It’s 5AM, And Your Brain Would Like To Speak With You

Rewind two hours to five o’clock in the morning.

My eyes bolt open.

It’s dark. I can hear the whisper of snow outside.

And my brain starts telling me things.

No, no, not weird, vile things (“Assassinate the postal clerk, take a shit in the salad bar at the local diner, run naked in the blizzard to purify your Wendigo soul”) — creative things. Things about a project. Story stuff.

See, right now, we’re gritting our teeth and buckling down and trying to get our uber-revised film script for HiM up and running. To do that, we first have to pore through the notes we brought home from the Screenwriters Lab. We go through them, item by item, and dissect each idea and see if the core of each note is really what we want.

Most are, thankfully, but what that means is that we’re going to be incorporating a lot of new elements and really amping up some old elements to make them Triple Awesome.

Thus, I have a head full of story craziness.

Well, at five o’clock in the morning, my brain decided to start talking to me in the dark. “Hey. Hey! Psst. I want to talk about some things. Do I have some shit for you, buddy! This is good, this is real good. In this scene, the scene in the first act, I think you should –“

I won’t spoil it.

Point is, it gave me the work-through for a few niggling ideas that had been troubling me. And it further identified another question, a question of logic and cinematic awesomeness (that question, more directly, is “How do we make this work so it’s both cool-looking and makes sense in the context of our story and storyworld?”).

What I’ve done in the past is, when my brain starts talking to me, I nod, and I smile, and I pat the brain on his — erm, head? That’s weird — and I go back to sleep.

That is the wrong move.

It’s a bad call, Ripley. A bad call.

Much as it sucks, much as you want sleep, what you do is wake the fuck up. You wake up and you go to the computer and you write that shit down.

And that’s what I did, and that’s why this morning I saw… well, not a sunrise, but rather the slow illumination of the blizzard outside my window, from black to gray to white.

Don’t think you can’t help your brain along. You can actually invoke this phenomenon. The day and night before, literally load your brain with some questions about your creative endeavor that’s troubling you. It’s like a slow-cooker. Stick it in there, turn on your unconscious mind, and walk away. Just walk away. Stop thinking about it, and go to bed.

Your brain will heat those ideas up. It’ll break down the connective tissue and soften the whole problem up so it pulls apart with a fork.

Of course, you might awaken at five o’clock in the morning with fork-tender thought-meats, and now you have to do something with it before the food spoils. But that is what I like to think of as a “good problem to have.”

Now, now I need coffee.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled Snowpocalypse, Snowmagaddon, the Reveblizzation of St. John.


  • See, if I had an iPad, I could lie in bed and “jot” things down, roll back over, and continue to pretend I was sleeping again instead of waiting for the next round of “I’m awake. I’m yelling. Feed me. No. Don’t feed me. Binky. No. Fuck the binky. Bounce me around. No wait. Put me down…”

    Enjoy your blizzard. We might get a dusting today. Of course, 10 years ago a dusting turned into 22 inches.

  • Julie, I feelz ya. You may find that one day you awaken at 4:30am just to have moments in between those rounds. And when you do, you can call yourself officially old. Me? I’ve become my father in that aspect, at least.

    Big Chizzy, I know that feeling as well, and I endorse it. The hard one for me is when those thoughts come not at 5am, but right before drifting off to dreamland for the first time. Talk about kicking your sleep in the nuts.


  • February 6, 2010 at 9:16 AM // Reply

    My kids (4 and 2) wake me up all the time; mostly because I’m a very light sleeper. If I have ideas at that point I just wake up my wife “HONEY! Take a letter! Dear me…on the morning of February 2nd at approximately 4am….shit…I forgot what I was thinking. Sorry, you can go back to sleep.”

    Seriously, though, pen and paper are always on my nightstand. I tried my laptop but I found that in the moments of fumbling in a dreamless haze I would forget some details. Sometimes technology just doesn’t make something better or easier.

    Yes, yes, off to shovel.

  • @Paul:

    That is goddamn funny. “Take a letter.”

    I’m going to try that with Michelle. If someone could prematurely send me a bag of ice, though, for when she kicks me in the crotchbucket.

    @Keith: Yeah, the right-before-bed is a bitch. I mostly train my brain to stay silent then, so I can just… y’know, tumble into Sleepy Canyon. I’m mostly good at it, unless I’ve had late-day coffee.

    @Julie: This is definitely one of the things I really want, re: iPad.


    — c.

  • This happens to me far to often. I need a brain-schedule, one that Pinky McThinkMeat will stick to.

    My main thing is, usually after the kids (also 4 and 2) go to sleep, I use the quiet time to work out some new idea – sometimes on a new project, sometimes character issues that are eluding me, and whatnot… so I go to sleep thinking about them, and like some hyper-active slow-cooking toaster my brain shakes me awake with DING BITCH!

    If I don’t wake up to that, it has a chat with Mr. Bladder and drags my fat ass out of bed whether I like it or not.

    Also, there is a four-foot high drift in front of my apartment doors and it is still fucking snowing. Fuck you Canada.

  • I’m not creative first thing in the morning.

    I’m creative at 2 AM and my brain refuses to let me sleep until I’ve either written something down or thought out endless permutations (sp?) of said scenario until it’s run into the ground.

    Not all of us have a Chi-Fox who we’ve taught to take dictation while you lie in bed, you know. ;)

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds