Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing May Induce Sleeplessness

I used to sleep really well. I used to put on my sympathetic face when listening to insomnia stricken friends (I'm looking at you, Rebecca), all the while thinking "Like what's the deal-y-o? How can you not sleep? It's like not breathing." I'd throw in a commiserating 'Ummm. Yeah. I know' and I'd be done.

Karma is a bitch.

Of course insomnia started for me with panic right about the time the hardcore child birth drugs wore off. Could have been the narcotic side effects that gave me auditory hallucinations but I was jerked out of sleep, again and again convinced that I could hear my daughter not breathing. This kind of insomnia, anxiety insomnia trails off after they start looking less like blobs and more like people. Then, the little so and so's engineer an enforced insomnia where you can't sleep because they won't let you.

All this passed. And while I understood how debilitating no sleep is, I didn't understand how my un-childrened friends could not be able to sleep when a child wasn't to blame.

Until I started to write. The stories don't leave you alone. They take any opportunity, a sleep-walking night pee, a plumping of a pillow, a trip to the thermostat. It's all a chance to start your brain cycling again on how to make this happen, or how this character isn't mean enough, or who would believe a seventeen year old boy would say that? Once the questions start coming, I can't let them go. I lay in my bed dressing and undressing my characters, making them perform. I give them lines and make them stand up, sit down. I make a mental note to look at the tense of the entire WIP because I think it wavers. I think that the villainous Caleb is too cardboard. I do lots of things. But I don't sleep.

I know the old saw about keeping a pen and a paper by your bedside, and I have typed notes into my iphone when inspiration hits. But I'm not waking up because I've had a flash of inspiration. I'm working. I'm doing my writing work in the middle of the night. Basic, workaday problem solving. Three AM is not the time to do it.

So, with apologies to my friends for being a douche bag in the past and not understanding the true hideousness of not being able to sleep - how do you get yourself past insomnia? Tips, tricks? And don't say 'Tylenol PM' because that stuff makes me wired. Cruel world.


  1. I find the bathroom is a great place to think as well. Dealing with insomnia...I usually go for warm beverages before bed. Hot chocolate or Sleepy Time tea usually work well for me. If all else fails, just writing down what's in your head helps release the anxiety of not remembering the awesome idea later, and hopefully you'll fall asleep soon after.


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