The Virtues of Writing in Bed

21 November 2021

Writing in bed may seem like working in bed, and when people work in beds, they are professionals. This is the paradox for anyone writing in bed. It is not like working, but it has associations with working, and at the same time with sloth, being invalided, or paying for pleasure.

There’s a lot of baggage there. Let’s leave some of it behind in the station and go for a walk, metaphorically. Writing in bed helps words flow smoothly. You can let them sneak up on you. You can give them half a glance and let them assemble themselves on the page or screen. You can mumble in a low voice you assume that only you can hear. Reading dialog aloud while is bed seems somehow less crazy than reading it behind a desk. You’re already writing in bed, therefore a little unbalanced mentally, so why not?

I’m a big fan of writing while walking (dictating into apps or writing illegibly) and writing while in the shower (mad scramble to find a notebook while naked and hoping no one will ask for anything and interrupt the flow) and writing while sleeping (also known as dreaming). Writing in bed selects out certain pleasures. You can linger in the late morning when you are supposed to be out of bed. You can do it in the evening when you are supposed to be in bed anyway, and fall asleep in the midst, the writing instrument gliding from your hand and falling to the floor with a click. The tiny sound might be enough to wake you up, so you can go brush your teeth, or it might not.

You must use an iPad, tablet, or phone to write in bed. Using a laptop is a bit too much like driving a truck into a backyard garden party. Writing with a notebook is spouse-friendly, and with a pencil even better because then you can’t mark up the sheets when the instrument slips from your hand. (See above.)

Marcel Proust spent 14 years writing In Search of Lost Time in bed. Mark Twain was another bed scribbler. Descartes wrote in bed. Writing in bed opens the mind and body to other places to write as well. Marina Popova, writing in Brain Pickings:

> Gertrude Stein, like Vladimir Nabokov, even liked to write in a parked car, which served as a perfectly contained bubble of stillness ideal for writing. But other authors’ relationships with transportation and the muse were decidedly less safe — Eudora Welty jotted down ideas during the long drives to her mother’s nursing home and Sir Walter Scott composed poetry on horseback.

At least it’s not dangerous to write in bed. Unless you annoy your spouse too much and get kicked out. But it’s not dangerous, unless you fall out, and even then you do not have far to fall.


(c) Lee Schneider 2021. Take care of each other. Subscribe.