Sunday 16 March 2014

Those Moments When You're Half-Asleep - The Creative Process

Those Moments When You're Half-Asleep

It's like when someone asks whether you're a glass half full or a glass half empty kinda person. I don't see it as less half awake, more half asleep, but that could just be the fact that I have two conditions that cause bone-crushing fatigue the majority of the time. Part of living with those conditions is being able to construct sentences and write even when you're half asleep and ready to just collapse into bed. I don't mean writing when you should be sleeping, but more writing when you can't sleep no matter how much you've tried.

Insomnia affects a huge number of people from all walks of life. Painsomnia was first coined by a chronic pain sufferer who found that along with their inability to fall asleep even though they were exhausted, the pain they were feeling would mean they couldn't sleep anyway. For the majority of my adult life I have switched between being a lark (as in someone who gets up early with no issues) and being an owl (someone who burns the midnight oil). Right now I am a little of both. I have no choice but to be awake at 7am because that's when I need to be up to do the school run. I do stay up later than usual some nights and other nights I have bouts of both insomnia and painsomnia. You've probably had the same problem that I've had. It's 3am and you want to sleep, but you can't so you decide to write. Only you're half asleep (or awake depending on how you view it) and you're worried that whatever you write won't make sense in the morning or you'll get so wrapped up in it that when you do think you could manage to sleep, you won't want to.

Both of those have happened to me. I will usually write in the wee hours when I can't sleep, and sometimes I'll come back to it later after I've had some sleep and wonder if I took too many pain pills because no matter how much I edit, it just does not work. I've also had something else happen, I've read what I've written and realised that although I'm going down a completely different path than the one I planned, it's fricking awesome and I shouldn't change a thing! I've also had times when I've finally gotten my pain under control and I think I'll be able to sleep, but my characters are so busy taking me down this road and showing me my story that I decide to forgo sleep until I've gotten to a part that I can easily stop at.

It's a difficult situation to be in and if you've ever been awake at 2am, with nothing to do but watch the clock tick down the minutes, you know what it's like to want to do something, anything to just fill that time. Sure, you can watch the TV shows that get repeated at that time of night, but there's always the issue, at least for me, of keeping the noise down so that you don't disturb the other inhabitants of the house and writing something fits the bill. You can plug in your headphones, turn it up loud and listen to music while you type away if that's you're kinda thing. (It's sometimes mine, here's a piece I did about that!) A problem for me is that alongside the issue of noise levels and such, I have the added difficulty of having to manage my pain to a point where I can write. I have numerous methods and medications to help me do that, but of course alongside the usual side effects, there's the added drawback of not always being your best and able to concentrate. I could say more about that, but it's a piece to explore another day.

Basically, writing when your half-asleep can be both a great way to pass the time if it's the middle of the night, and a way to end up going down a road with your story that you wouldn't have thought of if you weren't sleep deprived. I often find times when I'm trying to sleep that ideas will pop into my head, and whilst I sometimes end up falling asleep and forgetting them, some have gone on to be great plots, story-lines and character developments. A half-asleep brain can give you wonderful results. Though, of course, I'm not suggesting that you force yourself to stay awake all night so that you can see what I mean! Your mileage may, of course, vary, but for me sometimes it's a great way to get over that writer's block and start the words back up again.

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