by Janis Patterson
There are those nights. You know the kind I mean, the nights you just can’t sleep. Nothing’s wrong – the house is a comfortable temperature, the covers aren’t too heavy, you aren’t worried about anything, your spouse isn’t snoring any more than usual – but you just can’t sleep. You don’t have any of those nasty little aches and pains that don’t seem to appear anytime except when you go to bed, you haven’t had anything with caffeine since that Dr. Pepper with lunch many hours ago, you’ve done the nightly lock-and-alarm routine just like always – but you just can’t sleep. There isn’t even a noisy party in the neighborhood.
But you just can’t sleep.
The Husband is an ideal sleeper. After we go to bed it’s kiss-kiss, breathe-breathe, snore-snore and he’s out like the proverbial light. I have always had a much more difficult time going to sleep, perhaps because I have regarded sleep as a waste of time. My late mother always loved to sleep and said with much regret that after the age of three months I never took a nap. For years I took that as a point of pride, but as I get (much) older, I begin to sympathize with her. Naps can be wonderful, invigorating things. They can always refresh and revitalize – especially when you’re trying to work through a particularly knotty plot problem. However, I had not taken a nap that day, nor for several days previously.
So the writer-me took over. Sometimes when this happens I simply get up and get back to work, but not this night. I was too physically tired. So while I lay there in perfect Sleep-Number comfort, I decided to think, which is as we all know the hardest part of writing.
Except it didn’t work. My characters just wouldn’t behave. I guess I drifted close enough to sleep to shut down my brain-control, but not enough to really be asleep, and the darker side of my imagination got the upper hand. Oh, the things those characters did! They morphed into completely different creatures (and I use that word advisedly, as some were most definitely not human) and ran riot through my poor, sodden brain.
Sometimes that can be a good thing. You can get a fresh perspective, an idea of new plot twists or even completely new plots. Sometimes it is not a good thing. Sometimes I find it frightening what is lurking in the dark corners of my supposedly civilized brain. (And The Husband wonders why I find TV boring…)
Needless to say I didn’t get any work done last night. Neither did I get any sleep. Now I have to drag my protesting body down to the local internet café to get this scheduled for tomorrow, as for reasons too personal and too complicated to go into we have not had the internet in our home for the last month. (Never marry an overly-analytical man, ladies. It can get ugly.) It is terrifying, though, how quickly we can become dependent on technology. I wrote my first books on an ancient manual typewriter. When I needed information, I looked it up in a book, because that was the only way to find it. Just the thought of that now is enough to give me nightmares, which might not be too bad a thing – at least then I would be asleep!