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Pens in Bed (the benefits of unloading your daily cogitations)

Last night while in bed I thought of a good idea for a blogging topic. I mentally composed the blogpost but never actually wrote anything down. I remember thinking, “what if I forgot this idea when I awoke the next morning?” My answer was a curious rationalization at the time: I told myself that despite the risk of forgetting the topic,  I would eventually remember it – maybe not immediately. Also (I told myself that night) the topic wasn’t   brilliant or of earth-shattering importance, so I decided to risk it and do nothing. I fell asleep.

The next morning. Of course I have no idea what this blogging topic was. But I remember thinking that night was the idea for the blog post was interesting.  A clever reader might assume that this meta-post about my idea  was in fact the topic itself – but no, I assure you that the topic I came up with was genuine and meaty (albeit a little frivolous).

I feel pretty sure that the idea was not particularly important, so I am not worried. And if I concluded yesterday that the idea would eventually come to me,  I’m sure it will. (And by the way, I’ll link to what the topic actually was – so you can see for yourself whether the loss of this blogging idea was notable or not).

The funny thing is, I usually am diligent about recording ideas in bed.  When I do creative writing, I take frequent naps in order to get away from the computer and recuperate my energy. Right before dozing off, I will often play with phrases or ideas in my head and   groggily write a few phrases down on a piece of paper to jar my memory the next morning. My handwriting is awful, but that does not matter; usually all I need is to recognize a phrase or two, and the original idea will jump back into my brain. When writing fiction, you are constantly playing around with words to get the right phrase; sometimes the effort seems futile, and when I am in bed, I continue to do it; for me it is like counting sheep.  There have been times when I’ve leapt out of bed to type the paragraph, but more often than not, I go to asleep, content with the knowledge that a good idea has been recorded and will eventually make it to the permanent record. Occasionally, I ignore what I wrote down or end up not using it, but I’m still glad I did it; you have to have a way to keep a permanent record of your cogitations.

Last week I talked to a good friend who had experienced a personal tragedy. An old boyfriend had died from a freak accident; she felt all kinds of guilt for not seeing him more or appreciating him. She took his heart for granted  and now she wished she could have treated him better. The truth was my friend had a big heart, and what she perceived as insensitive probably was not as bad as she described. But she was in a kind of agony – and it was the middle of the night; she could not sleep.  I tried to help her; I was older and more emotionally mature (in a way), but at the same time I had never experienced such a shocking loss before. My friend could not get the loss out of her mind; I imagine I would be the same way in a similar situation.

One consoling thought I gave her was that every morning when you awoke you forget everything —sadness, joys, anxiety and even chocolate – when you gradually remember everything, it is a little surprising, but the feeling is not too immediate or gripping. If I were an axe-murderer or rape victim, it is certainly possible that I would awake the next morning with no memory of what had happened until the traumatic memory returned with a bang. It might even be possible to have a shower or drink the morning’s first coffee before the mind reacquaints itself  with the burdens of memory. Every morning is full of optimism – an antidote to the previous night’s despair. (I don’t typically have nocturnal despairs, but anything seems less scary the next morning).  At night, the problems of the world can seem so overwhelming; in the morning one can approach them with composure.

My friend will revisit the sadness of her ex-boyfriend’s loss many times.  I know it will continue to hurt and shock her every time she remembers it.  But at least sleep will provide a temporary reprieve. Sleep is necessary and restorative of course. Psychological research shows that sleep aids in the formation of long term memory. On the other hand sleep provides a way for the mind to unburden itself – if only temporarily – from the daily travails. Sometimes late at night you can get caught up in all kinds of crazy emotions; sometimes a rebooting is the answer.

But having the pen at your side all the time provides the best comfort of all.

Update: I remembered what the blogging idea was midway through this essay (which I blogged about here).  How trivial it was!

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