Saul’s Laws:* #7. Timing

Thursday, September 3, 2009

*See the Preface to the “Saul’s Laws” page at the WordFeeder.

I have a little voice, sort of. It doesn’t talk to me. It types, in Courier, in the air in front of my face so I can read what it says, each letter materializing, one at a time to the distinctive sound of the keys hitting the roller on an old manual typewriter. And then it pauses and hits the period very deliberately, as if to say the word “Period” out loud.

When I was a senior in college, I came back from a date with a girl who lived on the women’s campus across town. While I was waiting for her in the lobby of her dorm that morning, I had run into another girl who I had dated for almost two years. I’d been crazy about her, but we had broken up and I hadn’t seen her for some time. We talked briefly when she came out to pick up her copy of the Saturday paper. It was nice, but then she left to go back to her room.

Later that evening in my apartment, I was standing in front of the mirror over my bathroom sink, not thinking about anything in particular, when my little voice typed out the following message, one keystroke at a time: “Y o u ’ r e g o i n g t o m a r r y E l l e n” … “.” And because my little voice has never been wrong, never, I walked over to the phone in my bedroom and called her. I told her, straight away, that I was coming over the following morning to ask her to marry me. She told me she had a date, and I told her to break it. She did. I asked her, and we were married that summer.

Marrying Ellen turns out to be the smartest thing I’ve ever done, so you can understand how much I respect my little voice.

Mostly, I rely upon my little voice to help me resolve less life shaping issues. I’ll be thinking about something all day and late into the evening until I pass out on our bed. The next morning, I get up, fill up the sink with hot water, lather up and, more often than not a short sentence materializes, one Courier letter at a time in front of me. “Pricing won’t be affected,” or “A wet bird never flies at night,” whatever, and that turns out to be the key to figuring out what I couldn’t the day before.

Sometimes my little voice is very, very specific. I’ll have written something the day before. Could be 10, 20 pages which I’ve proofread two, three times. It’s perfect, but it’s too late. No one will be there on the other end to read it so, what the heck, I put off sending it until the morning. I get up, sit on the edge of my bed for a moment and, “At the bottom of page 4, you left out the ‘to’.” Unbelievable, isn’t it. All night, while I was sleeping, my brain was thinking, going over the text of what I wrote, word by word, remembering it in a way I could never do consciously, and then waiting patiently for me to get up before bringing me up to date. More likely, it was something I had noticed, but never thought about fixing. Either way, very impressive.

The other day I was writing a piece (“Congressional Dreaming: Doing Away With The Senate And Other Radical Changes We Need To Make Congress Work”) in which I advocated, among other things, reducing the House to only 100 Members so they can finally get something done. Fortunately, I slept on the idea, with the TV still on in the corner of our room, until I was awaken in the middle of the night by the unbelievably annoying “ehhh, ehhhh” of the emergency broadcast claxon. (If it were a nuclear attack, I’d probably assume it was a test and sleep through it.) Reaching over Ellen for the remote control on her nightstand, I froze for a moment while my little voice typed out suggestion, “1,000,000 people per Representative.” It was a much better idea which I wrote it down on the pad I keep beside my bed so I wouldn’t forget.

Time and time again, I’ve saved my tush from making costly or embarrassing errors just by giving myself the night to let my brain and its little voice do what they do best – proof positive of Saul’s Law #7 which says,

If it doesn’t make any difference whether or not something you’ve written, or need to tell someone, goes out at the end of the day, or the beginning of the next, always wait until the morning. Something may occur to you in the meantime.

By the way, I’m just finishing this up at 11:04 PM with plenty of energy left to watch at least the first half hour of Conan while I do the dishes… (You know who is already asleep on the couch.) …but no way am I posting it tonight.

“G o o d,” wait for it, “.” Hey? Who typed that?

-wf


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