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How I started writing in my dream state — And what I learned

As I write this, I’m thinking about following the advice of my blogging partner and taking a nap. That’s because I woke up extra early this morning to write in my dream state.

If you read my last blog post, you know that I decided to turn myself into a morning person after reading the book, “From Where You Dream.”

Here’s more about how I did it and what I learned, starting with a note I had sent to my writer’s group back when I started waking up early:

“Okay, so I was able to get up at 5:30 today. Felt pretty good. I did go to bed earlier, although not as early as I should, but at least it’s a start. The alarm buzzed, and I got up thinking, ‘I can do this!’ I switched on the computer so it could boot up while I put my contact lenses in. I squinted at myself in the mirror. Ouch. The light. I could barely open my eyes. I decided I wasn’t ready to put contacts in just yet. My eyes are dry, I think. I’ll put eye drops in.

I peeled my eyelid off my right eyeball and promptly poked it with the eyedropper. Ouch. Now, my eyes looked red and the pupils were really tiny.  My eyeball felt scratchy, so I took that contact lens out and put it back in. I put a cold washcloth against my eyes. Then I sprayed a couple snorts of Flonase because on top of the dry eyes, my nose was running, and I realized I was having an allergy attack.  By the time all that was done, my eyes were dripping tears.

I sat down at my computer and the monitor was way too bright, so I put on some tinted reading glasses. (Maybe the monitor works like those light boxes people sit by if they have seasonal affective disorder. I decide this is an undocumented feature of the monitor.) But I digress. In the end, the writing session actually went pretty well, despite the fact that the eye issue sort of knocked me out of my dream state.”

So that was day one of becoming a morning person. The next day, I left the lights off, and I turned the brightness level of my monitor way down. I half shut my eyes and didn’t attempt to wear the contact lenses and just typed. I came up with some meaningful revelations that built out my memoir and helped me progress toward my goal. After a few days, I started waking up before the alarm. Then I decided to move the time even earlier, and I began waking up at 5 instead of 5:30 a.m.

It feels good to know I’ve accomplished some significant writing before going to work. My morning writing percolates just below the surface of the day’s activity. When I write in the morning, I feel like I’m starting with a clean slate compared to the evening when my mind is cluttered with the events of the day. I still write at night too, especially when I have tight deadlines. It just takes a little longer to set aside the “noise” and get into a groove.

Recently, I read about author Nicholson Baker who wakes up at 4 a.m. to write. He leaves the lights off and sets his laptop screen to black and the text to gray, so that the darkness is uninterrupted. After a couple of hours of writing in a dream-like state, he goes back to bed, then wakes up again a couple hours later at 8:30 to edit his work.

I wonder if he closes his eyes when he types.

If you want to try writing in your dream state, try these tips:

1. Go to bed earlier.

2. Be prepared with a writing plan of action. Write yourself a note before you go to bed about the topics or questions you want to write about. You’ll be able to go directly into your session without thinking about what to write.

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