Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Creativity and Sleep Deprivation

Back to thinking about what other writers say about writing.

Many talk about getting up incredibly early or staying up after the family is all in bed, writing in the middle of the night and then getting up and doing the regular day's work.  Seems reasonable, right?  If there isn't enough time in the day for it, make more time?

My experience suggests a problem with this.

I woke up early this morning, clearly wasn't going back to sleep (it was only 1/2 hour until the alarm would go off, never a good thing), so I thought I'd get up and do some writing.  That part actually worked okay, for the 20 minutes or so I had before time to get breakfast going.  I was a little slow off the mark, stared at the paper a while before any thoughts came, but it wasn't much worse than usual. 

The trouble came later.  By the time the kids were off to school (and the spouse to work),  I should have been ready to settle back down to a bit of writing.  Well, first I had to make a quick grocery run.  Then I had to go off the other direction for a brief meeting.  Finally back home, 10 a.m. and it's time to write.  Except I'm so sleep-deprived that not only does my head ache (never conducive to creativity in my experience), but I can hardly string two thoughts together.

Getting up early today made matters worse, but the reality is that life as a Mom means I seldom get quite enough sleep, and my ability to sustain a mental effort, let alone to make it worthwhile (I mean, even if I flog myself into writing for an hour, will I produce anything worth keeping?) suffers as a result.  (It's not just writing, either.  I do have other work that I'm supposed to read and comprehend, and I tell you that reading comprehension is the first to go when you crave sleep!)

I don't want to whine about my lack of sleep (I could probably do something about it, with a little more self-discipline every evening).  I just want to know: what the heck are the midnight writers doing that makes them capable of this??!  Does it become easier to think while longing for sleep if you practice regularly?  I admit that since writing (however fun) is work, I'm prone to make it an excuse and not do it.  Could I train myself to be effective without enough sleep? 

Or maybe I should just take a nap, as Mr. Putter models (see earlier post on books about writing!).  Please pass the cat.

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