Why writers need to lie down as much as possible


I discovered something cool this morning.

I woke up with a migraine (not cool.) It was one of those migraines where waves of queasiness wash over you every 5 minutes and if you try to read a book, your eyeballs start to bulge out of your head.

So I put on an eye mask (used only for camping, I promise) and retreated under my duvet.

After an hour or so I began to feel more human and my brain decided it could cope with doing something other than focus on how crap I was feeling.

So I began to daydream about my latest children’s story. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have started writing my fourth children’s book (this time it’s for 7-8-year-olds, rather than a picture book). I am two chapters in and slightly stuck about what happens next. But as I lay there, ensconced under my duvet and eye mask, playing with ideas, a brilliant and unexpected thing happened: the next two chapters emerged!

OK, so they were a bit hazy in places and I haven’t a clue what happens next, but who cares? (Maybe writing is like driving a car in thick fog – you can only see a vague blur in front of you and you have to trust that the road continues and you’re not about to drive into a huge chasm or something.)

Anyway, after scribbling down an outline of the chapters, I started to ponder why this sort of thing – whole chapters appearing from nowhere – is not the norm for me. Gradually it dawned on me that I was LYING DOWN (bear with me)…and that when I think about my children’s stories it’s usually during the day when I am upright.

And then a tiny cell somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain remembered that years ago, when I was writing an article about creativity, I came across some research which said that creativity was boosted if you were lying down as being horizontal did something groovy to your brain.

After another hour, when I felt able to look at the computer without my eyeballs doing an impromptu tango, I googled ‘creativity and lying down’…

The original research was carried out by Dr Lipnicki from the Australian National University (ANU). His study showed that participants were able to solve an anagram puzzle faster when they were lying down as opposed to standing up. (Note: Anagrams are typically solved in one insight or Eureka moment.)

It’s thought that this lying/standing difference is due to chemical changes in the brain.

Noradrenaline is a neurotransmitter which is believed to impair creative thinking. When we stand up, the brain releases more noradrenaline. When we lie down, it releases less.

Ta da!

So if you’re waiting for the creative muse to strike, it may be worth having a little lie down.

(Sadly, I haven’t come across any research linking eye masks with creativity, but you never know…)


8 thoughts on “Why writers need to lie down as much as possible”

  1. So that’s why I get the weirdest inspiration on the verge of sleep that drags me out of bed to scribble down! Does it still work if I fall asleep? Because I can never, you know, stay awake when I lie down to think, haha. I actually just came out of a ‘nap’ just now. I promise to put more effort into staying awake next time. Thanks for sharing this intriguing info!


  2. Thanks Katherine. Now I don’t feel so guilty about lying in bed, first thing in the morning, coming up with ideas and problem solving, instead of getting up and getting on with things! :-)


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