Sunday, February 12, 2012

Perpetual tiredness and the creativity machine

Josh bears my attempts to embarrass him patiently.
I recently came across some research which suggests that people are more creative when they're tired. As I used to describe myself as, "always tired," this was relevant to my interests.

I was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea, for which I've been undergoing treatment. That goes a long way toward explaining my tiredness. What it doesn't explain, though, is why I still stay up until all hours of the night, working on my writing. You'd think I'd want to be tired, or something.

I've mentioned it before, but I used to spend entire summer vacations writing all night. I would often tell my parents I'd be in bed soon, only to tap away until dawn, or close to it. Most of it was that I didn't want to go through the entire scary house in the dark, but it was also that I was writing far more productively than I did in the daylight hours.

This doesn't work with other jobs. I've worked overnight shifts, and wound up so perpetually exhausted and groggy that I ruled it out as a long-term solution to my night owl ways. Apparently it's just writing.

I've joked with other writers about it. We agree that the wee hours are the best times to shut up the inner critic, though many of them find that the inner critic serves an important function. Rereading the high-output pieces fills them with dismay: it wasn't the brilliance they thought it was.

It's the ultimate in pantsterdom, really. Typing along with no plan, no frame, no idea of where you're going to end up, is about as seat-of-the-pants as you get. That would explain why some people in the writing group find it less useful than others.

Still, I can't go through life perpetually tired. That way lies madness. There are other ways to tap into this, to use it to my advantage. I can, for instance, try to get most of my writing done when I first get up on weekends, rather than after the coffee has kicked in. I can acknowledge that I'm more tired during the week, and so push myself to write more after a long day, instead of allowing myself a break. I can simply be mindful of my state of mind, and have the discipline and mental fortitude to push myself when I only want to take a nap.

And I can do all that while ending the cycle of perpetual tiredness. It's a luxury many (parents, full-time students, professional writers) don't have, and so I'm best off learning to tap it when I have time on my side. Lord knows, if I'm working under deadline, I won't be able to wait for inspiration to strike.

Odd that I should be talking about the luxury of being tired. It is nice to know, though, that my self-sabotage of my sleep schedule was serving a purpose.

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