What I look like after a sleepless night. Kidding ... kind of [Source]
Lately I haven't been able to fall asleep at a normal time. And by "normal" I mean somewhere in the range of 11pm to 2am. I've always been a night owl -- I was raised without a bedtime and got to stay up late watching Jay Leno with my parents as a child -- but even with my amnesiac tendencies, I still fell asleep by 1 or 2am. Lately it's been more like 3 to 4am, and that's with waking up before 9am almost every morning.
I have a slight suspicion (that both thrills and scares me) about why I haven't been able to sleep "properly": My book is taking over my life. And now for the million dollar question: Is that really such a bad thing? Or am I slowly going to drive myself crazy and die some tragic death, anonymous and unpublished? Come to think of it -- wasn't that the inspiration for Jack Torrance's character in Stephen King's "The Shining"? Eeep.
I know I'm somewhat obsessive when it comes to hobbies and work and ...well, anything really. I obsessed about certain boys in high school (I cringe when I think back to writing "I heart boys" in blue nail polish on my school desk), certain rock bands in college (thank God I'm not a tattoo kind of girl - David Bowie's mug has better places to be than my upper back), and of course certain foods (watermelon, this one's for you).
It was -- and still is -- all or nothing when it comes to my likes and dislikes. I either love it or I hate it, adore you or despise you, without much wiggle room in between. This works great for some things, but I've known for a while that the world is not black and white, that we actually live in quite a gray sphere. So by that rational, it may be fun to be obsessive about TV shows and thin white rock stars from Britain, but it can't be healthy for the "real things" in life, say your job, can it? I believe the first step in recognizing you have a problem is admitting it, but I've never thought of it as a problem until now, when I quit my boring job and made a hobby I was obsessed with -- writing -- into my full-time career. There's no more "I can leave this at the office" or "I'll pick this up where I left off tomorrow morning", as I settle in to catch up on my Travel Channel shows.
No, not even Anthony Bourdain standing next to a glittering Eiffel Tower can distract my thoughts, which are always. thinking. about. my book. And if I'm not thinking about my characters or plot or setting or some certain passage, then I'm thinking about other novel ideas and short fiction pieces that would be so fun to write, so I jot down the ideas in my moleskin to remember them, or start braiding tendrils of story here and there but not for long because I can't wait to get back to finishing the first draft of my book manuscript, and Whew! This episode is already rolling credits? Where was I, and how did I miss everything Paris had to offer?
The same goes for when I'm having dinner with my husband (thankfully he doesn't mind listening to me banter on and on about my story arc), or when I'm listening to the Eagles in the car, or taking a shower, or shopping. You get the picture. I've created a monster that follows me around incessantly, begging for attention like my obese cat when she's craving her Iams.
The definitive line between work and play has been blurred. Writing, which was my "play" before, is now my work and therefore there is nothing else. It follows me into everything else I undertake. While I don't think it's a bad thing, I may need to set up a few boundaries before I become a full-fledged insomniac.
Take last night for example: I could only badger my husband to stay up with me for so long. At a little past 1am he started getting cranky, complaining for me to "leave him alone" because he "needed to wake up early". "So?" I yelled back, slathering moisturizer on my face. "I wake up early too. That's no excuse to go to bed right now." Then he insisted on griping that he was exhausted, and by the time I explained to him that he could "sleep all he wants when he's dead", he had already passed out. Sigh.
So I was left tossing and turning alone next to a slumbering husband, and naturally began thinking up a downright cool story idea that I began narrating to myself in my head. At one point I almost got out of bed to jot down my exact language -- I was that impressed, which doesn't come often for someone who is so self-critical about her craft -- but I couldn't muster the strength. I began to fall asleep ... by telling myself a story. This morning I wrote down as much as I could remember, but the good parts are forever banished to the land of shut eye.
So, how do you all do it? Not just the writers, but everyone? How do you find your balance?
I'm still figuring that one out, but for now I'll have another drink and reflect ...