Saturday, 26 April 2014

As easy as falling asleep

When I tell people that I'm a writer (and yes, I do let it slip from time to time) one of the first things people wonder is where I get my ideas from. Is it hard to get good ideas for stories?

I often answer by saying it's as easy as falling asleep.

Which makes it sound pretty easy, right? I mean falling asleep? How difficult is that? It's something we all do pretty much every day, isn't it?

I beg to disagree. When I say that getting good ideas for stories is actually is as easy as falling asleep, I'd actually argue that it's nowhere near as easy as it sounds.

To explain, let me start by asking - how do you fall asleep? Funny thing is, while we all do it, I don't think any of us actually knows how it's done. Even though we all do it every day, we're never quite sure what we're really doing. We just lie down and put our head on a pillow, and hey presto it's next morning. And if you don't believe me, think of the last time you had insomnia. The last time you rolled around in bed, desperately wishing you could fall asleep, but not being able to do anything about it. I know it's happened to me an awful lot.

Getting ideas for stories is a bit like that. Yes, I do it. In fact, I do it quite often. But I have no idea how I actually do it. And there are times when, even though I really want to do it, I am completely unable to.

Sure, there are things that can help. Just as getting to sleep is a lot easier if you're in a relaxed frame of mind, and you don't have too many thoughts clogging up your head, so it is with writing. If you can get your mind into a relaxed, open kind of mode, the ideas are much more likely to flow. But it's no guarantee.

And now that I've got that off my chest, I've feeling a little bit snoozy. Hope I can figure out how to get to sleep.


  1. Walter Benjamin wrote, “If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.” How many times have you been lying in bed, dozing off and you get a good idea? Happens to me more times than you’d expect. Only we should expect it. Getting a good idea is like getting out of a Chinese finger puzzle: it’s all about not trying. It’s counter-intuitive but it works. And the same with good ideas. One of my current gripes is how cluttered my brain is at the moment. The Internet is constant and so I’m continually bombarded with stuff and I really don’t have time to be bored, not the good boredom, the creative boredom. I have two articles on the subject of boredom if you’ve not read them: Part I, Part II.

    1. Hi Jim. Thanks for the articles. Have a good week.