The Early Morning Ghost

Writers are lucky that the human species does not wake up instantly. Instead, we lounge in bed, even after the alarm goes off. In those minutes before fully awakening, thoughts about your story can come to you. Like a cyclone, a ball of thoughts about a scene can spin out of the nether regions. Soon enough, you find yourself trying to lock down the ineffable so that you can include it in the book.

What ends up happening, unless you possess a preternatural ability to access your subconscious, is that you concretize only a small portion, maybe a paragraph. Lying in bed, you keep repeating the words, over and over, until you remember them well enough that you can jump up, rush to your desk, and record them. Repeating also helps you to judge whether you really have discovered a bon mot. Many times the thoughts tumbling inside your head can glow because the general direction seems so promising. When you actually pull one of the lumps out into plain view, you may find that it is really dross. That realization may occur while you’re still in bed, when you write it down, or when you review it later, thinking you were so damned smart and . . .  wazzz this thing?

Once you have written down your eureka thought, don’t set it aside and trot off to breakfast. Dwell with it awhile longer. You may not be able to recapture the glowing whorl, but you may be able to tack on thoughts to what you have. What are the possible consequences of that sentence or two you wrote down? 

Let’s say the line is: “She didn’t mind that he wasn’t smooth, that his chin scratched her. She was pleased he had tried at all.” What do you know about that woman character? Does this new thought turn up a new trait of hers you hadn’t considered? Bear in mind that you don’t have to write follow-on text. You could simply make a note about her in her character-notes file: I want her also to be like “that.”

When you dwell in the pursuit of what pulled you out of bed, you may find, while drinking a cup of coffee to keep waking up, that you are tingling with the promise of a good writing session to come. Maybe the page you write that morning is more pedestrian than your eureka sentence, but it still a page of writing you put down on paper. Especially if you had been building up to a new breakthrough over the past few days, the one thought bursts open a dam of other thoughts. Brilliance doesn’t only come in spurts. Once you have material down where you can work with it, you can rewrite until that entire page shines as well.

“The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.”    ―William Faulkner

Copyright @ 2021 John Paine. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2020 John Paine. All rights reserved.