Ideas at dawn

Like most writers, I keep a notepad and pen beside my bed. Sometimes an idea comes to me in the middle of the night, so I try silently to slide the drawer open, extract the book, and scribble in it in the dark without waking my husband. It’s interesting, the effect complete darkness has on your writing skill. Often when I read my notes, the next morning, my handwriting is double its normal size and slants alarmingly across the page.

William Wordsworth


Ideas often come to me in that phase between dream and wakefulness, when the brain mixes up elements of memory, dreams and imagination and comes up with plot solutions. Some of my big plot decisions originate from notes taken on waking. It can be frustrating trying to stay in the zone, when your body is waking up. Sometimes I will try to extend the moment, screwing up my eyes to exclude light, and going deaf like a teenager ignoring the alarm ringing at 7am for school.

In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande advocates getting up an hour earlier than usual and writing before doing anything else, and particularly before reading anything. Write about whatever is in your head, she says. A dream, a conversation, an item on last night’s news, the last thing you read before falling asleep. The quality of what you write is not important, she says, just the very fact that you are writing at all is key.

Wordsworth thought about that moment at dawn, too. William Wordsworth From ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’, taken from my Dent edition of ‘Selected Poems’ used when I was at university.

William Wordsworth


‘Selected Poems’ by William Wordsworth [UK: Penguin]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Ideas at dawn: apparelled in celestial light #amwriting via @SandraDanby