On Writing

Sleeping vs Writing

I used to be able to stay up all night and write. I used to write 10-page university papers the night before they were due – and get As. I used to be able to finish drafts, edit, read, revise, start new drafts in the wee hours of the morning.

Now? I can’t stay up for the life of me. And, um, it’s exactly for the life of me that I can’t. My body seems to need sleep more than it needs to write. Or does it?

Right now, it’s 8:52pm. I’m sipping a cup of hot instant coffee that smells like burnt bacon bits in an effort to help me stay awake a little longer tonight so I can get some work done. And it’s not even creative writing work (necessarily, although I think it’ll sneak its way in).

What the hell happened?

Well, the obvious answer is: two kids, two jobs (or more), dinner, piano lessons…et cetera et cetera. Come 7:30pm I’m ready to hit the sack – and hit it hard. I can’t wait to crawl into bed and sleep. I. LOVE. SLEEPING. Which is ironic because half the time I can’t fall asleep and the other half I sleep and it feels like I’ve only blinked. Eyes close. Blink. Eyes open. Guess what? It’s morning. It doesn’t matter that most nights I’m dreaming about being in movies with hottie movie stars or I’m embracing dead family members who are consoling me whilst I failingly attempt to get through dinner rush on the Burger King Whopper-making line or write those four papers that are due in my high school class. (Yes, I know I’m stressed out when I dream of Burger King and high school. I worked at BK for three years while I was in high school.)

The thing is…even last year or the year before when my book was being published, I was able to pull all-nighters. Or at least, sleep for very few hours because I was staying up late to write, then getting up early to write. But I can’t seem to be able to do this anymore.

These nights, I choose sleep.

These nights, I promise myself I’ll ‘get up early’ and write then. And I mean it. I do. Then I wake up in a panic every hour from 2am until 6am – and I’m exhausted from worrying about having to get up. I look at the clock at 6am and say to myself “Okay, Vanessa. Close your eyes and trust that your body will wake up in fifteen minutes.” I wake up at 7:45am. For balls sake. No writing time – again.

I wonder, I mean, I really wonder what the hell I expect from my creative self at this point in time. Is it the gluten I’m still eating? Or that my exercising regimen has dwindled to twenty minutes every three nights? Is it that I don’t have a book being published or an agent to egg me on?

Or am I being unrealistic? (Seriously, this effing coffee smells like bacon bits!) Is it that I can’t fathom pushing through a full day of my life having had no sleep the night before. What kind of mom would I be? What kind of writing would I really be writing?

I want to write. I want to write so badly. ALL. THE. TIME. It’s like, painful, that I don’t have the freedom I had but a few weeks ago, to write more often. I can’t tell you how my physical body craves the creative juices it produces when I write (I’m filling up as I write this).

And yet, my body equally craves sleep. I give in to sleep. I sleep way more than I write. In fact, I’m getting a lot of sleep. I should be able to get up in the morning two hours earlier to write. Even though getting out of bed when it’s dark and in the five o’clock  hour makes me want to barf. Literally.

So what is a writer to do? When the ‘working hours’ in a day (from 8am – 8pm, I’ll say) are jam packed with stuff to do. Stuff that I love. Stuff that I want to do. Stuff that’s important.

In order to make the craft better, I need to practice. I need to write. But I can’t do it all. And this, my writing friends, is one of the hardest lessons I’m learning in my life these days.

I can’t do it all.

Moms and Dads out there who are reading. Who are writers or creative people too: WE. CAN’T. DO. IT. ALL.

And if you’re fooling yourself into thinking that you can…well, something’s gonna give. Such is the challenge of living a creative life. Not just finding that balance but..wait for it…using your ability to choose and create the balance. The Love, the universe, or God, or god, or whatever you call that energy that moves your creative spirit and soul does not work without you. In fact, it’s been my humble experience that just when you think you’ve ‘found’ the perfect balance, sweet Love pulls back a little so you can do it on your own. And BAM! You’re learning a new lesson. You’re sleeping instead of writing.

This got a bit philosophical, didn’t it? And all I wanted to talk about was how I used to be able to stay up all night and write, and these days I cannot.

I’m doing my best. I’m writing now. This bacon-coffee is actually helping. I’ll kiss the kids in a few minutes. I’ll kiss the hubby too (he’s already asleep). And I’ll feel better because I gave myself this window of time to write. To re-fill my well (as my sister calls it). To re-energize my writing spirit. And to hope that I sleep well tonight. Not a blink sleep. Not a Burger King sleep. Not a high school paper is due sleep. Not even a steamy, sexy movie-star sleep. I’ll always take a visit from a passed away loved one, of course. I want to sleep well tonight because I’ve gotten some of it out. Some of the words that never stop writing in my head.

(Hmm. Maybe that’s why my belly is always sticking out. It’s full of words.)

image:  http://lipstiksafiyyah.blogspot.ca/2012/10/im-sleepyheadyakdush.html


7 thoughts on “Sleeping vs Writing

  1. Hmmmm…sounds like me and reading. The will is there but the sleepy brain will not cooperate. As far as writing goes, I wait for the


  2. see, too tired to write. What I meant to say is, as far as writing goes, I wait for that voice inside my head to get loud enough till it starts to nudge my hand and will not take no for an answer. Then, I must put everything aside and get it down on paper. If I try and write on a schedule, whether morning, noon or night, it feels like I’m trying to cajole an unruly child, and the exhaustion from that experience makes me want to look for the nearest flat surface and a soft pillow. Maybe sleep is what you need right now in order to let those creative juices peculate?


    1. I’m pretty sure you’re right on the money. I also agree that ‘before’, I was able to schedule writing time into my life and then there’d be all this pressure to write during that time…and if i didn’t, I’d get mad at myself. Now, like you, it’s more – wait for the brain to get the hand moving…and the time seems to ‘open up’. it’s funny how that works…how our actual writing time shifts like tectonic plates.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  3. Ahhh I remember the days…fiveall- nighters first year U! And yes, achieving As! But now my body will not cooperate, except on occasion like Eva said, when “that voice inside my head to get loud enough.” It is all about balance. Sometimes push forth to write, sometimes give in to sleep. Whatever it is you decide to do in the moment, get good with it!


  4. Make it do-able. When I think of the times I have felt most true to my writing self, it was when I was a problem-solver and created the task so it was do-able. This past fall, I went on a road trip with a non-writer. I knew I wouldn’t be writing, so I decided to write a haiku a day. Easy enough that I could keep looking for the day’s image and play the lines in my head. I wrote them down in her cottage guest book! Published! haha!
    There was a website that would post a word a day with a minute timer. I loved that! Make it do-able. Like anything you want to become a habit, commit, but make it do-able, with no excuses. I have to remind myself of that, because it is so much easier not to write. So much easier just to sleep! or do the million other things that tug and need your attention, like my dog who wants to go for a walk as soon as I finish writing this!
    Keep writing!!!!


  5. Love this post, Vanessa! You take the pressure off of us who strive to commit to our craft and still be kind to our bodies. After reading everyone’s comments, I do believe there’s a balance that can be achieved, that it will look different for everyone, and that the first step is to listen to what our bodies and creative spirits are telling us. Writing shouldn’t make us sick. Writing should make us strong and beautiful. In my opinion.


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