Three A.M. Genius

Mege Gardner
Mar 14, 2018 · 2 min read

I am getting cozy with a form of insomnia that I have dubbed the Three A.M. Genius (or more awkwardly, TAMG). It triumphs in our wrestling match every night, regardless of blood alcohol, herbal supplements, or scientifically-tuned sleep music. It is not influenced by warm puppies in the slightest.

Horror movies — a life long enthusiasm — have been pushed aside because they do not blend well with TAMG. No one wants to stare at the ceiling in the wee hours thinking about angry ghosts in the shower or shiny clowns under the bed. Just typing that fills me with trepidation that TAMG will sink its teeth into the notion and give me extra trouble tonight.

nighttime scribbles by philasilva, flickr cc

Trouble is rare, though, depending on how you define trouble. Most of the time I comfortably wait for TAMG to release its grip, solving real life problems and generating marvelous details for the next revision of my novel. It make take an hour to pass, at which point I return to practicing for my snoring championship. (I’m getting really good, I’m told).

The genius bursts are often so insightful and perfect that I am tempted to get up and write the ideas down. This is when the real wrestling begins. If I turn on a light and scribble, or if I type anything into my phone, I may as well get up and brew pot of coffee.

The only options are to mentally chant the solution until I fall asleep, with a firm confidence that I will recall it, or to scribble on a notebook in the dark. Once the struggle begins, if I get up, I will abandon any chance of sleeping any more.

The first option is extremely delicate and it generally falls apart like a snowflake on a warm mitten. When I’ve trusted it, most often I am left with only a snippet of a song in my mind by morning. Trying to draw a line between my Victorian characters and a Johnny Rotten lyric doesn’t pay off very often.

The second option has led to a strange notebook of terrible ideas.

  • Cortege of sneaky, capable spoons — sneaky and capable? what? possible typo
  • Revenge lady smoking — really?
  • A plague of ambiguous horses — not bad in some instances, maybe

After more than a year of nightly visits from the Three A.M. Genius, I’m oddly fond of it. Even with most evidence pointing to it being a waste of time and a possible cousin to the acid flashback, it feels admirably confident and creative. One of these nights a glorious solution will spring to the page and it will all have been worthwhile.

I could be wrong. I could be right.

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