other things Whimsy Writing Life

Random post about sleeping.

Seriously. Random thoughts. Expect more oddball posts like this–and shorter ones as well–as I feed less and less personal material to Facebook.

This topic came to mind while I was relocating some stray pillows this morning.

I have piles of throw blankets & pillows in every room of my house except the kitchen and bathroom. And my floors are layered with multiple rugs too. I’d like to attribute this eccentric decorating scheme to personal taste, but no. The blame rests on bad joints & a natural biphasic sleep schedule.

Slight digression for a definition.  Biphasic means it’s natural for me to wake up and prowl around in the middle of the night. Sometimes I putter quietly, other times I read, occasionally I will fire up the computer and write. Often enough I just get up from where I fell asleep, brush my teeth etc, and go to bed for a snuggle. In the summertime, I might crawl under the covers for second-sleep after the sky is light and birds are chirping. But that’s normal…for me.

One major problem, discovered early in co-habitating, is that other people don’t sleep the way I do, and they don’t appreciate me waking them up in the middle of the night.

Getting out of bed disturbs Spouseman unless I exert a lot of mental effort to be stealthy about departure. So if I’m in bed with him when I hit my wake-point, I have a choice of 1) lying there getting steadily more awake and annoyed until morning, which is actual insomnia, 2) exerting mental effort and ending up wide awake rather than properly sleepy-peaceful…which leads to insomnia, or 3) disrespecting my partner’s needs by waking him up with my stumbling and fumbling. None of those options appeal.

I can successfully slide into bed in the dark of night while sleepy-active without issue. It’s getting out of bed & out of the room without bouncing off furniture while drowsy–or worse, absentmindedly turning on a light–that causes conflict.

Thus my whole house is sleep-ready. I sleep where I get sleepy, and go to bed at Some Point later.  Spouseman has a much more traditional sleep schedule and long ago got used to kissing me goodnight wherever I happen to be drowsing.

I know, I know, all this still doesn’t explain the affection for multiple rugs. That’s where the joints come in.

On bad nights, one hip and the opposite shoulder both act up. This makes side-sleeping on either side uncomfortable without additional support. Solution: pillows!  On the worst nights my neck and back also get cranky, and only a hard surface will appease them. The floor! But not a cold, super-hard floor. I need a slightly cushy one. Rugs to the rescue!

Those worst nights are the ones when Spouseman will come up from gaming on his way to bed & find me curled up in a happy blanket nest in front of the coffee table with the cat sprawled out all over the couch above me.

It never fails to entertain him.

There it is. More than anyone needed to know.  I was just in an over-sharing mood.


Sleepy Thoughts, with Dragons.

This post was going to be about something else. I’m quite certain that it would’ve been clever, even erudite, and full of multi-syllabic dazzle and pontification–you know, all the usual crap.

Then I stayed up all night forcing Word to play nice with Createspace. Now my brain is a drippy mass of sleep-deprived mush. Mush is seldom brilliant. If ever you spot mush that is brilliant, start worrying about radiation or alien invasions. Or dragons. Dragons are always leaving shiny things lying around.  They also flash-fry their food with their breath.
I’ve told stories in my sleep, so I should be able to accomplish blog while sleepy. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about storytelling and language and cultural awareness lately, and it’s time to lay some of those thinks down in print. No worries, I promise to spread it out over more than one post. Today, it’s all about stories.
A story is a thing.  That was a gobsmacker of a realization for me.  Think about cave paintings. Our ancestors left behind leather clothes, flint arrowheads, clay pots…and stories on the walls. Even now, thousands of years later, you can look from image to image and see  the stories that were shared.
That result is as real as any physical object. The medium may shape the message, the message may lose meaning over time the way leather rots and pots crumble, but that doesn’t change its essential nature. A story is a thing that humans make.
Writing is not a thing. It’s an action verb. I write, you write, they write. Like most activities, mastery requires practice and evaluation, failure, repetition and adaptation. It is a complex action, but at heart it is no more than a specific form of the verb communicate..  It’s one of the most modern forms, too. When people talk about writing as a noun, they’re really talking about the story, or the facts listed, or the information imparted. not the act. This is an important distinction.
Storytelling isn’t a singular action verb. It’s a big box of presentation tools and narrative vocabulary festooned with personal baggage and wrapped in cultural filters.  It is a creation element. Whether you speak, sing, play or dance a story, you’re telling it. Each art form has its own traditions, tools and phrases, but they all share one trait: sharing. Storytelling is the whole series of actions that result in building a narrative from nothing and then making it real for another human being.
It’s magic. It’s a superpower.

You can be a genius storyteller and a lousy writer. You can be a lousy storyteller and a skilled writer. No other form of storytelling is as hypocritical, rigid, and contradictory as writing
Imagine a choreographer refusing to use a pas de quatre in a new ballet piece because it’s in Swan Lake and gets “overused.” Imagine a blues guitarist shunning a riff because it’s “cliched.” Nope.

Dance has a vocabulary and a set of accepted forms and traditions. So does every musical style. (No, I am not saying that all dances, songs, symphonies or paintings are telling stories. Work with me. It’s an analogy.) When there are disagreements between tradition and innovation, a new style gains acceptance or fades away on its own merits. (Disco, I’m looking at you.)

Why doesn’t this happen in the literary world? is a treasure trove of information on storytelling themes, plots, characters, and yes, tropes. It’s an incredible writing resource, an easy place to lose hours in “research,” but most importantly, it does not mock its  own content. It presents material with an eager enthusiasm for story.

Creation builds on the rotting bones and rich compost of past creations. Break a rule here, play with a trite phrase there, and rip off the ideas that tickle your fancy.  This is how new happens, This is how great stories are born.  The literature community has a bad habit of eating its young.

 Writing is relatively new to the arena of storytelling. The printing press has only been around 600 years more or less. The word processor, which gives people who don’t think sequentially the priceless tool of cut & paste, has been readily available for less than 30. The internet, with its capacity to connect writer and reader, is still practically in its infancy.

Poor novels. I think of them as the stodgy oldest son of the modern storytelling family. No sooner had written narrative begun to gel into stage and page, poem and prose, then the cute baby siblings of film-making and graphic narrative came along. Now everyone coos and fusses over them. Books are dying, the pundits say. People don’t have the time or the attention spans to handle extended reading.

Bah. The youngsters are blowing away long-form literature in popularity because they’re nimble and stylish and inclusive, not because they’re “visual” or because people stopped being smart, or even because internet.

TV and comics are cliched. Stereotyped. Hackneyed. Fun. The newest generation of adults grew up reading. They’re starved for serious writing, but most of them have no interest in picking up a traditional novel. They were taught that reading novels meant that they had to think hard and study hard. 

We need to let reading be fun for people. That’s all I’m saying.