When I used to dream about what I wanted to do as an adult, “go to bed every night at the same time and get up at the same time every morning” was not on the list.
What was on the list? Writing fiction, traveling the world, being a famous musician … well, two out of three ain’t bad.
I bring this up because I have realized something about writing and discipline and making the most of fertile periods. Some people can work on their novel for an hour or two every day, and do their best work within the confines of that regimen. Maybe I’ll be one of those people someday, but these days, the time and mental space to write comes in waves and when I’m on a writing roll my sleep gets completely wonky.
I used to worry about this, then one day I realized that while I have long yearned to be a successful novelist, I have never harbored a dream to have perfectly regulated sleep. And, I am pretty sure that at the end of my life, whenever it comes, I will not be kicking myself for not having maintained a more regular schedule.
My approach has its downsides – during past NaNoWriMo months I would stay up until the wee hours night after night, woozy on words, unwilling to stop until I hit my allotted count for the day, feeling that slight nausea that comes with overindulgence of any type. The same thing happens now that I am a year-round writer: if I decide to set time aside to write then find myself on a roll, I don’t want to end it prematurely, so I keep going, whether I have morning meetings or not, knowing that they don’t care a bit about my late-night word parties.
But I can live with the downside because of the upside. I am writing. I’m not just thinking about writing, or telling people that I want to write a book someday, or trying to convince myself that I have a book in me while rationalizing the fact that it doesn’t seem to be coming out. No, I’m writing, not daily, but often and substantially enough that I can honestly call myself a writer. And, I am working towards a lifelong dream, ensuring I won’t be on my deathbed, congratulating myself on my clockwork sleep schedule, while kicking myself for the words I never committed to paper.