Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The stuff that dreams are made on.

I woke up yesterday at 3:47.

That's unusually early, even for me.

My sleep patterns have changed since my wife, Whiskey and I have been bivouacking in the wilds of the Gingham Coast. I am perfectly circadian now. I wake with the rising of Venus, the morning star. And I fall asleep when first I see the red planet rise in the east.

I like to say I have the sleep habits of a Gloucester fisherman. And the aroma.

My ever-lovin' tells me that's not true.

I smell worse.

Besides my infernal alignment with the heavens, there was another reason I woke early.


I have a large-agency-sized assignment that's due on December 9th. The client sent me a note last night asking for a check-in today. I'm still in the marination phase. 

The first thing I do when I have an assignment is to create a file with a document within that file. I call it "___________ running." It's just a place for me to scribble notes, phrases, observations, ideas. Good, bad or ugly.

What I usually write in this space is "unconcerted" effort. I'm not focused on the exigencies of the assignment. I don't out to find ideas, I let them find me.

One of my guides in all this is Columbia professor and Nobel-prize-winner, Eric Kandel. His great book "The Age of Insight," should be required reading for anyone who works in a responsible position in any creative enterprise. If there are any such people.

Of course, that assumes that holding company executives can read. Or do anything, in fact, but spout accepted (and usually wrong) illogic and platitudes. We're better at accepted wisdom than accepting wisdom.

You can read more about Kandel here.

Kandel writes, "
Sleep is a forgotten country of the mind. A vast majority of our technologies are built for our waking state, even though a third of our lives are spent asleep. 

"Current technological interfaces miss an opportunity to access the unique, imaginative, elastic cognition ongoing during dreams and semi-lucid states. In turn, each of us misses an opportunity to use interfaces to influence our own processes of memory consolidation, creative insight generation, gist extraction, and emotion regulation that are so deeply sleep-dependent. In this project, we explore ways to augment human creativity by extending, influencing, and capturing dreams in Stage 1 sleep. 

"Sleep offers an opportunity for prompting creative thought in the absence of directed attention, if only dreams can be controlled."

That was a lot to read, I know.

And it runs counter to the accountancy-mania of creative management in which creative people are managed by the same dogma that's meant to raise productivity among factory-workers or ditch diggers.

I can imagine the looks on the faces of about 39-thousand petty bureaucrats and ECDs when I tell them I'm going home to dream. But without unconscious mental cogitation, the apotheosis of creativity would be a PowerPoint presentation.

Over the over forty years I've been writing for a living I've learned a few things. Primary among those is the "control of sleep."

I know how to put shards and lithics of ideas into the stewpot of my head and have them all boil together while I sleep. I know how to put a hundred stimuli on for an overnight simmer. I also know how to trust what comes out when I awake.

Naturally, sometimes nothing comes out. Sometimes your brain takes a night off. Or it spends the evening thinking about some winsome lass you knew decades ago and things that might have been. 

But other times, like last night, the gourmet kitchen in my brain works like Julia Child.

I faced my new MacBook Pro at 4 yesterday morning, my imperative check-in seven-and-a-half hours away. I typed. I typed some more. I wrote so many sentences that made sense to me, I reduced my type-size two points from the 14pt. I can read without my glasses to 12pt. which strains me a bit. But eight I had filled two pages.

I'm not finished with what I have to do.

But I got weeks' of work done.

Even before Whiskey woke up.

I'll try again soon to write some more.

Or at least I'll sleep on it.

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