A guilty pleasure, taking a nap after lunch. Working from home has its benefits. It may be flashbacks to kindergarten. It may be healthy adult behavior. Whatever. I tried taking a nap a few days ago and failed. Instead of sleeping, inspiration took over. I now have the first few lines to my first book of fiction. It looks like story time will be taking on a new meaning.
We make fun of silly little rituals. Kids should take a nap, and maybe get the modern equivalent of milk and cookies later in the afternoon. Siestas sound lazy, but they may also be the key to making work less dreary, the mind more creative, and life more enjoyable. The British tea time sounds like an anachronism, yet I recall a study that suggested 3pm-4pm was the best time of the day for enjoying caffeine.
My main indoctrination into break times within workdays was at Boeing. I worked in a steel mill before that, but those break times didn’t leave much of an impression. That probably had to do with 100F temperatures in the mill and a rough and rude behavior by too many (but not all) of the guys in the air conditioned break room. The Hustler posters weren’t my style.
Boeing was much more gentile, and at least more relaxed about engineers taking breaks as needed. Maybe it was because the company wanted to encourage caffeine consumption and its energetic consequences. Lunch hour, however, was a bit different. Mine was typically from 11:30-12:10. Do the math. That hour was over in forty minutes. At lunch I’d revert to introvert mode. Rather than play bridge while eating a sandwich, I’d retreat to my car. Boeing’s commercial airplane plants are big. It took ten minutes to get to the car, and ten minutes to get back. That left twenty minutes for lunch and a nap. Divide it in two and find a “lunch hour” that was split into four ten-minute segments. I still tend to get hungry at 11:30, and I left that job nineteen years ago. Friends are surprised that I will excuse myself for a nap, and come back ten minutes later, refreshed. Very handy, even it is only a few minutes with the seat reclined in the truck.
It doesn’t always work that way. Thoughts about work and money, or aches and pains, or the state of the world can make it hard to sleep. Even then, though, I take the time to at least give my digestive system time to do its job unencumbered by other tasks.
I’ve had an idea for a sci-fi novel for several years. Like many ideas, it is hard to know when the first inspiration hit, but there is a milestone. I thought of the idea a year or two before I saw a painting that looked remarkably like one of the main characters. Someday I’ll ask that painter for the history of that painting. Maybe it can become the cover, if they agree.
I won’t go into details. I learned that from some of my previous non-fiction books. (It’s a bit early, but here’s the list for your holiday shopping.) The more I told people about the details, the more they encouraged me, and the less likely they were to read the book. They already knew what was in it. Why buy it? (Because the story is in the telling, not just in the title.)
Years ago I developed the background technology, sociology, logistics, ecology, and history of the main characters. That’s a lot, but that’s not enough for a story. A story is about people, or at least entities. (Hey, it’s sci-fi, aliens are welcome.) I’ve seen the struggles my novelist friends have, so I don’t dismiss the task of turning an idea into a story into something readers care about. Readers care about characters, and good writing. I cared about the characters, too, but I couldn’t find the key connection, the critical scene that defined their relationship. I had a sketch of an idea, but I didn’t have a story.
Try to take a nap. There’s a lot on my mind, as usual. Various career possibilities are being suggested, but they’re all for a little later without many details and without commitment. It may be time to be more proactive, in which case it is time to pick from my resume and history and develop a new work life, hopefully one that allows for naps and cups of tea.
Turn off the ringers on the phones and the email. Close the doors. Drop the blinds. Plunk my body down on the couch and pull a blanket over my body and a hat over my eyes.
And not sleep.
Instead, one character’s frustration finally found a voice and in a rather resigned tone asked the other a question. The words matter. I knew they wanted to talk to each other, but didn’t know what about. The setting was simple. The phrasing was simple. The first few lines of their story were no longer only an idea. They were specific sentences that readers could read, and hopefully want to read more.
Part of me groaned. Yet another project cluttering up cranial space. How is this one going to fit in with the rest? Books rarely make money. Why do this? Repetitive stresses are already causing problems. More typing? Groan.
Don’t expect anything soon, unless some unsolicited publisher gives me an impressive advance. This will probably take years, and I already have two other non-fiction books that I want to write about the time I turn sixty. And yet, who knows what will happen?
Naps are silly, childish, non-productive, and not as fashionable as exercise or meditation. They are also, free, healthy, and possibly one of the most valuable ways to spend some time. Give yourself a break. Find someplace safe and cozy and take a nap. It may be the start of a new story.