Monday Motivation: How to write when you’re completely out of it

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog, Tips for Writers

I have been fighting – rather feebly – a bad cold all week. It has left me a little whacked – and a little frustrated. What to write about when your every thought has been devoted to sleep, or blowing your nose, or checking the level of cough mixture in the bottle?

But my debilitation has reminded me of one aspect of writing that we don’t pay much attention to – and that is day-dreaming.

I’m not sure you can compare the slightly feverish daze I’ve been in since Monday to a true day-dream – but it shares some of the properties of that state.

Your thoughts wander hither and thith.* You free-associate with gay abandon. Your thoughts tumble across the decades, linking images you’d thought you’d forgotten with the view from your bedroom window. You read desultorily, not really following the severe logic of Ian Rankin’s detective story – but you carry forward from the couple of pages you have read a random thought that… leads to other random thoughts.

Now this is very much like the brainstorming process. That’s what you want: plenty of images, plenty of thoughts, plenty of connections, like a constantly evolving neural web.

Then, all you need to do is identify the elements of story, plucking them from the assemblage your addled brain has produced.

So what is the burden of this motivation? Embrace fever? Perhaps. Seek to replicate the conditions under which images spring unbidden to mind? Yes, certainly. Keep a notebook beside your bed the more easily to capture those Alpha-wave particles in those minutes before sleep overcomes you? Yes, if you can manage it. (It’s very difficult to reel yourself in from the waters of the River Lethe** once you’ve pushed off from the bank.)

That’s all. Just a little advice sometimes to take your hand off the tiller and let your bark drift where’er it might.

Happy writing,


*          P.G. Wodehouse, one of the great stylists of the 20th century, would have rendered that “hither and t,” on the assumption that everyone knows a stock phrase when it bites him on the ankle.

**         In case the reference baffles you (you should have done Latin, people!): Ovid wrote that the River Lethe flowed through the cave of Hypnos, god of sleep, where its murmuring would induce drowsiness.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Kat Ginley

    Thank you Richard. I needed to hear this today. Actually there is truth in what you’ve written, and my best stories were born out of vivid dreams and from semi-asleep images. Hope you feel better soon. Regards Kat

  • Tracy-Lynn Field

    Hope that cold clears up before another stock phrase comes to bite you on the ankle 🙂 Love your work Richard

  • Mfuneko

    Indeed, the bedside notebook is the key. Thank you Richard

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