I’m betting that you read the headline on this blog post and immediately felt a sense of guilt.
Maybe you’re thinking: Napping?? Are you crazy? If I can manage to set aside the time to write, then I should be super productive.
I feel you: we fight hard sometimes to carve out the time to write from our busy lives, with work, family obligations, and all the logistics of a freakin’ pandemic we now have to deal with. So if you have an hour set aside for writing, you want to make the most of it.
And I’m telling you, that’s where napping can help! But there’s a trick to it and I’m going to show you how to take a creative nap, a writer’s nap, if you will.
Why You Should Take a Writer's Nap
We all know sleep is important. Essentially, sleep is how your body recovers from the stress and strain of the day, and how your brain restores itself. But science has also shown that napping during the day also has significant benefits for your brain, including improved memory, overall cognitive function and creativity.
Science is telling you to nap. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t take this kind of thing lightly.
But I want to introduce you to a special kind of nap: the writer’s nap. The writer’s nap is used to boost inspiration and/or solve a craft problem. You know how you have some of your best ideas in the shower? That’s because you’re usually relaxed and your brain can just wander around until it lights on a great idea. We’re going to use that same basic idea to make naps work for us as a part of our writing process.
The 10 Step Process for Taking a Writer's Nap
Nap Set-Up & Software
This process works best under certain circumstances. First of all, it works best when you’re not new to writing — it’s something you do fairly regularly. This is important because you need a bit of experience to really be able to pay attention and learn from this all-important Writer’s Nap technique.
It also works best when you’re feeling a little stuck, or could use a bit of an inspiration boost.
Then obviously, you’ll need some writing time set aside. I think ideally if your session will include a nap, then you’ll want at least an hour.
You’ll also need the right napping “software” — I recommend a soft pillow and a quilt. (I use one of the several patchwork lap quilts my mom made me, but any blanket will do.) If you like to use a sleep mask to keep the light out, rock on with your bad self and get one just for this purpose.
And of course, you’ll need a quiet place to nap where you won’t be disturbed for your allotted napping time.
The Pre-Nap Process
If you’re napping for general writing inspiration, then I want you to pick a book by an author you admire. Pick a new one, or one you’ve read before and you think is absolutely genius. I like to nap with poetry when I’m just napping for an inspirational boost, but any kind of book will work.
If you’re trying to solve a technical problem that’s arisen in your own work, then I want you to print out up to 10 pages of your current project — we’re using paper, not screens, because screens interfere with sleep and we are serious about this nap, yo!
Print it out and re-read your work. Get clear about the problem you’re trying to solve: how to structure the book, what to do next with this character. Only one very specific problem per nap! Essentially, you’re going to put your subconscious to work and it works best when focused on one thing at a time.
The Actual Writer’s Nap
Set a timer for your nap, ideally 30-45 minutes but no longer. I like 45 minutes because it always takes me 10 minutes to really get to sleep, so in effect I get about 30-35 minutes of pure napping time.
Lie down, get comfy with your personal napping software, and let your brain relax. As you relax, just focus on either what you’ve just read for inspiration, or on your current technical or craft challenge. Start focusing in there, and then let the mind wander.
This next step is really important: go to sleep. You’ve set an alarm so you’re not going to oversleep and you can let yourself go. Nap like you really mean it!
The Post-Nap Process
When your alarm goes off, get up. If you oversleep, you’ll ruin your night and most of tomorrow. You’re not Rip Van Winkle, you just want a wee writer’s nap.
Get up, and go straight into your writing. Start a fresh page and set a time for 15-20 minutes. Free write and let yourself go as long as you can. If the timer goes off and you’re in the flow, keep going.
Pay attention to what’s happening for you. Maybe you’re now writing more freely than before, maybe some new ideas came to you, maybe you solved that technical/craft problem or maybe you just caught up with yourself and feel better about it.
Try this out a few times and really practice bringing a serious sense of awareness to what’s going on in your body, mind and creative spirit when you take a writer’s nap. Adjust it to your own personal circumstances or peccadillos and keep doing whatever is working.
The Writer’s Nap Agenda
Here again are the steps for taking a productive writer’s nap:
- Set aside enough time (ideally an hour.)
- Get yourself set up to nap with appropriate “software” and a quiet setting.
- Get clear on why you’re napping today.
- Choose the appropriate pre-nap material for reading.
- Set alarm.
- Nap for 30-45 minutes.
- Get up when the alarm goes off. (No snooze button!)
- Write, for at least 15-20 minutes post-nap — longer if you can.
- Pay attention to what’s working and adjust as needed.
The Writer’s Nap Guarantee
I’ve been using the writer’s nap process to enhance and support my writing for years now. I routinely have an experience of creative breakthrough — where something that felt hard when I lay down to nap with it now feels easier. New ideas come and I find my writing flows more easily.
And if nothing else, I am better rested and caught up on my sleep. Don’t take this lightly: you might just need a nap to improve your life in multiple areas, or just make everything else easier. You’re a human being and you’re allowed to rest.
Consider this your permission slip to take a nap!
If you’re generally not a napper, don’t nap! If napping disturbs your sleep at night, don’t take it on just to fix a writing problem and then find yourself with a whole bunch of “I can’t with my life right now” problems tomorrow.
Don’t tell the non-writers in your life about this; they won’t understand. The creative process is hard for non-creative types to wrap their heads around and they’ll tend to think you were either “just” napping or wasting time while they wrangled the children or housework for you.
Try It, You Might Like It
You won't know if the writer's nap is for you unless you try it. Work it into your writing routine for a couple of weeks and see if it makes a difference. And if it's working for you and I've converted yet another writer to the creative power of napping (evil laugh: muahahaha!), then come find me on Instagram and let me know.
I work napping into my DIY Writing Retreats. Get my free guide that will walk you through how to create one of these for yourself.