Okay—here’s the thing. I’m a writer who gets these creative and often inspirational urges between midnight and dawn. I’m talking writing stuff, of course. I like to use pen and pad that’s kept close by–and often in the dark. Why in the dark? Because if I took those few seconds to turn the light on and let my eyes get adjusted, I lose those elusive moments of creative inspiration. Let me give you some examples.
I had been stuck on a “grab-ya” opening for an article I was writing before I went to bed. The sub-conscience works in mysterious ways because at 2:37 a.m. ( I peeked)–the perfect opening sentence jumped into my mind. I groped for my pad and pen, scribbled down my sentence without opening my eyes or the bedside light and went back to sleep. Feeling quite pleased with myself in the morning, I checked my notepad to see what I had jotted down. One’s memory of that perfect grab-ya sentence can be less than perfect in the daylight hours. Sure enough, the scribbled squiggles took a lot of squinting and deciphering. The opening sentence was definitely creative, but I didn’t use it because I’m positive I didn’t intend to describe the colourful folk art as “colossal cabbages of bathroom art.”
Another time, I went to bed worrying over the ending to a short story. What I had seemed too contrived and my alternative ending seemed too farfetched. Sure enough, at 3:42 a.m., I found myself groping for pen and pad. Madly scribbling in the dark and with my eyes tightly closed, I wrote that perfectly ingenious ending. The next morning I read what I had written. It probably was a perfect ending, but I couldn’t read the overlapping curlicues that ran off the pages of my notepad and continued on my pillow.
The solution to my problem couldn’t be as simple as turning on my bedside lamp. Instead, I decided my notepad was too small. If I had a larger pad, my hand writing would have more room to spread, making it easier to read by morning light. My other thought was to jot down only the key words which would supposedly jog my memory into remembering the solution. So far, these changes have helped half the time in recovering whatever thoughts I had in the wee hours of the morning. The other half of the time, it’s been a challenge.
Most times I do carry a pen and notepad. I like to write down tantalizing bits of overheard conversations, random descriptions of people I’ve encountered in my day or in my ramblings through art galleries, coffee bars. shops, farmers’ markets, etc. It’s immensely helpful to have pen and paper in hand to jot down stuff that could be fodder for future stories. The other day, one of my colleagues suggested a pocket recorder. I didn’t want to tell him that I had tried this. Instead of “playing” what I had recorded, I had accidently pressed “delete” and erased everything.
Browsing through a number of newspapers in the Public Library can also produce some memorable bits and pieces that I can record in my notepad. I just know that the person who wrote this classified ad must have a heck of a story to tell: SWAP unused size 4, white wedding gown and two size 6, pastel blue bridesmaid dresses for a 12-gauge shotgun. Contact J.P. Lange, Box 4645, c/o This Newspaper.