I’m a chronic insomniac. I have a problem that seems to have no solution.
My youngest, a three-year-old, has co-slept with my husband and me for many years now. Three in the bed isn’t always conducive to a great night’s rest. Top that off with hot, humid Queensland nights, an inbuilt mechanism for light sleeping and a brain that clicks ON (BING!) at the slightest awakening and can’t seem to switch off for hours afterwards … and you have a recipe for disaster for when it comes to getting a sound sleep.
It seems to be my curse!
Luckily, I’m able to use my insomnia and the burning of that good old midnight oil to excellent use.
Writing while the house is quiet and dark is a favourite and regular past time of mine.
Many of my stories and books have been planned and written in the wee small hours. In a quiet house and without interruption, it’s easy to let those creatives juices flow.
Ash Rover: Keeper of the Phoenix, one of my favourite novels that I’ve written came to me in the middle of the night in a hotel room in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney.
I was spending a long weekend there with my husband and my first two children (Blake and Riley) when they were very young, about 3 years old and 18 months old respectively. We were all sleeping in the same room and I woke about 12am with an idea for a new story running through my mind. The idea wouldn’t leave me alone, so I went to the ensuite bathroom, taking my A4 notebook with me.
For the next four hours, I sat, wrapped in a blanket, in that stark, tiled bathroom scrawling down the plan to that story. Characters, their names, the setting, the plot, the villains – everything – every little chapter detail came to me. All I could do was try to keep writing as fast as I could to get it all down before it was lost in the ether.
I ended up with pages and pages of material and the story itself, including action scenes and dialogue, even started forming. As soon as I got home from that mini holiday, I began typing up the notes and getting the bones of the story down. It took several months to write, edit and polish the story, but because I’d planned it so thoroughly, the book seemed to flow out of me.
To this day, I don’t know where it all came from, except that it was a product of my imagination. Maybe instead of dreaming the story up in my sleep, I’d been having a wakeful dream to create it.
The book (and main character) wasn’t originally called Ash Rover, by the way. My hero was Squiggly Greenmeadow. The image of him popped into my head as a boy with curly blond hair, hence the ‘Squiggly’ name (curly hair = squiggly to my mind). The publisher suggested I change that part of the story, but everything else held.
My young readers have always loved that book and I still receive lots of fan mail about it.
I guess sometimes it’s good to be an insomniac. When my three-year-old or my worries keep me up at night, I try to distract my mind from its incessant ticking by thinking about my next book. Sometimes I’ll plan it out in my head, writing the lines to a chapter over and over, perfecting and polishing them until they flow beautifully. Sometimes, I plot the key points in a new book I’m working on. Sometimes I scrawl notes in the semi-darkness on a notebook by my bed. And other times, I just have to jump up, go to my office and start typing on my computer until the early hours of the morning.
Right now, it’s 2:18am and yes, I can’t sleep so I’m sitting here writing. Sharing. Good thing for it, too, because a few moments ago I received an email from a US agent who I’d queried, asking me to send them the first ten pages of a new MG fantasy novel I’ve written.
Most likely it won’t lead to anything, or maybe it’s a sign. I don’t know yet. We’ll see. At the very least it means I can reply to the agent while they’re still at their desk too.
Wherever my insomnia and my waking dreams take me, I go.
Keep your fingers crossed for me.