by Nancy Martin
As a writer who's made a decent living in my chosen profession for more than 25 years, I have a few secrets to success that I'm reluctant to share. But since I am among friends and it's the holiday season, I will reveal one.
I am a firm believer in naps.
Nothing relaxes the imagination like a nice, restorative afternoon snooze--preferably wrapped up in a much-loved, if slightly tattered quilt on my favorite sofa. A nap also lowers my blood pressure. (Yes, in case you were wondering, my kitchen rehab is still under construction, and at the rate it's going I expect it will remain that way through the fall of 2009.) Napping calms my brain. It allows my thoughts to travel into the hearts and minds of the imaginary people who populate my books. Often, I can propose a question to myself (what's the worst that could happen to this woman?) before I nod off, and the answer pops into my head while I'm asleep. How painless is that?
I have a writer friend who claims she meditates for 20 minutes every day to ready herself for writing. Me, I call a spade a spade. I nap.
Can any other profession claim the usefulness of naps? Besides the occasional president, that is?
Mind you, I do not nap in my bed. That's too much like sleeping. Which would be bad, I'm pretty sure. I cannot nap in the Laz-y-Boy chair that I finally broke down and purchased because so many of my writer friends claim it's the best ergonomic position for working on a laptop. (And they're right! But I wish I didn't look the way my grandfather did while he watched Lawrence Welk on Sunday nights after a roast beef dinner.) Napping in my work chair, though, is too much like slacking off, so I don't snooze in the Laz-y-Boy. But the old sofa in an upstairs bedroom is comfy enough, but not too comfy that I'd zonk out for the rest of the day.
I only nap for 50 minutes. (Magically, I wake up at the 50 minute mark. Can somebody explain that phenomenon?) Which is totally wrong, according to this source, which says 20 minutes should be your maximum nap. Longer than that, and you'll disturb your nightly sleep. But me, I don't nap every day. Once or twice a week, an afternoon snooze is blissful, and it doesn't totally mess up my sleeping schedule.
After an all-night flight to Venice last month, my husband and I experienced some jet lag on the first day of our cruise. I couldn't stay awake. I kept falling asleep every time I sat down. Fortunately, that seemd to be the case with just about all the other passengers over the age of 6. While little kids frolicked in the pool (why must all children shriek in a swimming pool??) their parents were collapsed on deck chairs as if they'd been hit with stun guns. Grown men were curled up on sofas in the lounge, snoring like Santa after delivering a whole world of presents. I spotted one elegant lady in the champagne bar drooling on a towel she'd daintily tucked under her face. Napping was imperative to getting our body clocks acclimated to the new time zone.
Our return trip to the US was even worse. First of all, the other passengers on our plane fell asleep in various contorted positions of torture victims. (Even the most beautiful woman looks horrible with her head snapped back and her jaw hanging open.) But the position of the seats made it impossible for Jeff and me to do more than catch a couple of catnaps. When finally we arrived at home--after 28 hours of wide awake travel--I napped every day for a week. And slept like a log at night.
Now the holidays are upon us. In addition to the shopping and other Christmas preparations, I say it's time to step up one's commitment to napping, too. When I hear Andy Williams crooning, "It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . " I think of napping.
Hey, a few holiday naps will restore my creative mind, right? And prepare me for another year of writing. Anyone want to join me?