The Hypnagogic State

December 31, 2012

It’s real.

It is!

It is one of the coolest and most interesting tools I use as a writer. ‘Use’ isn’t the right way to put it, though.

When I started writing short stories I had a wickedly regular schedule. I could sit down for a couple of hours every day at the same time, same desk and write. It was working really well. I had tons of ideas and motivation. But with my third story I couldn’t quite figure out how to end it. I knew the final final scene, but I had no idea how to get the story there. So I lay in bed that night, thinking about my story…and it came to me, in it’s entirety—like a scene from a movie, somewhere between being awake and falling asleep. Pop. In my head.

For some reason I didn’t get up and write it down, I took a gamble and went to sleep. When I woke up the story was still with me. I made my coffee, ate some brekkie, and when I did sit down to write it just spewed out.

So I’d say ‘access’ is better than ‘use’ to describe what happens. It happens a fair bit, too.

I didn’t know what it was until I read an article by J N Williamson in Mort Castle’s book, On Writing Horror.

I do it all the time, now. It gives me something to do as I’m falling asleep, too. Better than working myself into a panic attack about money and all that real-life bullshit.

Here are some other resources that are pretty useful:

Shun’s manuscript format:

James Gardners workshop for writers:


One Response to “The Hypnagogic State”

  1. Lola said

    Brilliant. Used to do this all the time because stories were always on my mind. Now I am distracted by work/to-do lists/life, so I have to refocus my falling asleep routine!
    And I’m going to try to use “hypnagogic state” in conversation somehow today.

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