I have a confession to make: I take naps.
I know that doesn’t sound like that big a revelation, but when you maintain you are working hard, people tend to take a dim view of you lying down on the job. It looks lazy.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m actually working.
I know. This sounds like some sort of Orwellian doublethink to make it sound like I’m not a total slacker. (As though a guy publishing and marketing three books a year is slacking.)
“Wait,” you say. “I’ve seen writing. It involves sitting at the keyboard typing out stories. Or maybe you could even claim plotting out beats in a notebook as writing. But not napping. Napping is sleeping. I’m not buying it.”
I understand that. Napping certainly doesn’t look like writing. It looks like the total opposite of writing (or any other kind of work).
But a lot of writing doesn’t look like writing.
As you noted, I spend some of my writing time with a notebook outlining chapters. I also make plot notes, character notes, define terms, and things like that — things that are important to the telling of a story.
I also edit the manuscript after its been written. That’s part of writing too, even though technically it’s something else.
And I spend time on the internet researching. I look up Latin translations, Norse mythology, and technical information on gadgets or world history that appears in my books. For Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale, I spent a lot of time researching Lawrence High School, so the setting would be authentic.
“Yeah, yeah, John,” you say. “I get that. That’s all important stuff that goes into your process, so you can count that as writing. Napping doesn’t fit that bill.”
Well, again, a lot of writing doesn’t look like writing.
You see, writing requires careful thought. The ideas have to come from somewhere, and they have to be executed well. I write adventure stories, so my heroes have to face obstacles, and they have to find interesting and exciting ways to overcome them. This stuff doesn’t just spring into my head. I have to think about it.
That’s where napping comes in. When I lay down for a nap, I put whatever story I’m working on in the front of my mind. I puzzle over plot complications. I try to decide what’s going to happen next. I look for solutions.
As I start to drift away — when I’m in that No Man’s Land between sleep and wakefulness — a different part of my brain unlocks. Halfway to La-la Land lies the path to my imagination.
If I’m focused on a story element, I can access the creative part of part my mind — the part where the solutions to problems, where the next plot twist, and where the thrilling climax reside. My writer brain is most alive when it is in that altered state that precedes sleep.
Somehow, I remember these visions when I awake. After the nap I’m ready to type again. I’m ready to add them to the story.
There are probably ten different studies on how the brain works before it falls asleep and what dreams mean and how good sleep benefits creatives. I haven’t read them. Like so much of the magic I draw on to craft my stories, I only know that it works and how to manipulate it.
For me at least, napping is an essential part of the creative process. It is a way to actively tap the wellsprings of my creativity. Napping is work. Napping is writing.
So I nap. I nap without shame. After all, when I’m flat on my back on the couch in a sunbeam, I’m working hard.
Sometimes, this job is really great!