Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Storytelling and Sleep

Tip of the Day: If you haven’t seen them already there’s a lot of interesting blog posts from agents this past week about their opinions on writing your own queries. You can check some of them out: here, here, here, and here.

Sometimes when I’m in the middle of writing a book, it becomes all consuming that it makes other tasks such as cleaning, working, watching TV, and even sleeping hard.

It’s during these times I hone my Super Power of zoning out and can actually miss entire conversations because I’m somewhere deep in thought about one of my characters or that pesky plot problem on page 2. My husband tends to hate these times, because he’ll have to repeat himself fifty times when asking the simplest questions such as “can you believe what they just said on the radio?” or even “hello, do you know your name?” Then I start to feel guilty that I’m not paying attention. It’s a vicious cycle.

As annoying as missing conversations is one of the most annoying things about intense writing periods is that is affects my sleep significantly. During this fast draft January, I think more than half the days this month I’ve been up “thinking” (no of course not writing that would be too productive) about my story into the wee hours of the morning. And many days I’m still up when the sun’s rising or even when alarms go off in the morning, which can cause problems when you have to wake up in an hour to go to work.

But hey, that’s the price of writing right?

Usually I’m not too frustrated because a lot of things also affect my sleeping (hello, how many of us have read an un-put-downable book through the night and paid for it the next day?—which has also been a culprit several days this month.)

But this particular writing conundrum is starting to annoy me enough that I decided to compile a list of ways to sleep even when your brain won’t shut up with thinking about the minute details of your story. And I doubted I was the only one in this situation, so I figured I’d share the list with you temporary writing insomniacs out there.

Tips on Getting Sleep During Writing Craziness:

  • Try to do something else non-writing related before bed. Such as enjoying a TV show, music, or something else relaxing.
  • Give yourself permission to stop thinking about your story. Sometimes people (meaning me) get intimidated when thinking of all the amazing people writing out there that they feel like they have to be working, working, working all the time just to turn out something decent. But give yourself permission to take a break. Even if it’s just for a night.
  • Sometimes getting up and writing down what you are thinking will save you lots of time and energy. I discovered this when I was in high school and found if I gave into the writing urge, I could actually sleep. Now I always keep a notebook on my nightstand and usually keep my computer on at night, so it takes less time to power up when I get a particular thought that I have to write down. Because I’ve found if I obsess over mnemonic devices on ways to try to remember this brilliant idea (that never seems to be as brilliant when you read it over the next day, but that’s another story) it takes more time than actually writing it down.
  • That Mountain Dew I had last night was probably a bad idea. ::slaps hand::
  • And finally, I’ve decided I’m going to get a copy of Lisa’s Baby Can’t Sleep book. Which I’ve been a horrible friend and have not read yet (sorry Lisa, will you forgive me?). But it looks like it has fun counting sheep in it and the insomniac sites say that it’s good to have imagery you keep in your head every night that’s the same, so that eventually when you get to a certain image or thought you naturally fall asleep (although, I must not be doing that right, because this has never worked for me). But if I do finally figure it out, funny sheep sound much more fun to think about then boring old numbered sheep.

I’m not sure what it says that I’m making this list at 5:30 in the morning, since I can’t sleep. But my new goal this week is to try the above tips and see if they work. And if you have any other, please leave them for all of us in this situation.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Fast Draft January Word Count (which you think would be much higher this week due to the above mentioned problem, but sadly is not)

15640 / 50000 words. 31% done!


Kate Fall said...

I am the worst writer when I haven't had enough sleep. I even lose the ability to type when I'm sleep deprived. I too would like to stay up late writing and I have to remind myself that it's usually counterproductive for me.

Emily Marshall said...

Ut oh, you can't even type, that stinks. I actually do end up working late at night a lot. So I guess I'm thankful my hands still work, then.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Wow, Em, I don't know how you do it! I cannot stay up past 10:00 or I am worthless the next day. And I must be strange, because no matter how deeply involved I am in writing a book, when I'm tired, my brain is done and that's it. I couldn't keep writing no matter how much I wanted to.

I'm tired just thinking about how tired you must be today!!

Emily Marshall said...

Actually I'm not that tired, Lisa. But I really do wish writing didn't take over so much at night. I'm so jealous of you!

DeenaML said...

I am at 15k words, too, so go us! :)

Emily Marshall said...

Yes, definitely go us, Deena. We do have some catch up to do now. I keep playing and playing with my first chapters that I feel like I should be much further along now than I am. Must. Stop. Doing. That.

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

You hit that nail on the head! I'm right there with you, Em. The whole space out trip is especially bad if I'm on the phone...I apologize to anyone who had to repeat an entire conversation because of this.

But like Lisa, I have a hard time at night. It's too hard to focus, but then again, I don't sleep either. I can't stop my brain, but I can't make myself get up and write because I have to sleep! I HAVE TO SLEEP! Gotta keep that notebook and digital recorder (overkill is good for you) by the bedside!

always the insomniac...

Emily Marshall said...

Thanks Ghost Girl. I was starting to feel like a freak, since I was the only one. I'm so glad I'm not alone. Power to the people.

And spacing out is so embarrassing. I did it this week on the phone at work, and not only was I not really paying attention to the person on the other line (just doing my usually uh huh, yeah, and sort of catching anything relevant), but I totally toned out my coworker who was shaking her arms and yelling in my ear because she wanted to tell the person on the other end something. Oops.

Christina Farley said...

Oh it's nice to know there are others who are driving themselves to sleep deprevation. I told my husband that there are others out there as crazy as I was. He just shook his head.

I like your ideas Emily. Especially about doing something other than writing related before I go to sleep.