It’s 4:39 a.m. I didn’t make it to bed last night. I woke up a few minutes ago to the TV on the Science Channel and every light in the house on. Before me was the Supreme Court case of Valley Forge College v. Americans United. I had made it through a couple of pages of Chief Justice Rehnquist’s opinion before I dropped off. Riveting. It must have been a little before 11:00 p.m. last night. I’m usually up past midnight and wake up at either 6:30 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. depending on what day it is. Apparently, I could use more sleep.
It has been a long time since I slept on the couch. I never have to; it is only by choice or (like last night) happenstance. It used to be, for a significant period of time, that the couch was my bed. My lot in life has improved considerably since those not so distant days past. I have a bed, and I am extremely fond of it. I don’t have to share it, nor can I be kicked out of it. It’s king-sized, pillow-topped and has it’s own room – bathroom and closet attached. We get along famously.
Studying Supreme Court cases for my Constitutional law class is like reading anything else in legalese – boring. However, I was only half-facetious when I described the afore mentioned case as riveting. Constitutional law is. Really. This particular case has to do with the establishment clause of the First Amendment. It is commonly referred to as “the separation of church and state,” although the Constitution never uses that phrase.
My purpose here is not to go into the details of the case (perhaps another time) or express my opinion on what the framers intended with the establishment clause or even the First Amendment in general. (5:05 a.m. – I won’t be going back to bed, today is a 6:30 a.m. wake-up day). My purpose is to write about what I woke up thinking about – which is writing. Yes… I woke up thinking about writing.
It seems like I’m always thinking. I try to quiet my mind – to meditate on a semi-regular basis and I have been able to benefit from it. However, when I’m not sleeping or meditating, the wheels are always turning. That is not to say that I am thinking of anything particularly profound, about anything worth writing about, but those special moments do come. Quite often at the most inopportune times, like now. I’d rather be sleeping.
I don’t know if this happens to others, but when I get to thinking about something, and that thread leads somewhere, I start to get excited. I can either follow it to see where it leads, or forget about it forever. Some of my best stuff will never be translated into writing. I didn’t get it down, and even if I could remember it, it’ll never be the same as in that moment of discovery. If I can get to a keyboard (which usually means dragging my butt out of a nice, warm, pillow-topped, king-sized bed), I get to explore the world that my mind has just discovered. If I fight it, it becomes just another background insight, it fades into the subconscious and it’s pretty much gone.
It is interesting that these flashes of brilliance often come at times when I would honestly rather be doing something other than writing – usually sleeping. It is not unusual that my mind is so preoccupied with an idea that it keeps me up even when I am dead tired. Yet I fight it. I stay in bed and try to go to sleep. Once in a while I get up and write, knowing that I may be rolling into a two, three or more hour endeavor. I just never know where it may take me.
I keep a notebook and a pen in my nightstand next to my bed. I used to jot my ideas down to get them out of my head so that I can come back to them later. I’d love to be able to say that it works; that I can relax enough to go to sleep and that the next day I pick it up and play it through. I have yet to read what I wrote and even with the notebook within reach, I still fight it.
5:42 a.m. The upshot of all of this is simply this: I am basically on call 24/7. I chose a profession (or it chose me) that is not the nine to five grind. I write to a deadline, I write when news happens and I have to write when the motivation is there – even if that means waking up at 4:30 a.m. with my mind chewing on some thought that is begging to be unraveled. This is what I signed up for; this is what I do.