Now that we have kittens who wake us at 4:40 AM every day, I’ve gotten much better at sleeping through those rough hours of the night that used to make me rage in frustration — 2 AM, 3 AM. The 4:40 AM wakeups sufficiently exhaust my body so that it doesn’t wake at 2 o’clock as much anymore.
I used to wake at that time pretty frequently. If I had nothing on my mind, I fell back asleep without trouble. But if I had a worry, or an idea for work, or a writing project I’d been chewing on, I’d wake, and my mind would kick into overdrive as I lay there, flipping from one side to another, in dark silence. Forty-five minutes later, I’d still be lying there, frustrated, cycling through the same thought patterns as when I first woke. In the middle of the night, in the darkness of our bedroom, the thoughts have nowhere to go. They just keep going in circles inside of my head.
When I couldn’t take it anyore, I’d get out of bed, stumble through black hallways to the kitchen, fumble in the darkness for a tumbler, and pour myself a glass of milk. Without turning a light on, I’d drink the milk, feel my way back to bed, and fall asleep within minutes.
Sometimes, but rarely, I’d get up and write. Writing is the best thing for me when my mind keeps running and it will not stop. Often when my head is racing, when the ticker tape of thoughts keeps running on repeat, I am overwhelmed by everything happening in there. So many to-dos! So many worries! It goes so fast and is so much, I don’t know how to break in and find something actionable — I don’t know where to begin so I can slow the thoughts down.
When I get out a pen and paper, the thoughts from my head come out in the ink. As I write them, as they enter onto the page, they exit my mind. And it is quiet.
I should write more in the middle of the night when my mind keeps me awake. I’m not sure why I don’t. Writing is the most effective tool I’ve found for quieting the ruckus in my head. Milk will help me go to sleep when I need it, but it doesn’t address the need for thought release.
I wonder if I avoided writing because it felt like too much of a commitment in the middle of the night. I would never turn a light on in our bedroom at 2AM. That’s just wrong when you share a bed with someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. So to write, I’d have to get out from under the covers, go to a different room, find my glasses and put them on, and (this is the hardest part), turn on a light.
It’s almost like writing in the middle of the night would be an admission of defeat. That I’d be committing to being awake instead of doing everything in my power to fall back asleep.
The thing is, though — if I wrote, I’d make it easier for myself to sleep again. My mind would be emptied. Fresh for the next day. And, as a bonus, I may have captured something good in the blackness of the night.
For the month of November, I will be participating in NaBloPoMo and plan to publish every day of the month. Usually, I will publish a 10-minute free write, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Follow along with the tag #NovemberDaily.
3 thoughts on “Writing in the middle of the night”
I read something interesting once – and forgive me I’m going to be vague. The 2 to 3 a.m. hours have a tradition and a biological clock piece. The image in my head is that of an Edwardian gentleman sitting in his robe in a chair under a lamp and smoking his pipe.
Ah. Here’s one article:http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16964783
I used to write in the night and now don’t for the same reasons. Don’t want to disturb husband; etc. Although, from time to time, I slide out and come into the room with the electric teakettle, tea, and my journal.
During this NaNonFiWriMo challenge, I’ve had several days when I could have easily gone to sleep but instead ducked into my office “for a few minutes.” Emerging hours later and finding that it’s 3am or 4am, I console myself with the wordcount achieved during the middle of the night. Writers write, as Harlan Ellison once said in my presence, because they must. If you are able to not write, you’re not a writer, he said, for writing is what writers do. That stuck with me, even though it’s been decades since I heard him say it.
I’d like to say my sleep schedule is all off because of my wife’s extended absence while she recovers from surgery, but I’ve struggled to have a regular sleep schedule since the summer between senior year of high school and freshman year of college. At least now that my writing is keeping me busy, I have an excuse.
beautiful read. Going through the same with sleeping, funny thing is I write when I wake but I never publish it. After reading this it inspires me to publish it.
Comments are closed.