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Thursday, January 03, 2008


Sleep disturbance

It's a funny thing, but I get sleep disturbances when I'm writing well.

Towards the end of 2007, I changed my creative routines in a way that turned out to be tremendously effective, and the last two months have been the most productive of my life. But it's had some distinctly odd effects.

The first one, unexpectedly, was nightmares. Twice now I've started up again - once after a long struggle, once after a short break - and found, as I eased back into it, that I was having bizarre nightmares. They were certainly dark and involved some pretty bad things happening, but the really weird thing was their affect: they somehow contrived to be nightmares without actually being distressing.

The second is insomnia. I'm typing this in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, and strangely, I was tired all day. This is only intermittent, but it's definitely not the first time, and I haven't been insomniac for years. Last time it happened, I wrote a thousand words at around midnight. It was useful, but it didn't send me back to sleep; I ended up falling asleep on the sofa at about four in the morning, so I don't think it can have just been deadline anxiety. This post, I'm about to go back, tomorrow, to Book Three, having handed over Book Two to my charming agent (though I think I'll probably end up posting it later, as I might be more asleep than I realise and typing all sorts of rubbish that I should check in the morning).

... It's now the night after I typed the above, and I'm once again up in the small hours, novelling and time-killing away. This is becoming tiresome.

All in all, I'm sleeping funny. It's kind of inconvenient, as I often do my best work in the morning and that doesn't work if I'm tired, but I think I'd better go with it. If there's no apparent reason for it, I'm going to assume there's some unconscious one. The nightmares feel like the sign of an enlivened imagination; the insomnia - well, that's just a nuisance, but at least I sometimes get some writing done.

If I don't get some sensible sleeping in tomorrow night, though, I'm going to have to log a complaint with someone. I'm not quite sure who. The first thing that occurs to me is my spirit rabbit, but that might be sleep deprivation talking. Then again, maybe not. I'll try it and get back to you about whether it works.

Does anyone else get weird sleep patterns?

Does anyone else get weird sleep patterns?

Oh, indeed. I've had a terrible habit of blinking awake in the middle of the night for ages, a habit that I've only just recently managed to break (and now that I've gone and said that, I've probably jinxed it and I'll be up at three AM or something.)

Funnily enough, because of my insomnia, I still have a tendency to wake up early enough that I haven't needed to use my alarm clock for months. I just go ahead and get up and do my Morning Pages.

For a time, I was using over-the-counter sleeping aids to keep me under through the night. I don't use them anymore, but I used them to get my body used to the idea of sleeping without a case of the wee smalls.

Another trick I learned is that a meditative trance is apparently the equivalent of light sleep. So I just do a simple lie-on-the-back-and-focus-on-the-breath until I either fall back asleep or it's time to get up and that seems to work nicely. I also do a candle meditation before I go to bed most nights and that seems to wind me down so I can sleep more soundly.
I also suffer nightmares when I'm writing well. It is a strange side effect, and one that many writers suffer, although few talk about it. I remember readaing an interview with Amy Tan where she said the same thing, though, so you're in good company (as am I).
Last time I found myself awake and unable to get back to sleep (I was ill), I catalogued all my books on Shelfari.com At least it distracted me from the nausea ;-)

Here's hoping you get some decent sleep soon, and have a lovely day! :-)
I'm more or less sleeping, thanks Tez. Bran Fan, can you remember where Amy Tan said it? I'd like to look it up.
I find that when I have the opportunity to write as my main focus then my sleep patterns go all over the place... this suites me well actually as I write best in the middle of the night or when I am tired, at least in terms of the first flow of words, editing is something that I need to be more structured for, but then editing is something that isn't quite writing, although its an important part of the process...

I find the problems in sleep patterns, insomnia and nightmares come when I am in a situation where these things do not fit well into my life. I work full time and write around that, if I am not sleeping properly then I can't write so easily when I return home, insomnia becomes a problem because it doesn't fit into a work based structure... it doesn't matter if I can't sleep until 6 in the morning if I can sleep from then until 11, but when I have to get up at 6am then this means litrally having no opportunity to sleep until I get home at 7.45pm. And sleeping then means the few hours I could be writing in are wiped out.

Working full time has led to me having to become diciplined about sleep and find completely new ways to write. If the morning (not my best writing time) is the only moment I have to write then I have to take it, and writing on the tube may not be easy but when its the only moment you have... But I truly miss my bad slep patterns, which I guess are good sleep patterns for me, and whenever I have a few days off I find myself up at 3am once again.

My girlfriend has had a recent burst of writing energy and she's been having vivid dreams as a result. I hardly ever remember my dreams.

good luck with it all,

Kit, I think I read about Amy Tan's nightmares in the book called WRITERS DREAMING that came out in 1994.


Forgive me, I don't know how to do links, but you can cut and paste. I see you can get it used for .01 pound. What is that, two cents on this side of the pond? It's meant to be, Kit. You need this book!

Bran fan
I have clicked, and it shall be mine! Thank you Bran Fan.

Everyone's so nice...
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