Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Big Yawn

It’s cold outside. And snowy. It’s Sunday. My daughter’s going through her umpteenth recent growth spurt. My son has another day off school. My eldest hasn’t texted me in two days. My truck needs a good wash. My MAC lipstick better be in stock soon. I need about six hours on the treadmill.

So how do all these disparate details connect?

These are the things I noticed when I came off deadline and finally got some sleep last week. It felt a little like waking up in the morning and pulling back the curtains. Till then, yes, you know it’s morning, and yes, you know the street is probably quiet, which cars are usually parked there, what season it is, etc.

But once the obstruction is removed and you can actually see outside, well, then you notice that the people across the street got a new car, the trash collector left your recycle bin unemptied and, based on the car in the driveway, the girl next door seems to have a new boyfriend. That’s how I feel today: like welcome back to the world!

I remember reading once that Will Smith said his first marriage fell apart while he was making Six Degrees of Separation. He talked about being so into his role that the movie consumed him. He also said he learned from that experience about acting, family, priorities.

Well, I don’t have the option (or desire) to completely ignore my family while I’m working on a book, but I can pretty much tune out every thing else. That would include my body’s need for nighttime rest. I’ll admit that the most sleep I’ve had in the last two years was this past Christmas when I had the flu for four days.

Ask yourself (I do): Does Toni Morrison sleep? Does Stephen King sleep? What about L.A. Banks or Tanarive Due? How long? How often? Do they sleep better now with some measure of success behind them than they did in their early years of hammering out manuscripts and soliciting sales?

I know I shouldn’t, but I do consider seven or eight hours of lying down doing nothing to be a luxury. Never mind a friend who told me that you’re supposed to protect sleep the way you guard your health. Or the studies (and I always read them out of guilt) that link lack of sleep to difficulty losing weight, propensity for diabetes and just plain falling asleep all day. I feel like sleep is the sacrifice – not pounding the keyboard until 2 or 3 a.m.

Producing pages = realizing my dream.

Thus it was with my latest project. I was asked to turn around 25,000 – 30,000 words in about five-six weeks. That’s quick for me when I factor in a full-time job, kids/family, holiday hassles. But I wasn’t about to say no. I had a proposal for another project that I was wrapping up and was determined to get that out of my hair first. Polishing and perfecting that other piece ate up about 10 days. Then I dived in.

Me being me, I divided the challenge into bite-sized goals. One thousand words a day and I’d make deadline with time for self-edits and revisions before mailing the work off.

Okay, so it kind of went according to plan.

When I was a couple thousand words off target just before Christmas, I figured I could make it up – really come close to finishing – while I was on vacation over the holidays. Ha!

So, except for those four critical days I spent in influenza’s fever-induced haze, I was kicking butt and taking names. But I had to push into overdrive once I was well. Which meant back to four hours of sleep at night and carrying my laptop from room to room at home to write something at any available opportunity.

Five nights ago, I finished – revisions and all. At 4:12 a.m. Then there were the perfunctory details like a cover letter and mailing prep. Anyhoo, I went to bed around 4:45. And got up at 7:30 for work when my husband came in the room and said, "Hey, it’s late!" Ugh.

That goes down as my worst non-sleeping offense. My family, in the meantime, has shown the utmost patience with my dream. They seem to understand -- though during weeks like these I think I push the empathy envelope pretty far. I try to find ways to make up for my tunnel vision between projects and hope the attention I give them has a halo effect – that they forget mommy was ever bad.

Maybe if I didn’t function so well while sleep deprived, I wouldn’t do the whole non-sleep thing. But, honestly, I think that even without a day job, husband and kids, I’d spend that much more time writing – but I still wouldn’t sleep.

Nothing beats the feeling of typing THE END.
And starting all over again.
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