For all you manic insomniacs like me. This is for us!
"For All Insomniacs and Artists After Midnight Besotted with Their Brilliance":
You know how it begins. You’re sleeping. You’ve just fallen off the precipice of wakefulness, spiraling into gauzy dreams . . . If you were awake enough you would call this bliss, this feathery soar between earth and heaven, this haven of pillowy hope and float -----
but then she comes, stumbling at first, then booted feed loud, the rasp of her wings . . .
You swat her away, this goddess, cherubic in finery, erudite in vocabulary, but she promises in lilting sentences with fairy-tale eyes she’ll sing you the "Answers to All Your Questions" and she'll whisper "Just the Right Words to Solve All Your Ills." (And if you are an artist or musician, you know how she comes---with a harp, with a new set of oils . . . )
You succumb to her siren song, as always. And there you are, at 3 a.m., awake now sitting on the couch by the window over the sea, pen in hand. You are listening hard. What is it, then? What must be written? The ending to the essay you need? The final verse of that song? The next book you need to write? Yes! Yes! All of it! But not just one idea, not just two but three! And then you are writing titles and chapter headings, while the moon glows beatifically over the ocean while you sit, entranced, the only one in the world awake penning words, pages, volumes, offering water to the thirsty, offering peace for every war, quieting every riot, with only the wind, and a boat sounding its fog horn, and her lovely voice, whispering.
You are secretary to the world right now. You will believe everything you hear. Who else is taking notes? This is your sacred job.
Then it’s 4 a.m. and you are done. You crawl back into bed, knowing those given words are safe, and you float higher, lighter. The world will be better when you awake.
You wake too early, but you cannot wait. You run to read the magic words. You scan the two pages of scrawled lists, titles and phrases. You cannot make sense of it. Where's the moon, the ocean, the fog horn? Where’s that beautiful fat lady who was singing to you all night long? What has happened to your words? Who has changed them? You look around for the thief. There's no one there but you. You shrink.
Again? This, again?
You wonder once more, why are you so brilliant at 3 a.m., and so painfully average when you wake?
Did you really give up blessed sleep for this------ twaddle? You are ready to fire your Muse. But then you have a sudden suspicion. You remember her half-lidded eyes, you remember your own thick boots in your closet and the rasp of your own nightgown ----and suddenly you know the truth. You’ve had it wrong. The Muse herself was sleeping and YOU woke her up. YOU dragged her out of dreams and bed! And what then can you expect of her but stupefying titles, half-mumbled phrases and sloppy punch-drunk paragraphs? You ask far too much of her. She needs her sleep as much as you.
Oh, our delusion and grandeur when we think we’re held in the grip of Art! There, we are more than ourselves, and we are less than ourselves. Sometimes we can’t tell the difference.
But editors can. Agents can. Readers can.
And that’s the moral of this after bedtime story. How much every writer and creator needs the daylight of readers, hearers, agents, editors who sharpen and prod and make our work brighter, sharper, a little better than ourselves, especially our after-midnight selves!
Thank you, dear friends! This is a love letter to you!!
P.S. BUT! Why not keep the After-Midnight Genre and do this instead: Every post, essay, book, poem that qualifies, bears this:
(Including this post, written mostly by moonlight.)
Good Night, Sweet Dreams to you and your Muse tonight! (Unless----something brilliant must be written!)