Jilly: Sleep Is My Superpower

Do you find that a good night’s sleep helps you with problem solving?

This week (finally!) I settled down to work on my current WIP, The Seeds of Destiny. I already had some ideas written down and a couple of scenes sketched out, but I put the project on hold while I published The Seeds of Exile and uploaded my freebie novella The Pulse of Princes.

The heroine of The Seeds of Destiny is a healer called Annis Benkith. She belongs to an elusive, nomadic, mountain-dwelling tribe. The Kith are highly attuned to their environment and have some unusual elemental powers. Their abilities affect many aspects of their culture and are particularly important for healers.

So I need to understand and be able to describe clearly how the Kith’s powers work. And I need to think through the wider implications. I know how those powers create the crisis that launches Annis into the story of The Seeds of Destiny, but that leaves a whole world of related questions to be answered.

How, exactly, does Annis do what she does (avoiding spoilers here)? How do I show it so that a reader can see it in her mind’s eye? I’ve always thought that it would involve colors, but this week, when I created a chart for the colors I imagined and considered all the possibilities, I got a palette of outcomes that made the concept look like the aftermath of a paintball game. Argh. So not what I needed.

Also, what’s the difference between what healers do and what other Kith can do? If Annis’s mentor is the Kith’s greatest healer, how come she never discovered this problem before? And if these healing skills are so useful, why don’t the Kith just use them the whole time? I need Annis’s problem to arise in the now, and to be a shock, not an oversight. I need it to lead to difficult and dangerous choices, because that’s a great test of character—for Annis and all the other characters affected by her choices. If the problem can easily be solved, there is no story 😦 .

I wasted a whole day and a good few pages of my newest Moleskine notebook trying to brainstorm answers to these and other fundamental world-building questions. Then I gave up and went to bed. The following morning, in that wonderful semi-conscious relaxed state between sleeping and waking, I realized that I had all the answers.

This happens to me quite often. I guess it’s my subconscious, working on the problem with nothing else to distract it, but it feels more than a little magical. I never take it for granted or try to direct it—I’m just thrilled and amazed whenever it works.

Does sleeping on a problem work for you? Exercise? Knitting? Watching TV? Or some other method that often does the trick, even if you don’t quite know why?

12 thoughts on “Jilly: Sleep Is My Superpower

  1. My sleep is a bit up and down currently, so all I feel after a good night’s kip is profound sense of relief! But today, while I was doing the RSB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/), a new idea just floated gently to the front of my head.

    I’m currently in fairly big rewrites for the first novel in my new series and somehow, my hero and heroine need to be parted. In the initial version they have a row and he storms off. It’s been pointed out that (frankly) my heroine is a bit wet and to have him storm off was just another instance of that.

    While I was watching blue and coal tits take it in turns to come to our bird feeder (they seem very polite and organised btw!) it occurred to me that actually, SHE could put her foot down instead. As the birdwatch only happens once a year, this isn’t my usual way of unknotting problems, but certainly, concentrating on OTHER things can often open the gates to a solution.

    • Yay for the birdwatching/plot idea, and for a heroine who puts her foot down! That sounds like a win/win. And even if the official birdwatch only happens once a year, that doesn’t stop you from watching the bird feeder society at other times 🙂

  2. For me, I think it’s walking, preferably first thing in the morning. Fresh air and strong blood flow wakes my brain cells and gets them snapping. I like to stride along at a good pace, preferably in the woods or by a river, and imagine my characters chatting with each other. Mornings of lively conversation make for good writing days!

    • Walking works for me, too. I usually go for an afternoon leg-stretch when I’ve been staring at the screen too long and need to clear my head, though I have to say I really enjoyed our early morning brainstorming walks in the heady days when in-person writing conferences were still a Thing.

      A woodland or riverside excursion sounds lovely! Sadly I’ll be restricted to pounding the pavements of north London until things improve with this wretched pandemic.

  3. I think these are all THETA levels of thought. That period right before and after sleep is the “easiest” way to think of it. The shower does it a lot for me too, but you can get there with mediation.

    Yay for progress in your WIP. I have gone through this phase too many times 🤣. I’m sure it will happen with all my projects. I’m not a very good plotter, so I guess i set myself up for it lol

    Happy writing 🙌

    • I’ve seen the term Theta brain waves online, but never investigated further. I’ve never tried to meditate either, though I have always been prone to losing touch with reality while I’m reading and/or writing. This morning I ran the coffeemaker, which cuts out after 45 minutes. In the time it took to brew, I zoned out into my WIP, and when I emerged, my coffee was stone cold.That happened for three consecutive cycles. Then I gave up and made instant.

      Happy writing to you, too! What do you write?

      • I call this “losing touch,” flow, but I think that’s just my term 🤣 I am constantly drinking cold coffee lol

        I write urban fantasy mostly, but am trying out a YA fantasy, and also have a fantasy romance series in the works.

        What kind of writing happens over there?

        • Me, too! Quite often I just drink the cold coffee and keep going 🙂

          Lots of different genres happen here. I write fantasy. Character-driven, with strong romantic elements but also lashings of royal politics and family power struggles. Jeanne is published in paranormal romance but also writes contemporary with a touch of women’s fiction. Michille writes contemporary romance. Michaeline writes speculative fiction of all kinds. Kay’s recent books are contemporary romantic adventure/capers, but she has also published darker thrillers as GS Mauro. And both Justine and Nancy have published historical romances. Something for everyone! 😀

  4. I’ve had solutions present after sleep, and in the old days, in the pool. The pool is over, and so far, the only thing that’s emerged after sleep is more problems to be solved, but I guess that’s progress of a sort! (Actually, you’ve solved quite a few of my problems, so…)

    • So sorry about the pool 😦 . But it’s not over, just in abeyance. In the meantime, I’m very happy to hear that I solved a few of your problems. I slept on those, too 😉 . And I can’t wait to see what you did with the finished book!

  5. I really, really wish my mind worked that way. I’ve purposely tried taking naps (sometimes it does work!), and a couple of times, I’ve gone to the local hot springs and tried to let my mind take over things while I’m soaking in the outdoor pool, watching the reflections of branches wave on the surface.

    Gosh, I miss hot springs. My Japanese friends tell me they’ve never heard of a hot springs cluster, plus hot springs are soap-adjacent . . . but I’ve just never been able to conquer my fear of COVID to go again.

    Anyway, nothing comes out of a hot spring except a clean body and clean mind (not that I’m complaining!).

    I mostly get the solution to problems while writing, and once in a while when I’m getting ready for bed. It’s the flow thing, the Theta Waves that Cindy mentions. Although, theta wave YouTube doesn’t work that well for me (unless I’m writing at the same time).

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