The movie Little Women debuted in theaters when I was still in elementary school, but even at seven years old, one line from the movie resonated with me as much then as it does now.
In one scene, late at night, Joe March hunches over a writing table, only the soft glow of a candle illuminating the pages as she scribbles away. Joe explains,
“Late at night my mind would come alive with voices and stories and friends as dear to me as any in the real world. I gave myself up to it, longing for transformation.”
I always had trouble sleeping as a kid. While I had ample time during the day to record the stories and words that danced in my head, it wasn’t until I was tucked in at night that the best lines would emerge. Restless, I’d lay in bed with a journal hidden under my pillow, waiting for my parents to extinguish the lights and retreat to bed to cue my nightly writing expedition.
I’d click on a lamp in my room and let the words pour out from my pen. On a few occasions, I’d try to resist the calling and focus on falling to sleep, always promising myself that I’d jot down that thought first thing the following morning. But every time, I’d struggle to sleep, and by the time I’d awake from my fitful rest, the ideas and words had long since flown away.
These days, as an adult, I’m a chronic early bird. Even on the weekends, I can’t sneak past 7 a.m. before my mind blasts awake. Even if I try to rekindle my dreams, my mind stays alert and begins to digest my to-do list for the day, or I’m taunted by the book on my nightstand, it demanding my attention.
As wonderful as it feels to lounge in bed all day, I find myself fraught with remorse for having wasted my day. And even though at times I lament the lack of sleep, there’s also something so intoxicating about waking up early. Having those few moments to yourself, all alone, makes me feel as though I’m cheating the system – somehow squeezing out extra hours as the earth spins toward another sunset.
As an early riser, it would make sense that I would retire to bed early. And though I try, I’m rarely successful. It’s only late at night, literally in the eleventh hour, that my mind begins to fill with words. It’s not that I don’t find inspiration to write during the day, but it’s always just as I’ve turned down the covers and reflected on my day that words will inundate my mind.
As much as my busy-body adult ways have driven me to rise before the sun, the creative bursts of my childhood still seem to lurk only deep in the shadows of the night. It makes for an exhausting week, but for a delicious nighttime indulgence.