On Writing

Quick Tip: Keep a Notebook by the Bed

AAAAHHHHH!!!!!  I just read this quick tip from the Daily Post, and suffered a protracted moment of — well, something akin to horror. The tip is a good one; nonetheless, it conjures memories of a long series of late nights spent restlessly tossing and turning instead of sleeping, punctuated by hastily scribbled notes about Hamlet, Doctor Faustus, Subtle, & Prospero. (the main characters of my thesis investigation…) Those nightly notes would make it to my desk in the light of day — sometimes shedding additional light on my writing, more often just proof of a mind gone slightly mad. (I spent a lot of time with Hamlet, okay?) As my thesis wound blessedly to conclusion and received blessing for accomplishment (translate that to, ‘we really don’t want to read through this anymore, Becky — consider it done.’), the stacks of printed sections, the printed comments from my readers, the notebooks and texts not belonging to the library remained where I’d left them, mouldering on my desk for months. I couldn’t bear to look at any of it, and though I was glad to be finished, I also mourned the ending of a feverish and focused time spent writing, often for twelve to fourteen hours per day. Though the writing exhausted me, it also energized me in a way I’d never experienced before — and left me hungry to read, research, think and write that way again.

Weeks and weeks and weeks later on a Sunday afternoon, one of my sons called, and I headed to my desk to sit and talk about all that was happening in his world. While we chatted, my hands, seemingly of their own volition, began sorting through the thesis leftovers, and I uncovered a stack of notes penned in the restless nights of crafting and revising six chapters of analysis in late Renaissance drama. Those thought fragments alarmed me. Not because they existed (though that was a bit unsettling as well), but because they made so little sense to me months later. During the frenzy, I ate, drank, and even slept with the “brave language” of Renaissance drama providing the ebb and flow of my every moment. The notes scribbled ‘beside my bed’ remained behind as evidence of a complete immersion into the creative thought process that my thesis demanded. A crazed woman on a mission. That’s who I was. I want to be her again. Books and pages and barely discernable late night scribbles and drafting and revision and thought and words….  Ah, the writing life!

So, by all means, keep that notebook by your bed. Great ideas come at the most inconveniently convenient times. Be ready. And in the waking hours, if you’re going to be a writer, immerse yourself in the world of others’ imaginations. You’ll discover your own. The words will follow. Often, it seems, in the daggone middle of the restless nights…

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