To sleep, perchance to dream

Sunday night at critique group, Colleen made a suggestion that I use a little magic trick to transform the plodding scene I'd just read to my fellow Midwives. I could physically feel the blank stare on my face. How would such a thing be accomplished? Would any reader be able to follow it? Would any writer? I politely dismissed the idea as unworkable and went home with a more pedestrian approach planned. But this morning, well before my alarm clock started playing "Stairway to Heaven", I jolted awake completely understanding what she'd said and remembering that I had in fact performed a similar sleight of hand in a previous manuscript. Not only could this be done -- it could be done by me!

I rocket out of bed most mornings with my brain on fire. I often dream a seamless version of a scene that had my waking mind completely pretzelated. Curiosity about that drove me to google during a quiet moment and I discovered an interesting report from the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Harvard's Department of Psychiatry, which came to this conclusion:
The development of mathematical insight, the knack for discovering novel solutions to mathematical problems, might be one of the most erudite forms of learning that we can hope to achieve. However, Wagner and his colleague now report that a night of sleep after being exposed to a class of mathematical problems more than doubles the likelihood of discovering just such a novel solution.

Okay, but that still leaves me wondering why? In my heart of hearts, I believe that it's because I go to sleep every night repeating a mantra given me several years ago by a Blackfoot shaman: Creator, open my mind to create. But a less woo woo explanation is offered in "Self-Organization in the Dreaming Brain", in which Stanley Krippner and Allan Combs asserted:
The dreaming brain “relaxes” into natural patterns of self-organized activity, which often reflect the residual moods, stresses, and concerns of waking life. To understand this, recall that during dreaming the brain is immersed in something like a sensory isolation tank and cut off from the influences of external sensory input. In this situation patterns of brain activity can relax into forms that are dependent primarily upon internal conditions. Consider, for instance, what happens when sand is dropped onto a vibrating surface like a drumhead or orchestral symbol. It dances about forming complex patterns characteristic of the physical dynamics of the vibrating surface beneath. ...The patterns of activity that unfold over time in the dreaming brain are experienced as the narratives, which play themselves out in dreams.

Which would explain why even a twenty minute power nap reboots and inspires me. Next time Gary comes into my office and finds me snoozing on the floor with my dogs, I plan to tell him, "I'm not loafing, my brain is self-organizing." No joke. Sleep is an important part of a writer's work.

(Above, by the way, is Giorgio de Chirico's "Le double rĂªve du printemps" -- "The Double Dream of Spring" -- painted in Paris in 1915.)


I'm especially impressed, since I prefaced my suggestion with, "I have no earthly idea of how you would go about doing this, but wouldn't it be cool if...?"

And *everybody* looked at me like I was nuts. So I can't wait to see how you managed.

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