I stare at the ceiling for hours. The clock is ticking like a heartbeat. At times the sound is soothing, others it is a constant, steady reminder that sleep will continue to evade me until I’m ready to give up the ghost. My husband talks in his sleep and I answer back until he is satisfied and rolls over. The dog whimpers and bats his tiny paws in the air. I watch and wonder who (or what) he is chasing in his dreams.
In the early hours of the morning, when I’m the only one who is still awake in all the world, I get my best ideas. Often my husband will say something so funny and nonsensical while sleeping that it will set off my imagination. The night I heard him say, “You can’t shake the barrel, it’s called arithmetic,” I wrote an entire children’s book in my head. It was about a barrel of monkeys who taught math classes to kids. If only I could draw, it would have been a best seller.
Sometimes I will type ideas I want to flesh out into my phone, but I also have a notebook and pen on my nightstand for the exact same purpose. Other concepts, like monkeys who teach math, I just plot out in my head. However, if I’m serious about an idea, one that has to be fully explored, I do have a more formal process.
I need a clean, quiet space. I can’t have music playing or a TV on. I become too easily distracted. I don’t like clutter. I need a bottle of Evian water within reach so I don’t go wandering into the kitchen for a drink because then I end up cleaning or putting away dishes or a million other things.
Because when I sit down to write, I do so with intention. Regardless of whether I’m writing because I have been inspired by the beauty of the sun or because I have an assignment due, once I start the writing process, I don’t like to stop. Because coming back to pick up wherever you left off just isn’t the same. The moment, the magic isn’t there anymore and the writing always feels stagnant and strange.
But once I’m “done”…well, is there ever a done? I could rewrite every sentence I’ve ever put on paper a thousand times over. I’m never satisfied. I could insert, remove, insert, remove a single comma, and then ask three other writers for their opinions. But that’s half the fun!
Once I turn assignments in, I feel relieved because I can no longer sit in front of the computer screen and torture those sentences to death. It’s done, it’s turned in, I can’t change a thing. Instead I can lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and think about the ticking of the clock and how I should have moved that one comma in the third paragraph.