I am not a morning person. I like to wake up slowly and give my brain time to adjust to the sometimes horrifying fact that I am not independently wealthy and must actually go to work. And don’t get me wrong, most of the time I enjoy my job. But enjoyment can’t change the fact that I am forced to rise earlier than I would like, only to spend long hours at a place that is not my true life. For some people, that isn’t true; they are their jobs, they consider their jobs some sort of soul-satisfying ‘career’. Those people are completely alien to me.
No. The worse thing about an alarm clock going off in the morning is that it tears me away from my real world, and the work that actually does satisfy my soul: dreaming. Now I’m not talking about being asleep and dreaming, I’m talking about the extraordinary twenty minutes or so when I’m when awake, but I’m so recently asleep that I’m still holding hands with my unconscious mind (or the ‘othermind’, as I call it). During that brief time, I can think about my book-in-progress and my characters, and I can see what needs to happen next – I can discover the most wonderful plot points, and it all fits together with ease. It’s not as if I’m thinking anything rationally, I’m just floating somewhere in a soft place, and I’m observing what happens as the othermind puts everything together for me in clear, visual images that make me run scrambling for a pen once I really wake up. Those twenty minutes are the closest thing I’ll come to actual magic: I treasure them, and I’m jealous of them.
The othermind and I are learning to work together, learning ways of communication. It takes effort, and I think a lot of people (the people who say they aren’t creative) have grown up so effectively that they’ve shut out every vestige of natural communication between the ‘rational’ conscious part of their brain and the silent, often wordless unconscious. After all, it’s the othermind who still believes in monsters possibly under your bed when you’re thirty-something, and so what good is it? It obviously can’t be trusted; better just to suppress it entirely and believe solely in hard beliefs like mathematics and what you’ve seen with your own eyes.
Well, I’m willing to be sometimes freaked out by the idea of monsters under my bed, if it brings with it the beauty of believing that possibly anything is possible, if it brings with it the ability to see into other worlds that never existed until I made them exist, if it lets me look at something ordinary or ugly and see how I could turn it into something that other people would want to look at, if it lets me feel like at any moment magic could happen, because magic does happen. It happens all the time, all around us, only most people are too occupied with seeing what their eyes have seen before to notice how the ordinary is suddenly extraordinary.
Puddles on the street, for instance. How many people make a habit of looking into every one they pass? I do, and I never fail to be awestruck by how each is a reflection of a world that seems more beautiful that ours. How is it, that surrounded by concrete and oil spills, puddles find the only angle to reflect the sky? Or a branch of perfect golden leaves you somehow never noticed? Or an eerily gorgeous distortion of a building that surely never was in your world? How many people look only at the mud and miss all the windows?
How many people will go out in the rain for the sole purpose of seeing raindrops on their garden leaves? Am I the only one raising my hand? What about frost? Or moss growing up a wall or in a broken piece of pavement – how many people get out the moss-remover without even spending one moment to stroke the moss and notice the delicate clinging tendrils? How many people dig dandelions out of their yard without ever having looked at a dandelion flower up close and recognized its beauty? The death of imagination, and the suffocation of the soul, begins with the forgetfulness to look at the ordinary, and to keep looking at it for all of your life.
Be scared of silly things, dream in that extra twenty minutes without feeling lazy, and consciously peer into every ordinary, overlooked thing you can find. You’re not wasting anything, certainly not time; you’re enriching your othermind, and you’re giving it a language to speak with.