Sleep, Writing and Torpor

cuckoo bee at rest

Humans have no way to determine if insects sleep as we do, but they certainly rest, and we call that rest “torpor.” My question is, do writers sleep? If I had to answer that, over the last few weeks the answer would be a resounding “No!” Or at least, a “I sleep really poorly.”  It all started when I was writing a short story, and feeling the momentum carry me, I pushed and pushed through the early morning hours until I completed my draft. It was quite rewarding, as those moments can be, but before I went to bed I noted the time, a little past 5 a.m., and I knew I was in for some trouble. I just didn’t know I would be in such a terrible pattern for so long. Even when I’ve managed to power through my own special “torpor” of a day without sleep, after I have hit the hay at a good hour, I am awake four, three, or two hours later. It is dark out, the world is asleep, and my only explanation is maybe I was a moth in a different time or place (at least it is the only one I will consider in my current state of sleeplessness).

There is an odd byproduct of this erratic insomnia for me: I am awake and rested at one of, if not my most, productive writing times. I tend to focus, think and write most clearly during the late, lonely hours. I swear at times the air is clearer and my head is lighter, as if it were a radio station transmitting during a favorable state in the ionosphere; I can hear my own thoughts without any static. The quiet stillness of the night can be sad, inspiring, beautiful or terrifying; possibilities both good and bad seem to flow more freely. And so it was this morning, riding the crest of the quiet hours, that I finished writing a different story. I did lose steam toward the end, the dryness in my eyes and the ache in my lower back telling me I was crashing. They are actually still telling me that as I type this, but I’m hoping to push through again. I always have come around (eventually) to good sleep; I’m not seriously afflicted like many unfortunate people. So now is the time to hang on steadfastly. Maybe like the cuckoo bee pictured above; perhaps my torpor will be more insect-like, at least a prelude to rest, and not in vain this time.

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