Star Light, Star Bright
by Annette McCleave on June 8th, 2010

My most brilliant writing moments happen when I’m asleep.

I go to bed stewing over plot problems, and when I wake up, I miraculously have answers. I don’t know how it works. Waking often feels like a scene from The Elves and the Shoemaker—when I roll out of bed, there’s a note on the pad by my bed, written in the worst handwriting imaginable. Once I decipher the distorted scrawl, I realize I’ve been handed my answer…by unknown forces.

I know what you’re going to say: Annette, you wrote that note yourself, probably in a half-delirious, semi-somnolent state as you were drifting off to sleep. The ideas belong to you, not the elves.

And I would agree.


Except for one thing. These ideas never come to me when I’m awake. I’ll brainstorm, I’ll seek answers from the experts who’ve gone before me. I’ll even go for long walks. The only other ideation chamber that even comes close to the miracle that occurs when I’m sleeping is the shower. But the shower is better at conjuring fresh ideas, not daring escapes from plot corners I’ve written myself into.

Eight hours of sleep produces answers to some of the most complex problems ever. Problems that made me curse and swear and brew a pot of coffee in the middle of the day. Problems that I’m convinced require a rewrite of the entire book. It doesn’t always happen the first night—sometimes it takes two. After all, I occasionally need to dream of sugarplums to keep those little elves happy. But with enough sleep, any problem can be overcome.

Anyone else out there get nocturnal visits from plotting elves?

3 comments to “Star Light, Star Bright”

  1. 1

    If we mention the plotting brownies, they may stop coming. We can only leave them tiny slips of paper and unfinished tea. Maybe a tiny typewriter so their notes are easier to read.

  2. 2

    Yes! Sometimes things come to me in that grey area while I’m waking up.

    The other place is the gym. Maybe shaking my brain around inside my skull jars it back into action–a little like a faulty Coke machine.

  3. 3

    The worst thing about those completely fantastic near-sleep ideas are that they are so fantastic that I’m CERTAIN I won’t have forgotten them when morning comes around. I always do.

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