Powered by Sleep

I had thought that synchro-blogging would be easy – I was given a theme and a deadline – all I had to do was come up with something to say. And I typically don’t have any trouble coming up with something to say. But I had forgotten about another possible problem – having too much to say.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the theme in my head, but as I was under the weather for a couple of days, I hadn’t managed to get anything down on paper so to speak. And here’s the thing about writing: writing in your head is helpful up to a point, but in the end, you have to sit down and get to business. For me, when I have too many ideas swirling around in my head, getting to business may involve writing pages of material that never see the light of day – pages that simply need to get out of my head and out of the way, so that I can see the ideas worth sharing that have been hidden beneath the ideas with loud voices.

After writing down some long narrative that I am not going to share (or at least not right away – I will tuck it away in case it proves to be the sleeping seed of another project), very often it helps to take a nap – and that is exactly what I did in this case. Which is ironic, given that the theme of the synchro-blog I was working on was “AWAKE.” But in order to wake up, we first have to sleep, and a lot of great stuff happens in our brains when we are sleeping. Our brains re-organize in our sleep, so there is no better time for a nap, in my experience, than right after having made some space by removing some thoughts into the pensieve for later.  Just make sure you wake up with a pencil, pen, or keyboard handy.

There were Saturdays in the parish when I found napping essential to sermon preparation.  I would think about my sermon all week – and sometimes inspiration would strike (usually right after a shower or first thing in the morning or right after a conversation with my husband) and I would have written a manuscript well before Saturday.  But if not, I could be found on the living room sofa with a Bible and a hymnal and several sheets of paper.  I would write down phrases that struck me from the scriptures and hymns I was using, then I would draw lines between related phrases, and circle repetitive phrases, and then… I would be overcome with sleepiness, and curl up on the sofa and take a nap.  When I woke up, I would write the sermon.  Or a sermon, anyway.  Sunday morning post-shower re-writes were common, no matter what my method had been.

Thinkers, sleep is your friend:  whether you write poetry or sermons or computer software or write as little as possible, we all have problems to solve, and after our conscious minds have chipped away at the problem, it may be time to put our unconscious minds to work.

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