Catching some ZZZs. Or Not.

I’ve occasionally wondered what I’d be like if I could get a decent night’s sleep. Alas, that hasn’t been in the cards for a while, and I see no hint of change on the horizon.

This past week has been worse than usual. Lying in bed while my mind spins freely for five to six hours is no fun, and since DH is working long hours and needs every bit of sleep he can get, I have to be careful not to disturb him. So, no loud parties or home improvement projects at two am, alas.

A week of involuntary insomnia has had some interesting effects on my writing. Normally, I write straight through, editing as I go. Whether I’m plotting or pantsing, the words usually come out in reasonably coherent form, integrating setting, plot, description, dialogue, etc., into a unified whole.

But these are abnormal times. I’m currently writing dialogue only. No description, no movement. Sometimes I can manage speech tags, and I haven’t completely lost my spelling and grammar skills. At the beginning of the week, I was able to write some description, but couldn’t figure out how to integrate that with anything else. Fortunately, the story has some quiet, conversational, low-movement scenes that I can work on. I’m still making progress, in paltry and frustrating amounts.

I’m able to write this post straight through because I’m saying it out loud to myself as I type. This is mildly disconcerting, and I’m glad my DH is at work, and doesn’t have to listen to me talking to myself. Copious amounts of coffee are also involved- have I mentioned that I’m so glad I live in the modern Western world, where caffeine is cheap and available?

(In case it wasn’t obvious, my ability to concentrate on a particular train of thought is slightly diminished, too. Which might explain why the load of laundry that’s sitting by the door to my office; I dropped it there because I had a thought I needed to write down, and though I’ve walked by the hamper three or four times by now, there it sits. Oh, well.)

How to fix it? Good question. A full eight hours of sleep might help- who’d a thunk it? In the meantime, I’m writing what I can, trying to make notes in the margin about who’s doing what, and enjoying the chance to explore my characters’ voices in depth. Eventually, I’ll get to a point where I’m rested enough to layer description and movement into the talking, and from there, progress to scenes that require more action. Or I’ll get sufficiently ticked off that I print out the manuscript, delete all copies, and burn the thing; that’s always a possibility with this project.

And who knows? Writing only dialogue might become a useful skill, if I ever manage to kick this particular story to the curb and become a playwright. I’ll make the director write the stage directions and the set and costume designers will provide visual context, mwahahaha!

7 comments

  1. I bailed on productive writing yesterday. A series of mild crises had knocked me far off balance, and writing the WIP was not going to happen. I needed to write a fight scene, but that’s not in the cards at the moment. Today I managed more research and the start of a scene. It’s out of chronological order, but it is words that move the story. I also realized that I need another character to pull the conflict threads into one whole, and set up the climax.

  2. I had some help with sleeping– or at least GETTING to sleep– by taking a magnesium citrate liquid gel after dinner.

    I still wake up somewhere between two and five in the morning, but usually fall back asleep.

  3. I had to go cold turkey on caffeine, at one point. BUT once done, a tiny amount is all it takes for that wonderful jolt of energy. Well, until the tolerance builds back up again. And dealing with the sleep apnea, and the sinus issues . . .

    BTDT. Have no solutions that always work, or keep working.

  4. It’s amazing what sleep can do.
    I suffer from chronic garden-variety insomnia myself (the sleep lab said so) and can bore you with proper sleep hygiene techniques till the cows come home.

    Two things that did work for me:

    Cut way, way back on the caffeine and no caffeine after 12 noon ever. I won’t lie. The drying off period is difficult but after that, it gets better.

    Word lists. This is a way of training your brain to flip the switch from on to off. It takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to kick in. Like exercise, you’ll only see results if you’re faithful but if you are, you will sleep more and fall asleep more easily.

    The key to a word list is that it be involving enough to keep your brain from getting distracted and boring enough to put you to sleep. Always do the same word list so your brain starts getting the message that it’s time to sleep.

    I use animals. List every animal you can think of starting with “A”. Rearrange the list until they are in alphabetical order. You’ll begin with aardvark and aardwolf and end with axolotl and aye-aye. There are plenty of critters in between. Still not sleepy? “B” is next. Work your way through the alphabet. When I began doing this, I’d start with “A”, get to “Z”, and start over. I rarely now get past “C” but it took weeks.

    These days, I don’t need the word list nearly as often but it’s there in the programming so when I do word lists again (because the insomnia came back) I go to sleep more easily.

    Any word list will do as long as it’s long and involving. Plants, minerals, names of saints. A memorized lengthy prayer that you’re willing to repeat works as well.

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