Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why That Name?

So here I am about to start my first blog for “Thoughts Before the Alarm Sounds.” I guess I should explain how I arrived at the name.
I believe that ideas are like plants. Thoughts (seeds) come into one’s head from who knows where, but before they become full-fledged ideas they need to germinate.
Some people think they get ideas in their dreams, but it doesn’t work that way for me, and I am not alone in that belief. I think it was William James who told of a man who just knew that he came up with great ideas in his dreams, but could never remember them until morning. So one night he set a pad and pencil by his bed. Sure enough, he awoke during the night after having dreamed a sensational thought, and still only half awake, he jotted it down. When he awoke in the morning he could hardly wait to see what his world-changing thought had been. He had written, “The odor of creosote permeates the area.” So much for that theory.
My alarm clock goes off every morning at eight, except for the few times when I have a breakfast date. Usually I wake up about an hour before that, or at least I partly wake up. It is important that I remain in a “not quite awake but not quite asleep” state, because I consider that time as the germination period for whatever seeds happen to have blown into my head.
Usually one subject seems to stand out, and I spend the rest of the hour trying different approaches to it. By the time the alarm goes beep, beep, I have somewhat of a handle on it.
As new thoughts on the subject come up, I write them down. Sometimes I need to do a little research to clarify my thinking. This part of the project may take an hour, or a day, or occasionally months or even years.
Then it’s a matter of going back and cultivating and pruning to bring out a unified understanding of the subject. Often, more research is necessary. About half the time I discard the whole thing and either start over, or move on to a new subject.
But that time before the alarm goes off is crucial to the whole thing.

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