I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is N is for Nap Like Salvador Dali.
Take a Nap to Wake Up your Creativity
If you think that Dali’s famous melting clocks look like something out of a strange dream, you might be right. Dali had a unique method of inspiring his creative endeavors. In his book, 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship , Dali assures his readers who are working on a project that a good heavy sleep is when “you will secretly, in the very depths of your spirit, solve most of its subtle and complicated, technical problems, which in your state of waking consciousness you would never be humanly capable of solving.” Dali recommends waking very early, in order to take advantage of maximum daylight. He then goes on to describe an afternoon nap of less than a minute long—“less than a quarter of a second,” in fact.
Unlocking Your Creativity
He called it “slumber with a key.” He would sit in an armchair (preferably a bony armchair, Spanish style), head tilted back, resting his arms comfortably on the those of the chair. He applied oil of aspic to his wrists in order to numb his hands causing them to tingle. They would hang beyond the arms of the chair, dangling freely. He held a key between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. Directly beneath the dangling key was an overturned plate. He allowed himself to relax until the moment he fell asleep.
At that point, the key would drop onto the plate and wake him from his slumbering state. This in-between state is called the hypnagogic state (or hypnagogia). Dictionary.com defines hypnagogic as “the drowsy period between wakefulness and sleep, during which fantasies and hallucinations often occur.”(1) It happens as you are just beginning to fall asleep. You may have had the experience almost falling asleep. Suddenly you felt like you were falling or you saw something that wasn’t there and you jerked awake. This is one manifestation of hypnagogia. It’s easy to see by this definition alone why capturing the essence of this state would be valuable to an artist like Salvador Dali.
Nap like Van Winkle
There is a similar state called hypnopompia.(2) This (almost) mirrors hypnagogia. It happens after you’ve fallen asleep—just as you are waking up. Hypnopompic more vivid and immersive than the simpler visual “hallucinations” of hypnagogia. They are often a continuation of a dream experience. Another interesting phenomenon that occurs in a hypnopompic state is the feeling of “sleep paralysis.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. You feel like you can’t move upon waking up. It can actually be pretty frightening.
Salvador Dali isn’t the only one to take advantage of the micro nap. Many artists, writers, composers, and geniuses from other realms of thought have attributed their inspiration to a sleep practice similar to Dali’s. The next time you are struggling with a creative endeavor, try experimenting with your sleep habits. It may take a little while to make headway, but give it a shot. Everyone has to sleep sometime, right? How does taking a nap help your creativity?
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I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.
I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.
- Dictionary.com, hypnagogic,
- Van Winkle’s, Exploring Hypnopompia, the Trippy Transition Between Sleep and Wakefulness, July 28, 2016,