have an excuse, they’re actually prescribed by my doctor! Ahhhhh. One of the things about narcolepsy is that you enter REM sleep unusually early – often within the first couple of minutes of sleep. Which means I’ll start dreaming straight away and dreaming is just about my favourite thing to do ever. Kind of takes the edge off what can be a really annoying condition.

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