A Goodreads user
A Goodreads user asked Mary L. Tabor:

When you talk about that "dreamlike state" it makes me curious... Do you write in the morning? First thing? How important is time-of-day to the flow of your work?

Mary L. Tabor I often tell my students when they are stuck with a writing problem or are having trouble finding the invention that builds on the craft they’ve learned, “Go to sleep,” “Take a nap.”

I keep a lighted pen and a journal by my bed. When I am in the midst of the invention and don’t know where to go, I read the last passage I’ve written before I go to sleep. Dreams are a great source for me of imagery. They provide solutions. The old saw, “Sleep on it” is right on the money.

If I tell myself before sleeping that I need to dream, I awake after the dream—I may not be wide awake, but I write down the narrative of the dream, not worried about grammar or punctuation or form. In the morning I copy the dream into my journal. Somewhere along the line that dream will serve me. The power of the dream is that dreams are non-verbal; they’re like watching a movie in your sleep.

My most vivid dreams occur right before waking. So, yes, early morning writing is key for me. But I’ve been a day-dreamer since childhood. I can bring on the dream-like state pretty much at will—sometimes to the annoyance of those close to me. “Where are you?” I’m asked. I’ve drifted, for sure, but I know that I’ve been working. I know the story is in the dreaming.

When I’m in the midst of the invention, I like to visit a museum and stand before one painting and look. I used to live near The Phillips Museum in DC. The museum has a Rothko room. I went there often while writing Who by Fire and as a result, Rothko’s paintings are key to the novel.

Seeing is key for writing. I dislike tours through museums because someone else is talking, invading the process of perception and telling me what to see. I like to stand before a single painting until I’m able to write something about it, not move on to the next. Instead, to see, to be attentive, awake.

The paradox here is that sleeping, dreaming, and focusing on art are key to being awake. When I’m writing, I’m awake and in the dream of creation.

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