Sunday, August 15, 2004

Fallow Ground

Adam graciously calls it my technique. Sometimes I worry that it's actually a form of literary narcolepsy. When I get stuck with my writing, I will fall asleep for an hour. (Yep, an hour. I'm not one of those efficient types for whom the recommended 22-minute, daytime naps ever did any good.) I'll fall asleep and right into a gully of sprawling, technicolor dreams. Or, rather, dream. Because a dozen dream fragments, so obviously derivative of things recently read or seen, will arrange themselves into what seems at the time a coherent narrative.

Inevitably, the dream-narrative grows anxious, yanking me back into wakefulness. I pad back to my computer agitated, but unburdened. And then—and here’s the trick— if I’m disciplined to sit still while the dream sequence un-spools itself, the writing un-blocks itself and words come.

I finished an article this week, one that (big shock!) took way longer than anticipated to complete. The end product was good, I think. But the aftermath was unnerving, because the stream of words in my head abruptly dried up. As if to compensate, I started dreaming too much. Took a sleeping pill to try to block them out, but that only made things worse. Was pinned beneath sleep for eleven hours — ten of which were held hostage to REM sleep and a Russian novel’s worth of characters and plots. I woke up exhausted and with zero will to sit at the computer. The unconscious might have wanted to help the writing, but the writer’s body wasn’t having it.

Instead, I sat limply in front of Ruby in Paradise, willing myself to at least take notes on what un-spooled on the television screen. Found myself growing intrigued by the irregular fly-buzz over the otherwise nearly mute scene in which Ashley Judd’s character has sex with her boss’s scumbag son. “Fly buzzing gets louder as she finds be-ribboned radios in Ricky’s drawer. And as she shoplifts. Unsettling effect. Indicating sickness, decay?”

Mystery solved: The “fly buzz” on the film’s soundtrack was the whirring of my VCR.


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