Sleep is better. [Kittycorn (above) may disagree with this statement.]
I know that’s heretical of a writer to say that, but it’s true.
I’ve had problems sleeping since I was in high school. Problems going to sleep. Problems staying asleep. Problems staying awake during the times that society dictates is normal. Sadly, all the caffeine in the world only makes for a very temporary bandage, allowing me to function like a normal human. I still stumble about a bit and mumble incoherently. (Like a zombie, only with better skin.)
All this contributes in negative ways. I get ideas that are perhaps not well thought out that I dive right into and 3 days later I look at the result (or partial result) And wonder “How, exactly, did I think this was a good idea?”
Sleep aids don’t help much- or rather, they do help temporarily, and then I develop a tolerance for the stuff lightening quick (in a week or two) and then we’re back to insomnia and taking pictures of my daughter’s creepy Kittycorn surrounded by empty mugs (did I mention I sometimes don’t have well thought out ideas?).
Why does any of this matter?
Well, some of my better story ideas I get from daydreaming or from out-right dreams.
Did you know chronic insomniacs don’t do either very well?
We’re too damned tired to daydream. We stare off into space, nod off at meetings and walk through life in a haze, but it’s not one that allows for daydreaming. We’ll blink incoherently at people and things and wonder “what the hell? Did I hear/see that right or am I hallucinating?” Unfortunately these hallucinations don’t help much with things like plot or character ideas. They’re more like staring at your very proper grandmother’s artfully embroidered sign that says “SEW” but your brain is so tired you keep thinking it says “SEX.” Which is very confusing, because your grandmother is not the kind of person who would think that kind of a joke funny at all, and certainly wouldn’t hang something so blatant on her family room wall. So you spend the next 15 minutes to an hour trying to figure out what the fuck is really going on all while maintaining a polite facade of blandness and it’s really hard because you can’t understand why your grandmother would boldly hang a framed “SEX” out for everyone to see. You’re not even sure she’s ever had sex. The way she acts you sometimes think your mother was the result of an immaculate conception.
Dreaming at night is just as hard. You need to be relaxed to dream. Your brain needs a certain amount of shut-down time in order for you to get that creative 5 second burst of imagery that inspires a novel or solves a plot problem.
Night-time stresses out insomniacs. We’re exhausted and want nothing more than to crawl into bed and pass out for 12 hours. We cling to our bed-time rituals that every article and doctor has told us will help prep our brains for shut-down like a true believer clinging to a cross when faced by vampires. And yet, all the sleep hygeine tricks in the world will only take you so far. If your brain doesn’t want to shut down – for whatever reason – it won’t shut down.
And you won’t dream.
Well, you might, but it will be chaotic and chances are, you won’t remember it. Because your alarm goes off in the morning and all you can think about is how your skull is filled with 3 tons of mud and just physically getting up and shuffling to the bathroom is an effort worthy of Heracles. You couldn’t give a shit about an interesting vision sent by the Muses if you tried.
After a while, not even caffeine will make up for the deficit. Then you start to see the results at work when you sleep in your cubicle and write reports that read like they were generated via a third party who hasn’t quite grasped English as a second language but is bound and determined to fake it. “The fourth quarters artichokes had a drawer in popping, but octopus purple panties sharpener is.”
You’ll see the results at home when you’re trying to make dinner, but for some reason, you’re staring at a thawed chicken sitting in a roasting pan because you can’t remember what you’re supposed to do with it. “What is this thing? What was I doing? Why is there cinnamon in my hand?”
After a while you get desperate and start looking up causes of insomnia on the internet. Again. And we all know that isn’t the best idea. “Should I try a liver detox? Maybe an Adrenal fatigue diet? What about Candida?” You want to try the diets, but dammit they’re expensive to prep for and you know yourself – prep takes energy. You’re so tired lifting a TV remote is a challenge. You want to exercise, but you are so tired just walking is like dragging your body through a pit of thick mud. Lifting weights? Swimming? A Pilates video? Not with anything approaching actual workout technique. You’re more likely to hurt yourself then you are to work up a sweat.
Throughout all of this, your writing suffers.
And the cycle gets worse. And people tell you to just lay down and relax, not understanding that it doesn’t work that way. You want to relax; you have meditation cd’s and know them all by heart but sleep doesn’t come and you catch yourself winding up tighter and tighter with every moment. Drink this tea, scarf these pills. You take the nasty tea and the pills that are perhaps just benadryl or perhaps some herbal concoction put together by that sketchy guy you think lives in the park because you are just that desperate to sleep.
Do you sleep? Maybe. Can you do it every night on demand? No.
But sometimes, you get just enough that Kittycorn photos make perfect sense.