Jacqui, a writer friend of mine from Massachusetts, is a wonderful bottle of state-the-obvious. Recently, she said, without sugarcoating it whatsoever, that I needed to get some sleep. And she’s right. I’m easily a week behind on sleep.
Here’s the argument that many writers, especially struggle first-timers, give: “I can’t sleep. All that time spent sleeping could be used for writing, which means I can finish my story sooner, get it out to agents and publishers, and, hopefully, launch my career.”
I understand the logic in that, I really do. But there’s one fundamental flaw with: it’s completely wrong. Sleep and rest are essentials that cannot be brushed off. When you’re resting, you’re not sitting on ass and being lazy. Far from it.
What would happen to your car if you had it running constantly? Let’s omit the gas stops because it doesn’t take long to fill up a tank. Let’s pretend you ran that car for sixteen or twenty hours a day. Eventually, it’ll get run down and cease to function.
Your brain works in a similar fashion. There have been times when I’ve written whole poems on very little sleep, running almost on automatic, but my physical needs took over in the end and I would crash on my bed. On top of that, in my experience, the longer you go without sleep, the more exhaustion builds up in your system and more time is needed to recover from it.
Does this sound repetitive? Have you heard this before? Good. Because unless you take the advice to heart, I’ll always be vocal about it. And I’m not saying that I’m perfect because I just admitted that I’m burning out too.
Now speaking for myself, I’m ready to move forward and start my novel. The plot notes are done and everything. But I feel like it would be better if I recharged my brain and went into the writing fully refreshed. In the meantime – I don’t know – maybe I’ll listen to some music, do a little short story work, or catch up on my search for a teaching job. Lord knows I haven’t been as diligent on that as I should be.