Lo Buzz

This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.


I am convinced I do most of my best thinking in my sleep. Is this a terribly peculiar thing to say? I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping my notebook and pencil on the nightstand, within grabbing distance for bouts of 3 a.m. inspiration. Usually just a line of poetry. A short stanza. Or the main idea, in the form of an exceptionally crafty one-liner (often better than active, intentional brainstorming will get me), for an essay. That’s where Jeans Song came from. Middle of the night notebook scribbles. “I like to follow you by the scent of your…” Then, I work to fill in the blanks. The hardest part is convincing myself to make the effort at that late hour to write such things down. (I’ve got a terrible habit of lying there and repeating a line over and over again in my mind until I drift off to sleep, convincing myself that if I rehearse it well enough, I’ll remember it in the morning. I never do. I’ve got to make a note of it.) Or precisely on waking. When I’m still hovering between full wakefulness and a dream. I begin the day with words already on my tongue.

These are some of the best thoughts. The most novel combinations of images and ideas. The answers to questions I’ve been asking myself during waking hours, evolutions in ideas I’ve been playing with, senses or relationships I’ve been working to translate into metaphor. All resolved while I sleep. I wonder how many other creative folks have similar experiences. Probably more than I think. I imagine this kind of sleep-thinking, or dream-thinking, is linked to creativity. What I think of as the lo buzz of ideas. The slow hum, the ticker tape of images, the near-constant processing, the string of thoughts, sometimes in wild and peculiar combination. And, it doesn’t operate in a way that’s unpleasant or entirely distracting. Doesn’t render me otherwise non-functional, make me anxious, impede my daily activities, etc., but rather adds to them. Gives them a splash of color. Like background music. Side B. The lo buzz. The little proliferations of life. 

But, that’s how I see them. As treasures. The best lines, the best images, those little logical leaps, the gaps between forms, ideas, and language, that it seems only the subconscious can bridge. There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have believed that. When I would have viewed this embracing of the irrational, unconscious, or subconscious aspects of creativity as tantamount to an almost magical kind of thinking. There may be several reasons for this. But, the most important, I imagine, is that I didn’t really experience this funky lo buzz of ideas—the intensely poetic aspects of my own wakefulness (a matter of perception, maybe?) or wildly productive dreaming—until recently. Within the last few years. Never was quite such an intensely visual or metaphorical thinker, either. At least not that I recognized. 

I mention this because it shapes the lens through which I’ve come to view creativity and self-development and their interrelatedness. Evolutions in creativity, its changing-ness over time. Which I believe can be linked to other significant, more global changes in consciousness, personality. In line with both Carl Rogers and A. H. Maslow (generally, though there are marked differences in their theories of creativity):

My definition, then, of the creative process is that it is the emergence in action of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, people, or circumstances of his life on the other. – Carl R. Rogers

Why I gravitate to holistic theories. And holistic education. They fit. Nurturing the whole person, cultivating a strong and deep sense of self can lead to all kinds of surprising developments. Also why I’ve really come to embrace stream-of-consciousness style essay writing (like this). Helps me explore myself. Relationships between ideas, insights I might not have otherwise discovered if my writing was too controlled. A thought: this is a matter of trust. At some point, did I come to trust that my creativity arises from unconscious mental activity every bit as much as (if not more than) it relies on deliberate exercises in consciousness? Yes. And I trust in my ability to use those functions together. I trust my mind—my whole mind—to do its job. I’d be lying if I said I did not experience a twinge of anxiety as I wrote that last sentence. Creativity is always a leap of faith.

A related observation: meditation kills the lo buzz. I can’t write directly after meditating. My mind is too quiet. My entire being too still. The slow hum of ideas stops. I recall Rollo May making an identical observation about his creative process (He was also a visual artist and worked full-time as a writer before becoming a psychologist. As a professional psychologist, he published prolifically.):

I found that after meditating I would go down to my desk in my studio and sit there to write. And nothing would come. Everything was so peaceful, so harmonious; I was blissed out. And I had to realize through harsh experience that the secret of being a writer is to go to your desk with your mind full of chaos, full of formlessness—formlessness of the night before, formlessness which threatens you, changes you. – Rollo May

I am struck by a thought: is the lo buzz of ideas and images I find so colorful, endearing, animating—such an essential additive to my daily experience—nothing more than an incessant need to make form out of chaos? An agitation, a wrangling, a discontentment with the mundane, the constant searching out of form—an insatiable lust for ever more novel and original modes of self-expression—however pleasant, necessary, and thrilling its sensations? No different from the pursuit of becoming oneself. Which, as far as I’m concerned, moves to precisely the same tune.

Thank You…

to msjadeli from Tao Talk for nominating The Used Life for The Sunshine Blogger Award. I would encourage everyone to check out her content. And thank you all, again, for your continued support and for being a part of this project!

29 responses to “Lo Buzz”

  1. An incessant need to make form out of chaos … Yes! Creativity is always a leap of faith … Yes! I admire the faith you have in your own inner process. Recently I have been forgetting my dreams soon after awakening, and thus I haven’t recorded one on paper in what feels like a while, so I am going to also keep notebook and pencil on my nightstand (or maybe a pen). This has been an inspiring read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much! I’m glad you can relate to this. I wondered how many others have felt they generated ideas or had creative experiences in their sleep. I know I miss recording so many, though. You have encouraged me to write more regularly upon waking now. Thank you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First off, you are welcome for the nomination and thank you for the thank you. It is appreciated 🙂 To what you’re writing about today, it speaks directly to what we are learning in, “Gifts from Psyche’s Garden” class. We’re almost done with it now. Just last week, our wise and illuminating teacher was talking about the 4 components of the unconscious per Jung: self, shadow, animus, and anima, and how the self part is the cat wrangler for the other 3 and how it “transmits” those bits and pieces to us in dreams. She has been analyzing her dreams for over 25 years and she said that the self pulls those jumbled images together and throws them into dreams, then our conscious self is the one who sorts the puzzle out. I’ve already listened to a CD borrowed from her, where Dr. Pinkola-Estes lectures about dreams, and there are two more CDs as homework for next week’s class. As to the creative ideas in my dreams, when I “ask” for such things, the unconscious comes through with some pretty fabulous images. Did you see the drawing I did of the Tree of Life earlier this week? It came to me in a dream!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine that class is a pleasure. You know, no matter how often I have dreams or waking experiences in the middle of the night in which I’ve “gotten it” (had some sort of epiphany, solved a problem, or come up with a totally unique line or phrase), I always feel in awe of the experience. As if whatever fruits it bears are a little more special than the rest, if that makes sense. Hmm. Maybe I should dip back into Jung a little. I don’t read about dreams much. But, certainly all that unconscious activity results in so much creative work. It’s probably worth investigating…And I did see your drawing. You are a talented artist. I hadn’t thought to “ask” for such images…I am a little intrigued by the idea, though. You have given me a great deal to think about and research! Thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post!! I often wake up with four or five poetic lines on the tip of my tongue. And they surpass anything that I could knowingly create! Far too beautiful! And I still convince myself that I will remember the lines when I wake. Yeah right! Never happens. The mind is such a amazing piece of art in its own right? Dream speech is common, so maybe writer’s, etc. are reciting in sleep? And when waking, the words have not yet faded. Maybe we wake from the talking in our sleep? Fabulous food for though in which you have shared here! Very nice! U, when I was posting at another web site a year and a half ago, a few of my friends had the same experiences. Bravo on your delivery of a common mystery!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the mind is a pretty incredible work of art in its own right. 🙂 And I am glad you both enjoyed this post and found the content relatable. It is amazing how the stuff that comes out of dreams is often far superior to that which we work on diligently during our waking hours, isn’t it? It’s great to know others have similar experiences. Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great observations! Ive found that the first 3-4 minutes of meditating will provide some of the deepest insights and ideas. So I “allow” an extra 5 minutes in addition to the “regular” practice to stop, jot down the note or thought, and continue.

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  5. It appears commonly accepted that sleep stimulates creativity, letting the unconscious do some of the lifting. Maybe it’s about being inactive, unoccupied a while, letting the mind ‘wander’ or ‘daydream, in the way we were told at school was a bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think there’s a great deal to be said about “inactive” periods, or letting our minds wander. Sometimes, the trick seems to be catching the quiet, or the subtle, ideas as they come.


  6. I have a similar kind of experience, in part. Quite often, perhaps once a week of late, ideas and phrases compose themselves, as offerings, in the late night. But I am definitely awake, not asleep. Though it is usually shortly after waking. Sometimes these new combinations are very clear: the thought are precise and juxtaposed in a novel order so that new directions of contemplation are suggested. It is still me,,, I recognize my stamp, but clutter has been removed, so I am more open to what is precisely available in the cloud of thoughts in my vicinity (which are not me). Sometimes, I trudge down to a computer and begin writing from this base, but usually not. I live with them awhile, toss them around, rearrange them, and vow to remember the core. Sometimes I do remember enough of a core to see a direct connection to what I write during the following waking day. But often I do not. Or I postpone too long, and thereby achieve only a more subtle benefit for the next time I ponder on similar themes.

    The buss thing you speak of, if I grasp it correctly, seems more like something I overcome in such moments. Not something which feeds my creativity. C’est moi. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The “lo buzz” is, for me, a nearly constant stream of mental activity—and one that does not seem to cease during sleep (even when I feel I’ve slept well, I often wake with words, ideas, metaphors, poetry ready to be written). It’s like background noise. A hum. A stream of ideas, images (often images), phrases, I “catch” in mid-stream or pick from to create with. That’s why I say the “lo buzz” feeds my creativity. It’s like having a pleasantly non-quiet mind.

      I think it’s interesting you say that you wake with ideas in recently formed, novel combination. I do, too. Novelty is, for me, the hallmark of this kind of experience and, I think, what makes it feel so magical or awesome sometimes. Like, “Where on earth did THAT come from? I don’t know how to think like that!” As if I, fully awake and thinking deliberately could never have come up with such a clever idea, such an intriguing combination of images, or such phraseology. (But who is to say if that’s true or not? It often feels that way to me.) I also applaud you for trudging to your computer during these moments of inspiration…and for being able to remember these kinds of ideas in the morning. Thank you for commenting and for sharing your experience. I think this topic is absolutely fascinating. Bonsoir! 🙂

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      • ah ok… yes I see things a little differently then, because for me the ‘lo buzz’ is something to overcome and be relieved of in moments of exceptional clarity or insight… I think I see it less as activity than you do. I mean it is a sort of ‘action’, but a passive one, that I feel not in control of, more like watching a mandatory TV. Sometimes, when lucky, I actually feel in possession of a faucet. I can deliberately have enpough presence of mind to ‘turn it off’ and the ensuing silence is brilliantly pregnant and ‘loud’ with awareness. It feels superior to the buzz because I am in charge of the channel. The thing during sleep, or more precisely during waking moments which interrupt the sleep, feel as though they arise or have arisen by inner ‘spiritual’ processes (which I cannot do fully while awake) which clean and order the surrounding thought cloud of usual consciousness (something like your lo-buzz) and leaves me with accurate insightful sequences of thoughts. I get the feeling not so much that “I could not do this”, but rather that “Yes — this is correct.. . this is what I actually perceive when undistreacted”

        anyway… this is how I see it… might be different in a year. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I noticed while I was in school for my Associate’s degree that very often we had so much information tossed at us during classes that I at least spent most of my waking time feeling overwhelmed and questioning if I was really retaining anything on the one hand. On the other, what I was learning was showing up a lot in my dreams, very often both metaphorically and literally at others. This was happening so often I would note in in my own free form personal journals from time to time, but it wasn’t until I changed majors for my Bachelor’s that I figured out what was going on.

    Our brain slows down during sleep, but continues to be active for processing. We only notice a small fraction of the stimuli we encounter everywhere in our daily lives yet everything we encounter is noted subconsciously by our brain. At night it processes the conscious stimuli and the unconscious stimuli and it can feel like pieces of jigsaw puzzle being slid into place. I actually really miss that about school now. I really came to like how if I was having a hard time understanding some academic concept I would just set it aside until the next day because I knew by morning my brain would have pieced it all together and it would make sense.

    And later on, I also came to realize that the retention of the information was remarkable. Who ever would have guessed lol.

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    • It is pretty incredible how we can come to trust that our minds will just work these things out for us, isn’t it? I do the same thing. I “sleep on” so many creative projects…And, it really is enjoyable. If I wake up with a great line of poetry or a novel solution to a problem at 3 a.m., I do not mind the sleep interruption at all! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m gonna try that idea of yours for poetry. I used to write down remembered dreams and have turned a couple into poems before (not very good ones) but I have not tried it for poetry writing. And yeah…sleeping on it really does help in some awesome ways.


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  8. I have had so many great ideas for plot solutions or things I’ve forgotten to address in my WIP when nearing sleep, but also when out walking – it certainly happens when the mind is heavily occupied with drifting chaotic thoughts, but also feels like a portal that’s open at those times, for when creative ideas pop through from ‘somewhere’ , and these days it feels like a channeling going on, rather than the ideas coming from just little old me. I never thought I would ever feel this way, but there it is – the mystery of creating going on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Lynne! I love that you brought up the increase in mental activity, or proliferation of ideas, while you are out walking…I often experience the same thing and am a big believer that physical activity can stimulate creative and intellectual activity. And, I know what you mean about feeling as if you are a “channel” for something else. (That’s the best feeling!) It is pretty special and feels like such a gift, especially in those moments. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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