Slept with one eye open, last night. All night. An eye propped open by a too-busy brain, overly occupied with the Rubik’s Cube details of opening space in one house to shut down space in another.

Fortunately, the eye stayed focused on something other than my insomnia-riddled pillow. It stayed fixed on the tape recorder strapped to my hand.

It’s been a while since that connection opened itself to me. Of late, too much laptop time has been spent layering revision upon revision, going over the same canvas-of-the-page like a painter who just can’t get it right. My sight has been narrowed to the unsatisfying pursuit of one word, one sentence, at a time, without the confidence to get off the damned fence and make a decision about anything.

It’s a helluva way to work.

The writer with an eye stuck open has got choices, of course. Three ayem infomercials and reruns of the X-Files are among the less satisfying ones. The possibility of getting out of bed to go re-open the night’s laptop-inflicted wounds is always there…but that’s one hell of a gritty occupation for such an ungodly hour.

Hello, sweet tape recorder.

That little bit of silver electronics had a gift in it last night: a reminder to take my own advice about the joys of immersion in a story’s moment—in a look, a line, a character’s foible—as the way to vault over the quicksandy traps of writing line by line; the reminder to write the idea, not the individual word. In the exhausted ADD of recent days, it was advice I was glad to take. Even with dawn an impossible reality, hovering hours away.

The one eye open, for one night, anyway, was the eye on the ball.