Wednesday 2 October 2013

IWSG: How Long-Term Fatigue Affected My Writing

I knew something was wrong when I stopped dreaming. 

It started over a year ago when I decided it best to write in the evenings after everyone had gone to bed. The logic that supported my decision was sound. After all, it was the only time the house was quite, distractions drawn to a minimum, and interruptions were just about nil. The only thing I didn't take into consideration was me, but I'll get back to that later. So every night, as the moon rose into the sky, I wrote my little heart out. My head rarely found a pillow before midnight but that was fine by me, I saw progress between the pages of my manuscript and the late nights were worth it. Several months went by, my manuscript was in the hands of my editor, and in this down time I focused on blogging, facebook, twitter and started other writing projects. 

It didn't take long before I hijacked my sleep cycle and gave my circadian rhythm the big ole F.U. After that, I was crashing to bed around 2am and waking back up at 7am. By now, my body was getting a little irritated with me and started sending me messages. It was clear I was being told to stop being an idiot and get more sleep. Did I listen? Of course not. 'I can handle it!' I said. Turns out, not only was I not able to 'handle it,' but my body did not like being ignored and it proceeded to kick my butt until I listened. The effects were varied and not pretty. Here's what followed:

I started having difficulties concentrating on any particular task. 

My run times on the race track regressed. 

I gained weight.

I felt tired. All. The. Damn. Time. 

I procrastinated. A lot.

My muse, due to lack of sleep, packed up his shit and split. 

Crappy posts that should have take me hours to write, took me days to finish. 

You know how aggravating it is to have ideas pop into your head just as you're about to fall asleep? Well not having any ideas come to you is worse. The pad of paper on my night stand stayed blank for months and the magic of writing was slipping through my tired little fingers. 

My writing suffered. 

I started feeling depressed. 

And then I stopped dreaming. Or maybe I was no longer able to remember my dreams. Before, I was someone who dreamt all the time and could recall my dreams or at least fragments of them. And let me tell you, that was fun because I have the craziest, wildest, dancing-with-blue-whales dreams . . . or at least I used to. 

In the end, I lost my joy for writing. 

What started out as a reasonable shift in my schedule to gain more writing time, turned into six months of the most counterproductive writing I've ever struggled through. And the thing is, I knew what I was doing was stupid but I took that risk regardless. We always know, deep down don't we? Now, I've got a mess to clean up before I start having some serious health issues to deal with. Here's the update:

Two weeks ago I started getting to bed no later than midnight, no matter what.

I cut back on my blogging and other social media time. Sorry in advance if I haven't gotten to your blogs. I will though, soon. (: 

Last week I made awesome progress during running practice. It felt good to enjoy practices again. 

I'm still waiting for my muse to come back. I think he's still mad at me. And yes, my muse is a guy. A hot, sexy, sensitive, intelligent, imaginary guy. *le sigh*

Still taking me crazy amounts of time to write the simplest things, but at least I'm starting to feel the quality of my writing improve. 

So it seems I've decided to stop being a total idiot, and guess what? Last night, I had the strangest dream . . . (:

I hope those of you who are having similar issues find a way to make the necessary adjustments and get back onto a better sleep cycle. People don't realize how important sleep is to your health. Or maybe you do but you're not listening. If that's the case, then let this be the moment you unplug your ears and start listening to your body. Trust me, you're worth it and so is your writing.

Let's stop being idiots together. (:

A big thank you to our host, Alex Cavanaugh and his amazing IWSG co-hosts this month. If you would like to know more about this awesome group of writers, click HERE or click the Insecure Writers Support Group icon at the top of my right side bar. 


  1. Ha! Here I sit at nearly midnight and I'm in a neighboring boat as you!

    My "problem" is there is literally no other time for me to write - with the three boys (and now the baby with his broken leg!) so I shall have to make do - for now :)

    One thing I am *going* to do is cut down on the length of my posts... perhaps that will help... a little?

    Maybe, we'll zzzzzzzzzzeeeee :)

  2. I like my sleep! Last time I stayed up until midnight was New Year's Eve.
    We need sleep or nothing functions right. Glad you recognized what was happening. Some people write well after midnight. And some of us don't!

  3. Good for you for realizing what you need to be the best you you can be! It often feel like we live in a world where we constantly have to push and push ourselves to do more and more...I'm tired just thinking about it. When did down-time and daydreaming and naps and sleep become a bad thing? Sheesh!

  4. I tend not to need as much sleep as some. I get up at 5 am and go to sleep between 10:30 and 11. I used to get up at 4 am (when kids were younger and not in school full time), but then I did the sleep math and it wasn't good.

    I did cut back on blogging so that I would have more time for other things. I was spending over 12 hours a week just on that. Now I blog less and a play on Twitter and Pinterest more.

  5. Wow, that sucks Elise. I'm just so glad you figured out what it was and made the changes.

  6. I have only two kinds of dreams - either the naughty ones or the prophetic ones :)

  7. Time management is so difficult with all the other pressures on our lives and that elusive 'me' time is even more difficult to manage. Please get enough rest, as you have found out you function better on enough sleep. You can only push yourself so much and so far.

  8. I tend to stay up some nights, but always pack it in before midnight and then sleep in, on non work days, if need be. Have to have sleep indeed

  9. Thank goodness you caught the problem became you truly collapsed into depression and or ennui. Sounds like you're making a comeback. Just remember that your health is more important than blogging and even writing.

  10. I'm glad to hear you're doing better with more sleep! Grad school permanently messed with my sleep cycle and I would kill for it to resemble something normal again. Sigh. Someday! (Also, I think your muse is off hanging out with mine--she's particularly fond of sexy, hot, intelligent men... :)

  11. I sometimes catch myself thinking that I could get SO MUCH DONE if I didn't have to sleep. Then I start toying with the idea of sleeping less. Then I get grumpy and overtired and remember how stupid I am. Glad to know I'm not alone...

  12. At least you're being proactive... taking necessary steps to correct the situation...
    With my weekend work and erratic hours in the entertainment industry, I'm the kind who functions on minimal sleep. Which is BAD. I know. But it has eased up over the last few months. The really busy period is from now up until January...
    Good health is priority. No two ways about that.

  13. I've had this issue before. I think the only time the no sleep thing is forgivable is if you're in the zone with your writing. Otherwise it doesn't work. At least you've identified it. I'm sending you a hug now! :)

  14. Hi Elise .. I hear you - I coped while my mother and uncle were alive .. but now I've drifted into an easier life and do what I need to do ... I really should do more - but ...

    So glad to read you're letting yourself get into that rhythm of life again - the peaceful, workable kind - good luck and keep at it .. cheers Hilary

  15. Sleep is one of those underrated super important things. It's funny, I can tell when I'm not sleeping enough because a) I can't write and b) I eat like a vacuum cleaner. I'm sort of a princess about getting my 8 hours in!

  16. I'm a huge fan of my sleep. I have health issues that are effected by lack of sleep. I'm happy to hear you are getting back on track (see what I did there =) ?) Take care,


  17. Loss of sleep can make you delusional and paranoid, but it can also lead to depression. I started taking a Benadryl each night before bed and I now sleep like a little baby. :D

    Glad you're getting some sleep and feeling better!

  18. Sleep is very important to me. I also suffered from trying to write late at night, and I'd wake to see 'KKKKKKKKKK' where my fingers had rested as I fell asleep at the keyboard. Hubs used to say 'we need to unplug Mommy'.

    I got my come-uppance when I found the same things happening: hard to concentrate, little patience with others, and always feeling tired. We knock years off our lives when we sabotage our sleep. I knew this, yet I tried to circumvent reality. Didn't work.

    Good luck in getting back to a more healthful sleeping pattern. (you need it with kids)

  19. Loss of sleep all adds up, we can't do it all nor should we try if it is going to effect our health. I have often thought about staying up after everyone else has gone to bed to write but quite honestly I know it would mean I was unable to function at work with the necessary commitment so I don't do it. Hope you get back on a track real soon.

  20. I'm glad you're on the road back. Sleep is something we should never take for granted, or fool around with. We all need it, and lack of it can change us in ways we can't imagine. Good dreaming.

  21. Maybe the new season of Supernatural will inject some badly needed life into your muse.

  22. This will be the second time I've shared a version of this comment on IWSG posts today: Your creativity isn't a spring of limitless energy. You can totally deplete it. Thankfully, it can be replenished, but you have to nurture it.

    One way of nurturing is to make sure the rest of your basic life needs are met. Are you sleeping, eating, healthy, and generally have the rest of your life affairs in order? Only then are you going to be able to focus on something as existential as writing.

    When I'm not sleeping (I'm a minor insomniac as well) the rest of my life goes to hell. If I don't exercise regularly, I feel like a sloth. When I feel like a sloth, I do pretty much anything BUT write. On and on it goes... It's good you recognized what was going on and are taking steps to get the ship righted.

  23. *stealing your muse* Lol! I appear to be my own muse. I think I'm cute though so it's okay...

    Dude, I totally need to sleep. The good thing is, my body is used to it. Or maybe that's bad. I get so used to being fatigued that I don't even realize I'm tired until I'm not anymore. When it gets worst than bad though, I crash on the couch after work and sleep all night and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm lucky I don't need more than 5 hours of sleep to function because it's just not going to happen. I wish I could go to bed at midnight. That would fix me. How do you do it? Do you just drop everything and say sleep is more important? What's your secret?

    I'm so glad you're getting back on track!

  24. I know I absolutely need to get on a better sleep schedule. I have a lot of the issues you described above, and a regular sleep schedule would help out immensely. The insomnia has other ideas though, and none of them good.

  25. Great post.
    I chuckled at the *le sigh* ...and le sighed right along with you. LOL

    One thing I disagree with: you've never written a crappy post. ;)

  26. I remember when I had a stage of insomnia, it was awful. Right now I'm having some fatigue issues but that affects my day not my sleep. Good luck.

  27. You and I have been on the same page, Elise. That's why I had to take a break in Sept. No sleep. No pep. No concentration. All of that added up to one miserable human being. I'm back and I'm fairly sane now. I too appreciate the IWSG. It does help.

  28. Applause! I want to say congratulations for layin' down the law for yourself. I did the same thing a few years ago - burning the candle at both ends and thinking that because "I was invincible" that well... I was invincible. It was the first mistake of many - and because I didn't make the decision you did and start listening to my body I got so sick that it took me years to really pull myself back together. Finally put back together I have a huge appreciation for my body and practice listening. It talks a lot if you ever bother to hear it :p A healthy body means a healthy mind - your muse won't be able to stay away too long. Congrats and good luck on your journey.

  29. Glad to read you're getting back on track. I'd freak out a little if I stopped dreaming! I'm useless if I don't get enough sleep. I aim for seven hours a night, even though I probably need a bit more.

  30. So the good news is you figured something out about yourself even if it was by trial and error. I know I need 7-8 hours sleep if I'm going to write. If things go wrong and I get less sleep, I devote myself to blog commenting and critting for friends. It's great you have a new schedule and are sticking to it! Now you just have to get that darn muse to come back. lol

  31. Hey, Elise,
    Like you I'm up late each night, but now that my son is in high school and travelling further I have to be up an hour earlier - can you say 4:30 am in the eye? That has forced me to go to bed earlier. I've been feeling awful since Sept kicked in because of 5 and 6-hour nights, but slowly I'm getting used to going to bed by 10:30 at the latest. Hope your hot stuff moves back in some time soon along with all the other good stuff.

  32. You definitely have to take care of yourself if you want to write, eh? Or do anything else. I think it's so easy to forget how fragile a balance it is.

  33. I used to do the same thing to myself, sacrificing sleep. I've learned not to do that. Hope your muse returns soon.

  34. My sleep schedule's been a mess too. I gave up coffee and went to one cup of green tea, which helped a lot. But I'm lucky to get 6 hours of sleep.

  35. OMG- you are speaking straight to me today. Only I have been doing it for years. Hubby finally goes to bed at midnight so 12-3 is my alone, writing time. So 4-5 hours of sleep a night for years. I finally had it with the weight gain four weeks ago, and my nutritionist gave me quite the lecture on sleep, assuring me I wouldn't be loosing weight or doing anything well until I got some. I didn't even realize I was tired and depressed until I started sleeping. Now with 7 hours a night I am tired if I get any less. I even joined IWSG this week too, but didn't write about this, as until I just read your post never really put it all together. Thanks.

  36. Well, this post is fabulous, if that's any indication of your health improving....;)

    I need to get to bed earlier, too, although I'm not suffering from sleep deprivation. I'm very good about getting my nine hours every night. Yeah, I need nine hours to function properly, but everyone's different. You should find out how many you need for optimal health and stick to it. We all need to!

    I've been having my own writer's block issues and mine were spurred on by low levels of serotonin, causing horrific mood problems. With some dietary changes and supplements, I'm doing much better now and my writing is way more stable.

    Congrats to you, too!

  37. Oh, yeah, I definitely need at least 7 hours of sleep a night if I want to feel 'normal'. ;) Glad things are coming back together for you!

  38. I think a lot of people push themselves to hard, burn out and then quit completely, all extremes (happens a lot with blogging too). It often feels like that's the best way to get stuff done, but it's hard to sustain for more than a few weeks. Very insightful post. Cheers.

    Moody Writing

  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This was so me with the sleep! And it took its hold on me, too. But I did the same thing, made myself go to bed because my family was suffering, not just me. Mainly, because I would forget things all the time brain was so tired. Great post! Thank you for sharing this. It's comforting to know that others have similar experiences, and we can help each other through them.

  40. Elise,

    YES. Let me just say YES. I get this. And I'm just *barely* starting to pull myself out of my funk. Gosh, I read your posts and they just speak right to my heart. You're amazing!!!

  41. Guilty. And like an idiot, I wasn't even drawing the line between the dots when I read this. I got this really great like five hour sleep nights...just until I get things caught up. What's happened is it takes me four cups of coffee (or tea) until I feel like I'm not going to drop my head on my key board, can't find my danged keys because I leave stuff all over the place. And my butt...well, I've already whined about my butt. Maybe I will go back to sleeping.

  42. Hmmm....more sleep might be a factor in my writing, as well. I usually only get between 5-6 hours a night, but I sometimes nap during the day.

    It reminds me of that old Seinfeld episode where Kramer decides to sleep like DaVinci did and totally screwed up his sleep cycle :)

    Glad to see you're making marked improvements and keep at it!

  43. That was an awesome post :) and yes! sleep is important, as someone who has worked the graveyard shift for years, I'm enjoying my time off of work right now to catch up on some. Good to be in the loop again with you!

  44. I needed to make more time, so I started getting up earlier. I love it. Of course I go to bed earlier, too, usually not past ten at the latest. I feel exhausted on those nights I make it to midnight. And sometimes I take a quick nap.

    I like the mornings because everyone else is asleep. Everyone is always awake and active in the night, and I spend that time with them.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

  45. I've struggled with insomnia at times and I can so relate to the fatigue you discuss here. A good night's sleep can be such a gift!
    I'm glad you've got your schedule back on track and are feeling better. I'm sure the muse will be back soon. Although maybe he ran off with mine and they are having fun together. Mine has been MIA for months now.

    Enjoy your weekend, Elise!

  46. Sorry you had to suffer so much before you learned your lesson. Though I often don't get enough sleep, I know I get more and more useless without "catching up," so to speak. Good for you for sharing this trial so others hopefully won't go to the same or worse.

    Love the idea of your muse! Maybe I need to find one like that - well, the real thing, un-imaginary muse-type, would be better. :) Writer’s Mark

  47. Hi Elise,

    I suppose you realise that I can relate to a vast amount of your posting. A regular sleep pattern and a decent, deep sleep, is of course, vital to your well being. Your well being, both physical and mental.

    A balance can be difficult to achieve and I do struggle with that. I do however know that cultivating healthy thinking and behaviour are conducive to a better lifestyle. Your focus is beginning to return. You know that to maintain that passion, your dreams, your hopes in your writing endeavours, can only be realised by keeping up that positive momentum.

    Keep going, Elise. I'm very proud of you.

    Your friend,

    Gary :)

  48. Glad your dreams came back! We can become all too focused on getting our writing time no matter what - and that can impact on all sorts of other areas if we let it, family, social, and sleep. Good luck with finding that elusive balance (and for the record, I've never read a post from you that was in any way crappy:)).

  49. We've got to take care of ourselves -- we are, after all, the wellspring of our work. I'm going to take a nap -- once I get caught up on this week's blog comments...

  50. Glad to hear you've gotten yourself back on schedule and it's working for you. ^_^ And if nothing else, I understand the fickle nature of muses; it's part of where my blog's title came from. Heh!

  51. I know what you mean. My creativity goes out the window when I'm exhausted. I also try to get at least six hours of sleep in, and then I always make a point to sleep in at least once on weekends.

  52. what a fabulous post ... glad you're getting back on track and have started dreaming again :)

  53. Oh, I totally relate to this post! But we do have to stop and make changes.

  54. I work in the optical industry (I work for Essilor!), and I've been studying a lot about blue light. Blue light is emitted from all kinds of stuff including florescent bulbs and anything with an LED screen. So that includes laptop computer screens, smart phones, iPads, tablets, etc. Blue light interferes with the brain's ability to produce melatonin. Even though I look goofy, I now wear yellow tinted glasses when using the computer at night. It's really helped my eye strain and my sleep!

  55. You gotta listen to your body! When I was working at my old job, all those things were happening to me as well. It's such a horrible thing to want to write and just NOT be able to. :/

  56. I'm too weak to deprive myself of sleep, LOL! I did it when my daughter was young (she had heart problems and I was afraid to sleep) out of necessity for about 5 years. What I'm doing now between the M-F job and working all weekend on my writing stuff probably isn't any better. As you say, "le sigh."

  57. Been there and had my ass kicked, Elise. It takes longer to get your system back into shape then it did to hijack it. A long frustrating time .

    There's a constant trickle of energy fed to the your body's well. But it's a trickle. When you're taking care of yourself the trickle is fine and adds to your overall well being. But when you demand more from your body than resources available, it moves to shut down unnecessary systems to fund those systems that must have the energy to function. Once you've exhausted your energy pool, it take a long time to fill it again and you have to ration it your activities until it's full again. Guess what? Your mind remembers the drought and cringes when it considers doing something. I've learned to listen.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  58. a powerful post. It really is amazing how a simple thing such as proper sleep can affect all aspects of our lives. Glad you are getting back to the swing of things. I need to get back into writing too!

  59. I hear ya! I do the same thing but not as late as you. I'm a 12-1am girl but only when I revise. But I think after what you said, I will be cautious!! And I would LOVE to be your new muse or running buddy!!


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