The road to ending insomnia - and writer's block, too

The road to ending insomnia - and writer's block, too

I rarely have trouble sleeping. When I do, I ask myself whether I feel like getting up and writing. If I don’t feel awake enough to write, well, maybe I’m just on my way to being asleep. (There’s the link to the theme of the week, “The Road Less Traveled” — after all, who’s awake enough to know what that road looks like?)

If I do feel awake enough to write, I grab either my notebook, where ideas for these posts are started; my bag full of novel ideas, where my “mystery” characters are at work; or, if I’m not feeling all that formal, my diary. When I read about Sherlock Holmes asking Dr. Watson for his index about a particular year, that feels familiar. If I don’t know a fact about a particular time in my life, I grab my own index to what went on then — my diary.

I can look things up going back to Jan. 1, 1975. Yes, I could write back then… and I did. My first two volumes, paperbacks, are now in plastic bags to keep them together, but they’re all the more precious for that. I learned from them that writing “just a plain old day” or “we did the usual” wasn’t smart. The more detail I recorded, the more I could look up later.

I made my habit by writing things down and closing the book on the day, literally, the last thing before I went to bed.

Several years later, I had a literature course and Introduction to Latin American Civilization in the same semester — and the research papers were always due on the same Mondays. I’d type them up in a flurry of writing and re-writing… and then I wouldn’t get anything done for the rest of the day. I’d sleep.

I didn’t figure it out at first, but eventually I was writing in my diary about another Saturday when I’d finished writing both of my papers and then, as I liked to put it, “conked out.” I slept away too much of the day!

I haven’t tracked down the exact night I realized what I’d done, so I’ll spare you quotes of my outrage, but I vented it onto the page. I wrote the papers and I slept — and I was writing in my diary at bedtime. I was hooked! I’d trained myself!

(That’s the reason for the illustration — thinking of this feels like Pavlov would be proud of me.)

So even if you don’t go to sleep straight after writing, try having something relaxing that you get to do when you’ve written. It’ll get the ideas onto the page.

Here’s a twist: If I can’t decide where the novel is going, or I can’t figure out what to post “for you” next, I’ve got a nearly-sure-fire way to sort it out: I take a nap. I can’t nap for more than an hour or so without waking up absolutely eager to write. I’m relaxed, but also, my brain is sending signals to my left hand that “Hey, you didn’t write anything yet! I can’t turn off!”

So if you have trouble with writer’s block, catch up on your sleep; if you have trouble sleeping, write it out. Connect the two, and one connection will solve two problems. There’s a “road less traveled” for you.

OK, I’ve gone on long enough. I’m yawning. Bye!

For more fun with words, stop by the Margaret Serious page on Facebook.

Almost over… yawn… type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time. Good night!

Filed under: This Blogger Life


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  • I often write things down and then conk out. It's like I've emptied my head onto the paper!
    Great post.

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thanks, Kathy. I like that image!

  • I don't recommend insomnia, but I have found it inspiring....

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thank you. I've found it inspiring, too -- sometimes I'd rather stay awake with something I'm writing. This business of training myself to fall asleep by writing can go a bit too far sometimes.

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