Insomnia is a rough muse.
One of my most vivid memories of my grandmother growing up was hearing--like clockwork--the heavy tread of her feet up and down the tiny, cramped hallway way past the witching hour. Muttering curse words in Czech, she'd bang the heavy cast-iron pans and pots around baking and baking until she exorcized whatever demon was keeping her up.
I remember it well because also like clockwork I was wide awake too. In fact, it was liberating for me to shed off the excrutiating clock watching and be able to get up out of bed and sit down in the cozy kitchen at the little round, ornately-flourished wooden kitchen table that my great-grandfather built.
When I was a younger child I would half-listen to her repetitious, often painful stories about life “before the War”, but mostly just sit there contently drawing pictures of planes, tanks, and super galactic dreadnaughts or watching the late night movie specials.
As I got older—and the mad plans of D&D took my brain—that was the time I did all my creative heavy-lifting as a DM. Sheets of graph paper and pencil-smeared notebooks would fill up until my brain pooped out finally and I drifted back to my narrow little trundle bed.
Today those “3 am thoughts” still dominate my creative process. Sometimes that period is pure gold, nearly all of my best adventure sites in the campaign were first conceived in that long, graveyard haul where my mind is only really half “on”. It's in those times that visions of biomechanical golden domed barges and beet demons take shape, where the early renaissance rationality of the HC setting twists and turns.
Other times, well those sleep-deprived ideas are quite terrible or at best malformed. And then there is just the endless parade of strange project ideas, a recent example:
FLAILSNAILS by Southwest. A face-to-face convention to be held immediately after the much ballyhooed SXSW in my lovely hometown of Austin, Texas. Would only work if we could get all the cat herd rockstars running Constantcon games on Google Plus to show up live and with pants. Imagine Vornheim at one table, Wessex at the other etc. etc.
Perhaps you are a sound sleeper and don't understand that quiet twilight time when the well ordered brain mixes with the near dreams. But perhaps you are also treading up your own hallways, graph paper in hand and dreaming of your own vast lands of the mind. Do this ideas get filed in the little round file or do you run with those hobgoblins?
[Editor's Note: written after a long, long night with the Nefarious Nine and a cheap bottle of Portugese vinho verde.]