The Un-Muse

you_should_be_writing Doctor Matt 03

I imagine you have all suffered from this. You are drifting off the sleep, and every bone in your body has turned to jelly. Just as you about to sink under the waves of the ocean of dreams, an excellent idea suddenly pops into your brain. But you are so comfortable! If you get up to write down the idea, you will disturb your spouse/partner/cat. And it is such a good idea, surely you won’t – simply CAN’T – forget it. The ocean of dreams closes above your head.

The next morning, you can remember you had an idea just as you were falling asleep. However, that is the only fact you can remember, even when racking your brain. As the day progresses, you have a lingering feeling of frustration and regret. You can only hope that the idea will reoccur to you (after all, you’ve come up with it once before).

It’s time for bed again. You put pen and paper beside the bed, ready for the possibility of another flash on inspiration as you dive into sleep. An idea does occur to you, but the mattress is so comfortable and your limbs are as heavy as lead…

The Anti-Muse has struck again.

If you are like me, you are haunted by the possibilities lost when these ideas are forgotten. And yet – night after night after night – knowing I need to write down this idea or risk losing it forever – I can’t stir my limbs even to write down two words to jog my memory the next morning. Why? Why?

The Anti-Muse is the evil twin of the voice that delivers me a great idea when I need it. It is a tease and a trial, because I often wonder if those ideas were as great as I seem to believe. Am I deluding myself? Surely, if the ideas were really that good, I would remember them.

So, what would you do in my shoes?

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13 Comments

Filed under Personal experience, Writer's Block, Writing Style

13 responses to “The Un-Muse

  1. Yep! Know that feeling! It’s usually at that time when I say to myself, instead of staring up at the ceiling in the dark why don’t I get up and turn the computer on and do something constructive (which I have done occasionally) However, when I go to check my phone and the time is glaring at me, I groan and think I’ve only got like six hours of possible sleep time before I have to get up and get the kids ready for school, plus feed all the animals and have a shower…So, that’s when I turn over and convince myself that I really WILL remember this awesome idea for plot, story, conversation, beginning of a chapter, awesome fight scene…And then…next morning…Well, you get the idea or rather don’t as this is a post about forgetting such things! On the very rare days I do recall some of my oh so great ideas, and some I keep, and others I let slip away as upon closer examination I realise they’re not as good as I first thought! 🙂

  2. Nope. Never happens. Apparently this makes me unusual. I never remember dreams either so never use them as inspiration.

  3. Oh yes. Been there, fudged that.

    But this effect is actually well researched by science (tho’ not so fully understood) and a writer (or costumer, or engineer, or mad scientist) can deliberately make use of it. I have.
    – Stuck in your book? Plot? Character? Backstory?
    In the middle of the day when you’re not needing sleep (I always need sleep!), and the kids/wife/minions have all gone away, lie down, relax, and ‘drift’. Deliberately think of *any* other problem but the one you’re trying to solve. Or visualise all the steps you’ll go through tomorrow making that pie/cake/rocket-launcher/greenhouse you’ve been planning. The mind relaxes, the alpha waves get surfing, and pow! The answer comes.
    I’ve fixed several books this way.

    (Most famous example – the needle idea for the first sewing machine.)

  4. A related story:
    I’ve written and had published (and made good sales!) a kid’s comedy series: “Horse Apples”. Three books nailed, three published back-to-back. Book II was a finalist in the NZ Children’s Book Awards, 2001.
    Fast forward to about 2004 – Suddenly – Pow! The idea for the 4th book just exploded all over the inside of my mind. I was in the kitched at the time. Grabbed a pen and a scrap of paper and wrote it down. Captured!!!
    Felt so pleased!
    Here’s the kicker: I never saw that scrap of paper again, & forgot the entire idea. Believe me – I felt really broken. Grief-stricken.
    Some 12 years later, just recently in fact, it came back to me.
    Meanwhile I had written a completely different Book IV – which the exact same publisher (in NZ) loved by never proceeded with (Hell! they *wanted* to!) because the Aus branch of said publisher wasn’t at all interested, despite having sold the others (and done well out of them).

    Sometimes, being a writer just completely and utter sucks.
    And a certain Australian publisher sucks balls. I actually hate them.

  5. i never thought i would be able to wake up and write down an idea but had to buy a new alarm clock and i tought myself to always check the clock when i wake up – it has such a bright light that it makes it possible to be awake enough to write down / draw an idea and still being tired enough to sleep again afterwards… but yes, no cat or partner here that would wake up from that, my plants and spiders dont care ^^

  6. wsmarble

    I don’t think you should worry about it. The idea is still in there, and will surface at the moment you need it…after fermenting to a finer version in your subconscious. You are not having the total recall right now, not using it right now, because you don’t need it yet. It’s on the shelf though, waiting for the moment.

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