Saturday, April 14, 2012

Manic Midnight

To write another blog post about how waiting for readers to get back to you is a land of Boschian nightmare as detailed and engrossing as Homer's Land of Chocolate, only backwards, would be self-indulgent. So I shan't.

Last night I stayed up too late reading Deborah Copaken Kogan's Between Here and April, and when I was ready to turn off the light and sleep, I couldn't. I was too mixed up about the topics of the book (which, from the long view, is about the oppression of women and the difficulty of motherhood; from the short view, it encompasses very, very difficult topics like sexual incompatibility in a marriage, maternal filicide, the recent history of women and mental illness, etc.) to stop my mind racing. I ended up calling Matt and talking with him for 45 minutes, and part of what I told him was that I wished I wasn't as devoted to sleep as I am - I make sleep a priority in my life - because when my mind is revving and chugging in the middle of the night like this, I do really unusually good writing.

It's rare in my adult life that I've gotten up and worked in the middle of the night instead of just trying to effing sleep, but whenever I have, it's been that white-heat writing. The stuff that isn't always usable in its original form, but when it is, it's like it came from somewhere else, and I was just transcribing. Kogan's novel had inspired me to think about scenarios between people, and how I could put some compelling ones together. Earlier in the week, my brain had revisited a very old story idea, and last night I felt like I wanted to get up and get to writing it right then.

The problem with writing in the middle of the night, for me, is manyfold: I exhaust myself, because I don't really know when to stop, when to give up and go to bed, and sometimes it's dawn before I feel ready; my digestive problems are majorly exacerbated by missed sleep, like, to the point where it's not a small concern; it takes me days to get back to normal schedule-wise if I miss part of a night of sleep; and I have held a night-owl schedule before, working nights and sleeping half-days, and I know it's not for me. There are other smaller things - lack of concentration and worsened jaw-clenching the next day, insensible infatuation with what I wrote during that time, a general feeling of misplaced schedules that is hard for me to deal with. So on, so forth. Due to my annoyingly delicate emotional constitution, it's a bad idea.

This would all be worth it for good work, if I had a completely malleable schedule and nothing else to worry about but the writing. But that's just not true right now. This weekend I have to worry about meeting my other-work quota, cleaning the damn house, and reviewing all the conference stuff (I leave Wednesday!) to decide what to attend, assemble everything I need to bring, yadda yadda. And in theory I should make a movie date with a friend to whom I gave a rain-check last weekend and do the laundry and re-dye my hair and and and and.

On a total tangent, I finally realized a couple of weeks ago what the heart of nostalgia for childhood is to me. I was not a happy kid, growing up; I felt like the world as it was meant to be was closed to me, and I was impatient to be taken seriously. But in recent years I've started to wish for the life I had as a kid, which is baffling, because I know intellectually that I really disliked being young. I realized that the reason for this is not that I was happier then, because I wasn't, but that I had a lot less to remember. The shorthand for this is that I had fewer responsibilities, but I don't think this is fair to what kids have to accomplish when they're kids - school, homework, meeting expectations, dealing with social stuff, and the business of growing up, all of which is way more stressful than we, societally, give kids credit for. It's not fewer responsibilities, it's having to keep in your head all the things you have to keep track of. Do I have enough groceries in the house? Did I pay all the bills, with all their different due dates, on time? Is the car due for service (again)? Is that membership expiring? Did I take that stuff to the dry cleaner, did I pick it up? Am I out of toner (again)? Isn't it next weekend that thing is happening, and don't I need to bring something? Have I written e-mails and returned calls to all the people who deserve them?

So on. So forth. I don't think any of these responsibilities are more dire than what a 13-year-old is faced with (I remember being 13, and it sucked), but there are so many of them. So infinitely many things to think of. When you're a kid, someone else is tasked to think of these things for you. You have to do a lot of hard shit on your own, but much of your basic daily business is taken care of. The solution to this problem as an adult is to hire a personal assistant, whose job it is to manage you in this way. But then, of course, the personal assistant has to look after your life and her own, as well, and the insanity just gets pushed on to someone else. God help the personal assistant if she has kids.

ANYWAY. Ultimately last night I decided to stay in bed and try to sleep, drinking hot chocolate made from a packet of unknown age, rather than writing. I think this was the right call. I'm not sure what my next writing project is going to be, whether I'll churn out essays and stories or sketch out my next book, but I don't think I'm ready to start on it yet. Maybe after the conference, or maybe after May is over. A lot of uncertainty should be settled by June, so part of me wants to just put off the serious stuff until the chaos dies down. Yet, as I've had reason to remember lately, life happens all the time, and not just when you wait until the time is right. Do it now, as they say. Do it now, do it now, do it now.

No comments: