Guest Post: Using Insomnia to Advantage      

by Carol Smallwood

There‘s a good side to insomnia for poets. When writing poetry like triolets and pantoums, words often comes more easily than when fully rested, rhyming is less tedious, especially when phrases, words, are already down and there’s been time to brood. When we’re tired, our critic or self-censor is present to a lesser degree allowing a flow, a stream 

that’s often better than when every word, every phrasing, each punctuation mark is debated, revised, tossed out until often there’s little left of value or we just give up. Having the memory of instructors, critics, readers peering over our shoulders (besides our own censor) waiting for mistakes can constrict any writing. 


Write down any nibble that comes in dreams and at odd moments that can be used—a freebie so to speak from the muse that often seems to be helping someone else. Having a word, a phrase, or topic already on hand makes starting less intimidating and brings to mind Hemingway’s iceberg theory: “If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” 


The subconscious is always with us and controls more than we can guess or care to know. To me it is a pilot light that is always working—at once scary and also a friend. But no one else has ours and it can’t be taken away or dismissed. Perhaps science will figure the subconscious out in but I think it will always keep a bit of mystery, and what control it has in the 3-4 pounds of brain that’s working all the time is a good question. It impresses me to think Freud and Einstein were contemporaries—they did write letters to one another and what amazing reading they’d be if corresponding on sleep, the brain and time.