In Others’ Words: Ideas


Writing wreaks havoc with my sleep.

There are some nights that, just as I snuggle underneath the blankets … just as I hear the first whisper of sleep welcoming me … an idea pounces.

And I’m awake.

Oh, sure. I try to ignore the idea.

I tell the you-can’t-ignore-me idea to wait until morning.

I might even sit up and scribble the barest outline on the notepad beside my bed, as if to say, “See, I won’t forget you! Now let me get some sleep, okay?”

But sleeps eludes me. Instead, my brain is filled to overflowing with what ifs and snippets of conversation and questions that demand answers now — not in the morning after a refreshing night’s sleep.

Alarm clock? What’s that? Who needs an alarm clock when you’re up all night chasing a story idea or meeting a new character or unraveling a complicated plot twist?

In Your Words: Writers: When was the last time your story — your characters — kept you up past your bedtime? Or the last time an idea pulled you from sleep long before the alarm clock blared? Readers: What’s the last book that kept you up until the “wee small” hours of the night?


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  1. October 17, 2012, 6:30 am   /  Reply

    Oh, how I know this feeling! And it’s even worse if it’s a song because then you have to get up, find the piano in the dark, softly test out chords by the nightlight and hope you don’t wake hubby : ) I have learned to follow the idea or else it escapes me by morning…

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 7:32 am   /  Reply

      Oh, Cynthia, I’ve never had a song wake me up …
      I can only imagine …

  2. October 17, 2012, 6:36 am   /  Reply

    Wow, kinda crazy. Someone just emailed me yesterday to tell me my blog post kept them awake most of the night pondering. Hoping my books will do the same someday–to others b/c they’re keeping me awake now. 😀

    I don’t need an alarm clock. I’ve got a funky circadian thing going on & I wake 10 min. before mine goes off every morning. I’m crazy like that! Miss you, Beth.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 7:33 am   /  Reply

      I can believe that your blog posts keep someone up –probably more than one someone. They stick with you, on a heart level.
      Miss you too, my friend.

  3. October 17, 2012, 6:50 am   /  Reply

    I like the turn on the light and grab a pen option and do that occasionally but have gotten up to pound out a scene or development. Even w/ amazing books I usually reach a stopping point but often awake and read awhile around 2 or 3 a.m. Susan Warren’s newest book, You Don’t Know Me, kept me reading to finish then until 4:30 a.m. when I had to rise at 5 a.m. to catch a plane–but it was worth it.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 7:34 am   /  Reply

      Oh, yes, Dee … You Don’t Know Me was a can’t-put-it-down read, wasn’t it?

  4. October 17, 2012, 6:51 am   /  Reply

    The last time was Monday night. Right before the good sleep kicked in. But I wasn’t too mad about it. The piece I was missing fit right into place. Love it when that happens.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 7:34 am   /  Reply

      Well worth the loss of sleep, eh?

  5. October 17, 2012, 7:00 am   /  Reply

    I stayed up too late the other night reading Susie Warren’s You Don’t Know Me. I went to bed too late recently because I was reading through an old manuscript to see if it had potential. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I think about my next scene and what I can do to create conflict for those characters.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 7:35 am   /  Reply

      Did the old ms have potential?!

  6. October 17, 2012, 7:12 am   /  Reply

    Haha, yes, this happens to me. Although, I’ve developed the habit of watching a silly TV show (usually something classic like the Mary Tyler Moore show 🙂 ) right before bed so that I can disconnect from my story. And I usually fall asleep during it. Can’t tell you how many half-episodes I’ve seen. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 7:35 am   /  Reply

      I favor the old Dick Van Dyke show myself …

  7. October 17, 2012, 7:31 am   /  Reply

    My story wakes me almost every morning at 5. And those minutes between waking and actually getting up are some of the best times for working out problems. Great post, Beth!

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 7:35 am   /  Reply

      Seems like being a writer = interrupted sleep, doesn’t it, Pat?

  8. October 17, 2012, 7:57 am   /  Reply

    Yesterday morning I woke up and my next hero and heroine fleshed out in my mind, big time. I pulled that notebook off my night stand and I wrote FOUR pages of notes. It was so cool, but it spurred a lot more research needs!

    Just yesterday my eight year old (who tells me every day that she’s going to be an author) said to me: “Mom, sometimes I get these pictures in my head and I think about what people are saying to each other. Does that make me a writer?” 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:29 pm   /  Reply

      Two exciting events for you, Gabrielle — one for you and one for you daughter!

  9. October 17, 2012, 8:12 am   /  Reply

    Yeah, sometimes my best ideas come at 3 in the morning. Doesn’t make for a good day at work the next day, but hey, when the ideas come, you’ve got to capitalize on that, right? 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:30 pm   /  Reply

      I’ve learned not to ignore a good idea — ever.

  10. Jeanne
    October 17, 2012, 8:23 am   /  Reply

    Ahhh, yes. Ideas. They usually come right after my husband’s first deep breath (about 3 seconds after we turn off the light), and I rush to my project room, turn a lamp on low and write/type away. My most recent was a few weeks ago on a blog post that will have to wait. But I have the rough draft written, for whenever I find the time to begin it. 🙂 I love when story ideas come to mind too. It only took about two times of me promising to remember the idea till morning and forgetting it before I realized getting up right away was the much better option. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:30 pm   /  Reply

      We’ve all learned the hard lesson of the “I’ll remember it in the morning” (NOT). It’s a rough lesson to learn.

  11. October 17, 2012, 9:12 am   /  Reply

    I’ve finally learned to write those middle-of-the-night ideas down, or I WILL forget them the next morning!

    And, interestingly enough, the last book that kept me up late was the Bible! I was really into the story of Elisha when he got Elijah’s mantle and took over. I’d never realized that when the kid/punks said “Go up, thou bald head,” they were mocking what they’d heard had happened to Elijah. That’s why they got the bear attack! Anyway. Truth is better than fiction sometimes!

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:31 pm   /  Reply

      Love this, Heather.

  12. October 17, 2012, 9:13 am   /  Reply

    My ideas come when I’m driving. I usually have to repeat it out loud until I get to a light to write it down or text myself. I’ve even had my kids write things down for me too. Something about driving makes those creative wheels crank! 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:31 pm   /  Reply

      Coleen, you need a voice recorder. You really do.

  13. October 17, 2012, 10:18 am   /  Reply

    My characters have been keeping me up into the wee hours a lot lately–and waking me early as well. While there are times I wish I could turn off the voices and get a full night’s sleep, I love listening to my characters talk and writing down their stories.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:32 pm   /  Reply

      I think writers have to learn that this life wrecks our sleep patterns.

  14. October 17, 2012, 12:39 pm   /  Reply

    Last night! (Which probably explains why I’m walking around in a fog today) 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:32 pm   /  Reply

      But it’s worth it, isn’t it, Sarah?

  15. October 17, 2012, 4:42 pm   /  Reply

    I very rarely have a problem at night. My problem comes during my quiet time. The “That’s the word I was looking for, for an hour yesterday!” or “That’s the way to word that sentence that was giving me fits.” or rapidly making sketchy notes for a post on my website. I don’t see these as interruptions, I see them as God teaching me to be a better writer.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 17, 2012, 8:32 pm   /  Reply

      Great attitude, Sherry. And I concur.

  16. Ganise
    October 17, 2012, 5:13 pm   /  Reply

    Hi Beth!
    It’s been quite a while. Glad to see this 🙂
    You know, I hear alot about ideas that suddenly pop into writer’s heads – and others- in the middle of the night, but that never happen to me….
    Maybe because I’m not writing profesionnaly.. yet 😉

    The latest a book’s kept me up, (I think) is fifteen minutes before midnight.
    Never read one who broke that record. And I’m thinking that’s to blame on me beeing an early bird who’s partial to her sleep!

    I always enjoy your posts! 🙂

  17. Beth Vogt
    October 17, 2012, 8:33 pm   /  Reply

    Nice to see you again, Ganise. And it’s true — the earlier you get to bed, the earlier you can finish that can’t-put-it-down book.
    Very smart.

  18. October 17, 2012, 11:13 pm   /  Reply

    All the time. I’m a night-owl so my brain has a terribly difficult time shutting down anyway. Worse than keeping me up is those MORNINGS after a late night working (or reading – hey, don’t we writers get to call that working?) – translate 2-3 hours of sleep – I wake up with an idea, or a resolution, and can’t get back to sleep. Then come 1 p.m. and we still have 2 hours of home school left….

    Yeah. But there’s some kind of quirky beauty in those brain-spasms, isn’t there? I love A-HA! moments.


    • Beth Vogt
      October 18, 2012, 7:23 am   /  Reply

      Yes, the morning after the late-night brain-spasms are rough. Agreed. But those A-HA! Moments are part of the writer’s life, you’re right about that.

  19. October 18, 2012, 9:06 am   /  Reply

    It’s not my characters since I write nonfiction, but it is ideas. Lots of life experiences and chapter titles and quotes from pros and friends. They’re so noisy I’m surprised my husband can sleep through it all. Yawn.

    Thanks for staying up with me, Beth. : )

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