The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Writing on the Edge

By Craig Terlson

While pondering what to write about in this blog entry, all my thoughts turn to a deep desire, or at least a current desire, truly what I need as I am writing this... sleep. I thought, as an experiment, I would write at a time when I am really on the edge of wakefulness. This can be a fun time to let the thought patterns drift and to listen as the synapses fire like pistols filmed in ultra-slow motion. It is interesting when I force myself to do this, it's almost a drifting sort of automatic writing, if you allow yourself to truly go with the flow the riffs start to ripple like a seasoned jazz drummer; Buddy Rich pre-tonight show wavers a blurry stick and snaps out a pushed beat across the edge of the snare, the bass thuds, not quite together but an immeasurable distance apart.

It's beats, but with words: thinking about Dr Derk-jan Dijk, the sleep researcher (since I was thinking about him before I stared writing), thinking about how we fight sleep from the first moment we wake, like a tide that forever wants to come in; and for some reason James Joyce drifts into my mind. The end of his story "The Dead".

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

All the soft flowing snow flakes and the soft words that make the reading experience not just dreamy, but lulls us off into that netherworld of random thought, deep breathing, and diaphanous visions.

As I write, I become more awake and the words come quicker - that is usually a desired thing, sometimes when I am tired I write myself out of it. But as the thoughts become more coherent, in a way they become less interesting. It's not that I want to write only of the apparitions that drift through my brain (usually large, purple and spotted) but I love that feeling of being on the edge. When I am searching for an end to a story, or even a direction, there is nothing like a nap to explore the possibilities. the bitch of it is, sometimes I have it, just as I reach that alpha state, the solution, and it's brilliant, and I don't have the wherewithal to get up and write it down.

Sometimes, when I wake it is still there, a residual image, like retina burn of the brain, and I go back to the keyboard and write like an awakened demon. Other times it is gone into the ether, it might come back or show up in another form (perhaps at the beginning of another nap), or it may just be gone.

This does not frustrate me. I could use a cheesy metaphor like somehow I let the idea free to roam the wild (sort of, "if it doesn't come back, it never was yours in the first place") – rather, I know that the world we inhabit, both in its visible and invisible forms, is home to an infinite sea of ideas, metaphors, and interesting apparitions.
The next one awaits.

My pillow calls.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I love this, Craig. I seem to "write" my stories best when I'm drifting off to sleep or just awakening and I'm sure I'll remember when I get up. I rarely do. I tell myself it's in my brain somewhere and will come out when it's time.

Have a fruitful nap!

Sun Sep 17, 04:26:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

My favorite type of post, Craig! One in which I can see my own tendacies in writing. Makes me feel less alone in all this :)

Mon Sep 18, 12:48:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

All the soft flowing snow flakes and the soft words that make the reading experience not just dreamy, but lulls us off into that netherworld of random thought, deep breathing, and diaphanous visions. to me while I fall asleep...lovely

Mon Sep 18, 10:12:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Hey, man, this is beautiful writing! How very dreamy of you!

Tue Sep 19, 10:46:00 am GMT-4  

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