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Dec 04

Napping: The Romance Writer’s Secret Weapon

If you want to be a successful writer you have to learn to nap. 

When we nap, we are resting our eyes while our imaginations soar. We can sort and sift, visualizing our hero and or heroine, creating scenarios for their story. 
Napping requires a prone position. We might drift off, just far enough to rescue our creative spirit from the chaos of everyday life. 
Where to nap? A bed is the obvious place, or in the living room recliner with the footrest up; a hammock is the best napping invention ever. 
How long should you nap? An hour is the optimum. That’s long enough to free your mind of the nagging demands of real life and set it free to solve the block you’ve encountered in your plot, or come up with an idea to transform a sagging middle into something the reader can’t put down. More than an hour and your family will start to worry. 
Comedian and writer Carrie Snow hit the nail on the head when she said, “No day is so bad it can’t be fixed by a nap.” We can paraphrase her statement to apply to untying knots in our creative thought process. 
If you can’t nap, you can always daydream. What?! Weren’t you told to quit daydreaming when you were a child? Like me you probably felt guilty for years when you lapsed into reverie. Instead, we should seek opportunities to daydream. Folding laundry, ironing, riding a bus, cleaning silverware: none of these require your mind to be in the present. You could be off exploring medieval castles, tracking down a vampire or riding the range with a handsome cowboy. One of my favorite places to daydream is walking along a deserted beach. 
Daydreams are fertile soil where creativity incubates. The Muse visits in reverie, even if the daydream has nothing to do with the project you’re working on. You know you’ve been daydreaming successfully when you’re suddenly jolted out of it! 
But we don’t just dream during the day, do we? Night-time dreams can be problem solvers too. I dream about my characters especially in the early hours of the morning, just before waking. I’ve “written” some of my best work then. Of course, sometimes I can’t remember the details when I wake up, but sooner or later, it sifts back into my consciousness and becomes an Aha! moment. 
Beethoven and Brahms used to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to write down scores. Thoreau kept a pencil and paper under his pillow. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the poem Kubla Khan in his sleep and Robert Louis Stevenson worked out plot details of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
I can almost guarantee that napping, daydreaming and nightscaping will resolve seemingly insoluble problems, even those that have nothing to do with writing. In The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco says, “A dream is a scripture.”
I wish you sweet dreams!

18 comments

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  1. Kaye Spencer

    Anna, Sleep and napping are two critical ‘tools’ for authors to keep in their writing tool boxes. While I don’t keep paper and pencil under my pillow, they are close at hand, because I fit into the category of occasionally ‘jumping out of bed’ to write down some brilliant burst of creativity. 😉 William Golding wrote, “Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset in a high wind.” And sometimes it gets pretty dusty around an author’s writing area when that happens. 😉

    1. Anna Markland

      Kaye
      Love the quote from Golding. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Tori Scott

    I often fall asleep to lines of dialogue running through my head, which sometimes leads to whole scenes being created. Lately I’ve fallen into the habit of writing all night long, until 6 or 7 in the morning, then sleeping until noon and taking a 3 hour nap late in the afternoon. It’s a schedule that works for me, and I love those naps.

    1. Anna Markland

      Gosh, Tori,
      I don’t know if I could keep to that schedule, although I was up till 3:30 this morning reading a book I couldn’t put down!

  3. Tori Scott

    I often fall asleep to lines of dialogue running through my head, which sometimes leads to whole scenes being created. Lately I’ve fallen into the habit of writing all night long, until 6 or 7 in the morning, then sleeping until noon and taking a 3 hour nap late in the afternoon. It’s a schedule that works for me, and I love those naps.

  4. Lana Williams

    Great post, Anna! Love the days when I get a chance for a nap, but doing anything with my hands – folding laundry, etc. – certainly seems to help my brain sort through those tangles. I tweeted as well!

    1. Anna Markland

      Thanks for dropping by, Lana. Appreciate the tweet.

  5. Nancy Morse

    I’m not a napper. If I do nap, I’ll usually wake up feeling cranky. However, at any given time during the day I’ll find my eyes drooping and suddenly I’ll do what is known as the subway nod. That is where your head snaps back and you jolt awake. Anyone who has ever ridden the New York subway has witnessed this phenomenon firsthand. I find that in between the time of the eye drooping and the subway nod I have had flashes of inspiration, which tells me that an Aha! moment can be just that…a moment.

    1. Anna Markland

      Love it! I seem to experience the head snap phenomenon more now that I’m a full time writer. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sydney Jane Baily

    I’m not a good napper; I think men are inherently better at dropping off to sleep at a moment’s notice, napping for 10 minutes or so, and then waking up refreshed. Many women whom I know can’t do this. It takes our brains a lot longer to switch off so we can go to sleep. (We might just have more on our minds than the male of the species. Just a theory.) I use the time when I’m trying to go to sleep at night to think about plots and scenes and dialogue. I usually say them over a few times, hoping I’ll remember when I wake up, but alas, I often don’t. I just have a general idea of what I was thinking about. So much creativity . . . forgotten during the night’s rest.
    Great post. Thanks.

    1. Anna Markland

      I agree, Sydney. My husband’s metabolism requires a nap in the afternoon, then he can work till all hours. I have to force myself to nap. I prefer daydreaming.

  7. Pat Amsden

    Too true! Sometimes my best light bulb moments in writing, or for that matter life, come when I go to bed trying to figure out a plot point or character interaction and get up the next minute going … oh, now I know!

    As for napping if your work at all hours of the day and night you learn to take the odd nap when opportunity presents itself. It’s called survival!

    1. Anna Markland

      Right on, Pat. With your schedule you would know. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Kathy Otten

    I usually end up taking a nap because I stayed up until 2am. 😀

  9. Anna Markland

    I know the feeling!

  10. Marianne Stephens

    A nap while everything is quiet helps revitalize me. Can’t do it every single day, but it helps when I can. I’d rather nap when tired than write gibberish because my brain is foggy!

  11. Anna Markland

    You’re right, Marianne. Sometimes we keep writing when we are way too tired and the result is often gibberish. However, it can on rare occasions be brilliant too!

  12. Melissa Keir

    I’ve recently found this heaven. My husband has helped me with it. Napping was always too hard for me to do. I couldn’t sleep with the daylight but he showed me how to turn off my brain and rest. Now I love that on the weekends, I can sleep and rest and refresh, but only if I get my other work done! 🙂

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