Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Quote: On Sleep and Writing

...if you keep a depressed patient awake all night, his or her mood will improve significantly. (Unfortunately, the benefit only lasts until the first nap that contains dream sleep.) Most (but not all) antidepressants suppress dream sleep, and some researchers have speculated that this property might be essential to their effectiveness...

Writers who are feeling too manic and hypergraphic, with too many scattered ideas, may benefit from a sleep regimen opposite to that for depressed or blocked writers. Sleep deprivation doesn't calm down overenergetic writers, it often only disinhibits them further. They may find that their writing becomes more organized if they are forced to go to bed two hours early. Some have speculated that an all-nighter may help writer's block by using sleep deprivation to disinhibit the writer...

The first rule a medical resident learns is "Sleep when you can, eat when you can; you may never get a second chance." But the resident's life, while tiring, is also pleasantly loaded with call-room beds. What about writers whose work situation is not so well equipped? In my first job after my residency, I had no office and took naps under a very deep desk. I stopped when I woke up one day to find a colleague borrowing my computer, her shoes close enough to my face that I could have tied her laces together. She stayed for what seemed like forever, as I tried not to sneeze. Afterward I found a convenient closet to sleep in, an arrangement that lasted until one of the departmental adminstrators came to look for paper plates. He screamed, and later told me that he had been sure I was dead. So naps are problematic productivity stategies for people who have to write in public places.

---Alice W. Flaherty
The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain

6 comments:

alaiyo said...

Now this is a keeper! I see myself in it at once. Maybe if I just started going to bed at 8:00 . . . Of course, then I'd not have those two hours and would just have to grade papers instead of write with my oh-so-better-organized mind . . .

As to sleeping in one's office, locked doors and black paper over the windows helps to avoid false death notices . . . :)

Beth

Cindy said...

Beth--I was intrigued. (Of course, you remember me napping under the worktable in the corner of SMSU's WC and scaring Laura one day when I crawled out beside her feet. Ah, fond memories!) This sleep info would explain why I write most easily in the wee hours of the morning when I'm exausted--lowered perfectionistic inhibitions and the ability to "play" more.

So maybe I should stop sleeping at night and start writing, and take catnaps during the day?

Cindy said...

I just read over my comment and realize I need to make something very clear.

"WC" stands for Writing Center, NOT Water Closet!!!!

Feeble Knees said...

Very interesting. Could explain why I have been all over the lot with my own writing these days - haven't sleep through the night (or more than 3 hours at a strech) in months... 7 months to be exact.

Connie said...

Fascinating.
I have always done most of my best work late at night or well into the early hours of the morning. So does my brother, who is a composer. His all night work is most often brilliant, as if he needed both the pressure of time and the disinhibiting factors of fatique to bring ideas together. For me, several all nighters in a row, result in thoughts which are inscrutable to others and jokes which are funny only to me. Then the doctor threatens lithium, and I choose to sleep rather than submit to this true inhibitor of spontanaeity.

Cindy said...

Feebs--I think pregnancy brings on writing complications on its own, let alone what it causes with the messed up sleep schedule! Not that it'll get much better after the pregnancy culminates in Baby Feeble. :::grin:::

Connie--But I like jokes which are funny only to me! It's an opportunity to revel in my obviously superior wit. :) At least until the hysteria sets in. :p Sounds like you come from a highly creative family.