Have you ever had a knotty problem you just couldn’t sort out? One of those issues you need to solve, but just can’t seem to find the answer until you awaken in the middle of the night with the solution completely clear? Everyone has had this experience from time to time and some of us learn to use our rest periods specifically for this purpose.
I spent a number of years as a computer technician, faced daily with misbehaving machines, some tangled up in their instruction sets, some with failed hardware for firmware, some with a combination of both, and always at least one that refused to respond to all my efforts to bring it to heel. In the beginning I spent hours into the night sparring with the recalcitrant machine until physical and mental exhaustion forced me to sleep, only to awaken in the darkness with the fix suddenly clear. I learned not to tie myself in knots seeking the solution, but instead to relax and let my unconscious mind reveal the answer. It made life a lot easier and my family much happier.
Writing often has handed me similar situations, places where I need some guidance with my story line, or my character’s actions, or a character around whom to build a story. On more than one occasion I have awakened and gone to my desk to quickly scribble down what has come to me in my sleep. Perhaps the most memorable was the night I was awakened with this line in my head:
“I knew not from whence I came nor my age when old Najreen found me wandering
near the edge of the forest in the Kingdom of G’dorn.”
This revelation has led to a fantasy trilogy as yet neither complete nor published, a story best described as a philosophical fantasy, a vehicle offering life lessons and how one individual endures the travails of fortune each of us must face, survive, and continue onward.
Life is never easy. Challenges face us daily; some small, some large, all requiring some action on our part. Choosing which action is appropriate is the greatest challenge of all. Do you attack, do you avoid, do you ignore, do you simply endure? Do you make something happen, watch something happen, or wonder what happened? Do you make a snap decision, a considered decision, or no decision? For me, writing a fictional story is about placing a character in a situation and choosing which course the character will select, always watching to see what sort of ripples spread across the storied environment with the choices made.
The choices we make guide the way our lives ebb and flow, the good decisions making us happy, the not so good decisions offering the opportunity to learn how to make better choices in our future. Sometimes the best choices are the ones that arrive while our minds wander the dark corners of the universe in our sleep.