Full disclosure: I chose this week’s topic; not because I had something in particular to write, but because I thought it would be a less abstract topic for people to tackle this week. However, having chosen the topic I quickly realised that I really didn’t have anything clearly in mind to write. Nevertheless, let’s press on…
As said above bedtime is one of my favourite times of day (no really, it literally says those exact words just above). It always perplexes me how resistant my six-year-old son is to the concept of going to bed. I tell him how it’s the best time of day: you get to lie there and sleep! But, no: he would much rather run around and throw himself at the furniture … which does sound kinda fun now that I write it down.
Up until recently it was a challenge to even get him to stay in bed: ironic given the challenge associated with getting me or his mother out of bed. Lately, however, he’s learned to read and we’ve found it much, much easier to get him into bed – he may not go to sleep when we want him to, but more often than not he’ll just be lying on his bed reading (and not throwing himself at the furniture).
I like to think that he’s finally discovered the real value of bedtime: it’s that time when you finally get to escape the day (for more, similar, thoughts on escape read my wife’s blog post on the subject).
Bedtime: part one
For me bedtime doesn’t necessarily start at the moment I climb into bed. It starts when I decide that I’m done with the day and I’m going to move towards achieving that vegetative state. That moment usually comes at around 10pm.
Many years ago, when I was living on my own I had a semi-regular ritual that would involve chocolate and bourbon (yeah, that sounds much more interesting that it actually was, so maybe I’ll just leave it there with whatever mental picture you’re desperately trying to evict from your brain right now).At the moment bedtime effectively starts with what my wife and I call “Friends’o’clock”, which is when the reruns of Friends start on Foxtel (9:30pm to 10:30pm, if you were wondering). Once I decide to embark upon Friends’o’clock it means no more computer, no more domestic tasks, no more of anything constructive or energy-draining: it means the productive day has officially ceased.
Bedtime: part two
Vegetating in front of the TV naturally evolves into vegetating in bed and reading. Traditionally this would involve reading books, but during the last few years I became fairly ill-disciplined and allowed myself to get distracted by browsing the internet on my iDevice. This year I’m trying to make amends by getting back into proper reading.
Reading provides the real escape: the chance to properly escape your day and immerse yourself in someone else’s world. I think it’s important to have that tangible, mental break from whatever issues have taken up your day. It’s all too easy to switch the light off, put your head down, then find all the unresolved details of your day bouncing around, repeating and recreating themselves, giving you grief all over again.
I occasionally have trouble getting to sleep. Last night it was because I had a coffee at 5pm (it was a great coffee: it was totally worth it). Other nights it’s for no reason at all. I’ll go through days or weeks of taking hours to get to sleep, then weeks or months of sleeping just fine.
When I was much younger I used to, for want of a better phrase, play movies in my head to help me get to sleep: I’d put myself in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, or imagine I was Batman, etc.
As it happens I do much the same now, except I think about the stories I plan to write (and let’s not come away from this thinking that my stories are just great for sending people to sleep!). Bedtime is when I get most of my best ideas: the idea for Colder Still came from me lying in bed listening to a dripping tap; Graves came from an image I woke up with of a gravestone in my front garden; there are numerous other instance where the idea has popped into my head during bedtime, or the full plot has magically congealed itself.
Bedtime: part aaargh!
There’s a slightly more sinister side to bedtime, which I’ll briefly go into here since I don’t have any other ideas about how to end this post.
Once the lights go off everything … changes. A noise outside becomes more pronounced, a creak inside becomes sinister. A doorbell or phone ringing would be utterly heart-stopping. These aren’t things that necessarily keep me awake (though I will dwell upon them if I happen to be awake) but they all become more intrusive once you’ve turned the light off and decided that it’s time for the day to end.
Of course, these things also provide great prompts for stories …