When did night become all about sleep?

These days I have to fight for the luxury of insomnia. I sleep too easily and the night brings too much worry of the next morning to bring the clamouring words in my head into a focus sharp enough to get them from brain to page.

College was hell. Drifting through days in a haze, a permanent white cloud surrounding the edges of vision, running on one or two hours of sleep a night for two years helped to produce a perfect instability of emotion and reason. Studies became a matter of simply getting through class without nodding off and avoiding punishment for work not handed in. The grades I might actually get from my lacklustre efforts were something I only tried to care about. It was the teacher’s reprimands that I couldn’t bare the thought of. Fractured thought processes pierced by intermittent external miseries produced a huddled hermit made of fear-spitting nerves and ever-weakening academic ability.

But in all this, I was free to create. The disturbances of my house- step-family politics and screaming matches- interfered too much during the day for me to sit and think and write. They destroyed my daytime peace and caused the vortex of tears and bleakness that engulfed my night-time thoughts and forbade me to sleep.

The night passes slowly when you long for sleep. I would lie awake and watch the clouds fly over, revealing patches of stars and that indeed was peaceful. Or I could watch the thick, sluggish, orange light-polluted sky trudge over the rooftops and that was eerie, but fascinating. Cats screeched, the nearby motorway rushed on and became part of the wind. Subtle noises of the night and skittish silhouettes entertained me in my wakefulness.

And I wrote. A solitary, dim lamp on the desk by my bed, a cartridge pen and endless sheets of paper, drafts and revisions of the same piece worked on all night until I was happy with it just at the moment of dawn. Wrapped up in a duvet and shivering in winter, or suffocating in the unbearable heat of my shoe-box room in summer. Teeth chattering or skin a sheen of sweat. Food for madness.

Insomnia gave me the luxury of creating when no-one could disturb me, when no-one could intrude on the words pouring through nerves and veins into my pen. Daylight invited voices, external influences, the endless round of the impure and mundane. The nightmare of insomnia created the sanctuary needed to write and I revelled in its silence and calm.

And now? I have to fight to stay awake, instead of to sleep. The necessity of being alert for work the next morning, or to get up and do all those chores and errands that must be done in adult life inevitably force you to put down the pen and get to bed, no matter what thoughts may be swirling in the fingers, itching to be written. I am too tired most nights to concentrate on creating, and too disturbed by everyday worries to focus on stories that aren’t a mirror of my reality.

Sleep isn’t the rarely-known luxury it used to be. It is instead the addiction- the nap taken which turns into the sleep until late night, to be followed by yet more sleep, since my mind is too foggy to use for creative work. Medication saps energy until a sluggish body refuses to do anything but lie in bed, mind slurring into oblivion.

My mind wants the night back. It wants to reclaim those endless hours before dawn, when ink couldn’t flow as fast as my thoughts.

Edited from an old blog. It’s still annoyingly relevant. I hated turning 30, and I don’t think the downward spiral of sleep is going to get any better as time goes on. I feel like I’ve lost the creative spark entirely, or the focus and confidence in my work is too far gone for me to go further with it.


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