person lying on bed covering face with a pillow

Writing In The Dark

I wrote this post early Monday morning. Around 3:43am that is. I have all sorts of things I do in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Mostly worry. Then I review my to-do list. Then I go back to worrying some more. Usually after about a half an hour of tossing and turning, I remember to start meditating and praying. After a few minutes of meditating, I kinda just flow into writing.

It’s all in my head in the dark. I know that there’s a lot of sleep wisdom that says to keep a notebook beside the bed for writing things down. But this composing in my head works for me. It’s not that I remember everything I write, it’s just that it slips me into a different mode. Eventually I’ll write myself back to sleep. The best part is that I even retain some of it when I awaken.

I recently learned of some interesting research from a Ten Percent Happier podcast with Professor Lindsey Cameron. She studied whether meditation helps at work, specifically focused on customer facing jobs, and the results were fascinating. She found that traditional breath work meditations helped with centering the person in a bigger perspective so that the ups and downs weren’t as jarring. And she found that loving-kindness meditation (like I’ve described in this post) increase the ability to place ourselves in other’s shoes.

There’s research that shows loving-kindness practice reduces activity in part of the brain that’s active when we are anxious. And a study that showed we don’t want to practice mindfulness when doing emotionally taxing work. The example I heard in that case was a flight attendant who is having to pleasantly telling people to buckle their seat belts over and over again does not benefit from being more mindful in those moments.

Back to the point about writing in the dark. It seems our brain research is catching up with what our spiritual traditions have taught us for millennia. There are practices that help to literally change our minds. They’ve given us a tool set that we can use to help put ourselves in the best frame of mind to create, to understand, to be less anxious, to change, to be more altruistic, and so on. It’s no wonder I start writing in the dark after I start meditating, because the practice helps to shut down worry, and then I open up to creativity.

And it matches what works for me during daylight hours. In my post When I Write, I looked at what time of day works for me and it’s always after I’ve done the work to be quiet, to meditate, and to get a little perspective on life.

It feels a little clinical to separate out the meditation and prayer practices from the spiritual traditions and beliefs that tie us to a Higher Power. But in the middle of the night as I’m settling into a rhythm of breathing and repeating “faith over fear,” it’s also kind of fun to know I’m setting up the conditions for calming my brain. And that I might even get a post out of it.

Please visit my personal blog at and I also post on Mondays at the Heart of the Matter blog. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo from Pexels)

14 thoughts on “Writing In The Dark

  1. Hey — this is a little off topic, picking up on one tidbit, but your comment:….”composing in my head works for me” made me smile. I thought I was the only one who eschews a notebook by the bed…when writing ideas come. Instead I, too, “compose” in my head…thinking of key words and phrases that I want to remember for the morning…and somehow connections and threads come more easily if I close my eyes and “write” in my head. Like a pre-slumber night-time writing meditation? I’m not sure! 😉

    1. I’m smiling, Vicki! I love the way this works for you too. And the way you put it “a pre-slumber night-time writing meditation!” Right!

  2. I can relate Wynne. I can write anytime of the day, but no matter what, I first need to do some basic ground work. I can only start working on my blog until I get a little perspective on life.

    And one more thing, I’m struck by your last two lines. “…. it’s also kind of fun to know I’m setting up the conditions for calming my brain. And that I might even get a post out of it.”

    Yea, let’s just admit, it’s always about the next blog, the next topic. Ha, ha, I’m just kidding, but I do love that life keeps giving us possible future topics to discover and write about how it touches us one way of another. 😜

    1. I’m laughing about your comment that life keeps giving us possible topics to discover and write about. Exactly! We wouldn’t want to be bored, would we? And I’m not surprised that you do the work to get some perspective – it shows in your writing! Thanks for the great comment, Brian!

  3. In spite of the fact that not sleeping is awful, I think you took advantage of that moment by transforming it into a creative one. Well done Wynne, maybe next time when I wouldn’t sleep, I’ll follow this way.

    1. I know you have some great tips on sleeping, Cristiana. And I try to follow them – but this wasn’t too bad as a fallback option… 🙂

  4. Am I being naive here, or do you literally write in the dark? Seriously? My one attempt at dream-catching in the dark was a complete failure—utterly illegible in the morning. When I write every day the pump is primed and I can’t stop myself. But when I stop, the flow stops along with me and I have to work hard to prime the pump again. Keep on writing, even in the night, even in the dark!

    1. What an interesting analogy you draw about the pump. I love it! Yes, I literally start meditating and praying and often a blog post comes to me – but I can’t catch my dreams either. Those ones are too slippery. The writing in the dark is just for those (mostly rare) nights when I wake up worried and I switch to meditating and praying. Often a blog post comes out of it. 🙂

  5. I think you might be onto something with anxiety and creativity. They certainly don’t go together. It’s interesting. Sometimes I’ll wake up at around 3 am and I’ll have an insight. If I don’t get it on down on paper then and there – even if I remember the gist of it the next day – it’s not the same. When I get that feeling, if I can help it, I know I have to write then and there. When that happens the words just sort of flow out of me. It’s like I’m possessed. When I read it in the light of the next day I often think it results in some of my best writing. Wonderful post Wynne 🙂🙏

  6. What an insightful and thought-provoking post, Wynne! <3 There are many practical ideas here.

    I am sleeping more and remembering more of my dreams than before I started taking vitamin D. This enhances my sense of well-being and my writing.

    Hope you are having a great weekend! <3

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