The Greatest Of Pleasures

Anne Fadiman wrote:

“One day, when Sir Walter Scott was out hunting, a sentence he had been trying to compose all morning suddenly leapt into his head. Before it could fade, he shot a crow, plucked a feather, sharpened the tip, dipped it in crow’s blood, and captured the sentence.”

Are you in any way like Sir Walter Scott? Do you wake up in the middle of the night because you had a revelation about your story, your key character or characters, or a sentence structure, to jot it down in your notebook? Do you keep a pad and a pen next to your bedside table so that every time you have a dream or idea you scribble it down? Because ideas like dreams are lost to us once we are fully awake.

I for one am “lazy”. I do not always write when I am at my desk. Throughout the day I am constantly thinking, imagining, letting things simmer in my mind for a long time before I put them down on paper. Ideas come to me in my sleep, I dream about scenes of my book, situations that my characters find themselves in. But I do not get up in the middle of the night to write them down. And in the morning, on many mornings, when I wake up and try to think back to recall my dreams they are lost. Eventually it all comes back to me but not with the same intensity and power. And in the words of Henry James:

“I have lost too much time by losing, or rather by not having acquired, the note-taking habit. I ought to endeavor to keep, to a certain extent, a record of passing impressions, of all that comes, that goes, that I see, and feel, and observe. To catch and keep something of life…”

Story ideas, character names, a scene or thought, overheard dialogue that I find interesting and relevant to my story line or character, come to me at unexpected times and strange places, just like my dreams. In the words of Lore Segal:

“Dream and story come out of the same part of the mind.”

And I think to myself that I will never let the opportunity pass me again. And what is thought if not:

“The greatest of pleasures- pleasure itself is only imagination- have you ever enjoyed anything more than your dreams?” Gustave Flaubert


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4 Responses to The Greatest Of Pleasures

  1. I definitely need to keep paper and pencil handy to jot down those random brilliant ideas but, alas, the size of notebook I would need to have with me is too big to be manageable so many thoughts are lost. When I have a day or two to myself and can concentrate on my latest writing project, I will awaken with the next chapter pretty much pre-formed in my mind, but I must get to the keyboard immediately so the words do not dissipate with the darkness.

  2. marisaporter says:

    There are a few things I enjoyed better than my dreams – but they are rare rare gifts. “God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” Who would dare wait for God’s gifts?

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