Shaun Levin

Time and Napping

In Writing on August 8, 2011 at 11:02 am

Napping keeps you close to the dream world. That space of almost disappearing. The going in and out of the subconscious, then waking into consciousness and you carry fragments up with you, images of yourself doing things you’d never have imagined in waking time, like dancing with someone much bigger than you, but still you dance like those ice skaters who throw each other into the air and land back down, gracefully, catching each other even, and then they keep skating along, like ballet dancers. It’s a space almost impossible to write about because everything happens at once, quicker than it takes for words to describe. I often hear writers say that the reason they write on the computer and not by hand is that when they write by hand they can’t keep up with their thoughts. Do we need to keep up with our thoughts? Can we ever keep up with the simultaneous goings on in our brains?

But that’s not what I want to think about. I’m thinking about that dreamspace, the napping space, the dipping in and out of the subconscious just to see what’s there, just to get glimpses of the pictures and dramas and moments it can create, what it has to offer.  In our waking hours we get so little opportunity to visit that space, especially if we’re always doing things, always busy, working, shopping, relating. That dreamspace is so completely ours. It’s a space we want to get to in our writing, those moments that happen in our writing when we are amazed at how something appeared to us in a story we’re working on. As in: where did that come from? Like when a character does something unexpected, when a metaphor appears to us so perfectly and precisely formed. Those moments in writing when we lose control, when we, that person we know who functions in the world, no longer exists, we have disappeared and words appear on the page despite that, no because of that.

Time to nap is a gift and time to write is a gift. Only when we’re finished with the hunting and gathering can we write. And nap. I want to look up in Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift to see what he says about hunting and gathering and gift giving. Are artists the only ones who structure their world so that it includes the gift of time and napping? Or does the compulsion to create make us find ways to map out a life that facilitates, that enables napping and time to write?

Napping is both escape and fuel. Although I don’t think “fuel” is quite the right word. Fortitude, perhaps is better. Writing is retreat and strength. Going away makes being here possible, more bearable. And being here is food for those moments, those stolen minutes and hours when we disappear from sight in order to write. Hoping in those hours to disappear even from ourselves into what we are creating.

PS. Just a quick look at the chapter “The Commerce of the Creative Spirit” in Hyde’s The Gift offers up these, eh, gifts:

An essential portion of any artist’s labor is not creation so much as invocation.  Part of the work cannot be made, it must be received; and we cannot have this gift except, perhaps, by supplication, by courting, by creating within ourselves that “begging bowl” to which the gift is drawn.

and later:

Just as treating nature’s bounty as a gift ensures the fertility of nature, so to treat the products of the imagination as gifts ensures the fertility of the imagination.

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