Poets & Writers

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf


MELISSA BURKLEY received her PhD in psychology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Her research has been featured in the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and Men’s Health. She has also appeared on Oprah Radio and Martha Stewart Living Radio. As a writer her work has appeared in the 2017 Women in Horror Annual, The Psychology of Dexter (Smart Pop, 2010), and The Psychology of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Smart Pop, 2011). She writes an advice column for writers in Hinnom Magazine as well as a blog, the Writer’s Laboratory, which teaches writers how to improve their craft by incorporating psychological principles into their work. Her website is www.melissaburkley.com.

THERE is a special moment that occurs every day of your life when the veil between your conscious and unconscious mind becomes thinner. A magical moment when you are able to access a bottomless fountain of creative potential. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that every day you are letting this moment slip by.

Contrary to popular belief we don’t dive into sleep immediately. Instead sleep comes in gradually, like a tide. The waters of our unconscious slowly rise, breaching the shore of our conscious mind and eventually submerging it. This tidal ebb and flow occurs in ninety-minute cycles throughout the night, and with each cycle we slowly wade through five ever-deepening stages of sleep.

The stage that receives the most hype, especially among creative types, is the final stage of the cycle, REM during a transatlantic flight—but there’s just one problem with this approach: REM occurs when our conscious mind is fully submerged and at its weakest. So although our creativity is high during our REM state, the likelihood that we will remember anything from it is quite low. The water is just too deep.

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