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Insomnia Blogging: Shut Up, Brain

This insomnia is killing me.

It's not the kind of insomnia where you never fall asleep and you just stay awake all the time, struggling to shut your brain down. Been there, done that. It's great weight loss program, by the way. Downside: Also a mind loss program.

What I'm going through now is a different sort of insomnia. I have no problem getting into bed and passing out. This usually happens at about 10:30, when my eyes roll in back of my head as I'm trying to focus on whatever book I'm reading. My husband will come in at about 11:00 to shut the light and pry the book out of my dead hands.

And then midnight comes. I bolt awake. WIDE awake. Laying there-staring at the clock-hearing every sound awake. I count, I sing to myself, I do some meditative breathing. Nothing. I. Am. Awake. I don't get up out of bed, because that would be giving in to it. I toss and turn struggle to get back to sleep. And maybe I do, for twenty minutes or so. And then I'm awake again and now my brain is on full speed and here comes the thinking, and a conversation with myself:

Brain: Do we have enough money to pay the bills this month?
Me: Yes, yes we do, so go back to sleep.
Brain: Did you turn the sprinklers off?
Me: Yes, you did.
Brain: Front door locked?
Me: Yep.
Brain: OH! Do you have something ready to wear to work tomorrow?
Me: YES, god damn it. Now go back to sleep.

Here, my brain becomes my enemy. Because just as I'm about to drift off into sleep again it decides to tap me on the shoulder, softly, like a child waking a parent up in the middle of the night to announce he's peed the bed.

Brain: Ummm....Michele?
Me: WHAT? What do you want NOW?
Brain: Just want to remind you your birthday is next month. 43.
Me: Yea, ok. Whatever.
Brain: 43. How's that writing career coming?

Did you see that Family Guy episode where Stewie asks Brian about his novel?

Stewie: How you uh, how you comin' on that novel you're working on? Huh? Gotta a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Gotta, gotta nice litte story you're working on there? Your big novel you've been working on for 3 years? Huh?

It goes on like that for a bit. That's what my brain does to me at night. It is the Stewie to my Brian.

Anyhow, 3am comes and my brain is still talking to me.

Brain: Uhh.. I know you have to get up in two hours, but I just wanted to know: When can we expect something great of you? When do you think we'll live up to people's expectations?
Me: Oh..how about...NEVER? Now please, I have to get some sleep.
Brain: Ok, I was just wondering. Because I was thinking that, you know, you're in the second half of your life now and, well, here's a thought: What if this is what you were meant to do with what you have?
Me: What? Meant to do what?
Brain: What if if this is it? Writing on a weblog. Putting your thoughts down on the internet every day. What if this IS it, if this is as far as your writing career ever goes, this being a BLOGGER?

I hate my brain.

The clock blinks to 4:59. I click the button before the alarm can go off. I get up, make coffee, turn on the computer and figure out what to write in the blog.

Maybe if I just accept it, I'll finally get some sleep.


Would it be so bad, knowing you connect directly with an audience that loves what you do and you've put two good kids into the world?

You're accomplished, michele. You're accomplished.

I do appreciate that, Jim. But my brain is ragging on me for never becoming an accomplished writer.

I think your writing's pretty great.

First, define accomplished writer. I see an archive going back to May of 2000, that is a pretty good writing accomplishment.

Secondly, being in the "second half" of your life DOES NOT mean your life is in decline. It DOES mean you are experienced to give an alternative view of life.

Lastly, when your brain wakes you up in the middle of the night, give in. Get up, go to wherever you write and do some. You will either have a revelation by sunrise or be back asleep within an hour. DO NOT BLOG!


I am a Science Fiction reader. I love "future" novels where something we consider insignificant has been raised to the level of AWE. I fully expect that you will be considered one of the founding bloggers of the future.

Jim, at this point of my life I've been writing for a full 30 years and I would consider accomplished as: published. Yes, PAID writing. And most of the reason I'm not is a fault of my own, I'm not laying the blame on anyone but me.

Writing in the middle of the night sounds like a great idea, but I really prefer to get some sleep so I can function at work the next day, as I have a full time career kind of thing to tend to.

I think where you and I differ on this is the fact that I don't want to be remembered as a blogger. No offense to anyone, but then I don't think that's how anyone wants to be remembered.

I cannot relate to this at all. I enjoy the placid detachment of someone who has become snug in his rut. My internal conversation is more along the lines of:

Brain: Heh. Yankees lost again.
Me: OK, let's go to bed.
Stomach: Wait, I want some leftover steak.
Me: Oh, alright, if it will shut you up.
Mouth: mmmmdgbgh chomp mmmdghbdg
Libido: Hey I know a good way to help you sleep! We can just-
Dick: NO! We've done that enough today!
Hands: No doubt.
Skin: Aaaahhh, clean sheets.
Me: Zzzzzzzzzz

I hit post instead of preview. I was going to mention the scene in "Demolition Man": The Schwarzenegger Library isn't as funny an idea today as it was in 1993

Nope. Can't relate. Sorry.

Brain: So, um, how many songs ya write today?
Me: I'm working on it!
Brain: Gotta big, uh, big mess of papers there...carrying a tune in your head or what?
Me: I would be if you'd shut the hell up!
Brain: Oh. Ok, 'cuz you're like 43. How many rock stars start out at 43 again?
Me: Bite me.

So are we all 43 or what? Maybe this blog should be named The Class of 1980.

you and I have EXACTLY the same type of insomnia. I've written many a good song after waking up at 3:30 . However, it was killing my body.

Meet your personal savior

Keep in mind I don't believe in solving all problems through medication (heck, I quit anti-depressants against my doctor's wishes). But this stuff really is a "miracle" drug. It only lasts about 4 hours - it's MADE for people who wake up and can't go back to sleep because they can't turn their brains off.

3am sex also does the trick, but I think that's a guy thing.

Awesome. Laughing, laughing.

Whatever becomes of your writing, I'll always be grateful that you shared with the blogosphere.

I don't get up out of bed, because that would be giving in to it.
I think this is your problem. I know, I've been there. Get out of bed go into another room turn on the light, read or knit or whatever and clear your head of those thoughts and realize they are not the weighty matters your groggy mind thinks they are. Once the grog clears you will be ready to go to sleep. It works for me. Don't take any drugs until you try this.

michele, I think you have make a decision. If it means we lose you as a blogger...well, that frigging SUCKS, but I would totally understand.

You have limited time. How are you going to spend it? That's what it seems to come down to. Spend it writing for publication or spend it writing for the blog. It seems, from what you're saying, that you can't do both and hold a full-time job and be a mom. As awesome as we think you are, no one is that awesome. ;)


Is there soemthing you can do, any little thing, to manage your time better? To get an hour or two to yourself to write whatever it is that is in you that needs to be written? Sometimes if you look at it from another perspective, or better yet get someone to look at it who knows you well...you can see ways to save time here and there.

Whatever you do...I'll look forward to reading it. Blog or book.

Michelle: Effort to emphasis. I had a commander that use to say that before we headed off to our little mock wars. Thing was, he meant it, and he acted the same. If he wanted you to take the hill, and that was the most important thing he needed done, you knew it, because he would put as much effort into making you succeed as he was emphasizing it.

Becoming a successful writer, which you later defined as becoming a paid writer who's been published, sounds like a big ass hill. You probably can't take it in one quick dash, and you're probably going to need some help.

Make time. Give it though. Plot a course, talk it over, work up "the plan." A big thing becomes smaller ones, until you get to the point where you wake up knowing the four or eight tiny things you need to be doing right now to get you closer to some bigger ones and the great big one.

And, when in doubt, call for artillery.

Be happy -- from what I can tell, you've got folks here who are already watching your back. Figure out where to go from here, and I'm sure they'll follow along behind you (maybe just out of curiosity, but I doubt it).

Rock on, sister.

I have insomnia too, but the standard kind. Head hits the pillow, the eyes close, and my mind decides it's time for another episode of "This Is Your Life" starring everyone who's played a role in any personal humiliation I've experienced over the past, oh, ten years or so.

My brain and I do have the occasional blog discussion.

Brain: Psst.
Me: No. Not tonight.
Brain: Your blog sucked.
Me: Leave me alone.
Brain: It's not a crime. Most blogs do.
Me: Yeah.
Brain: But yours especially.
Brain: If you knew, you should have made it better.
Me: I'm not listening.
Brain: Unless, of course, that's the best you're capable of.
Brain: You did. The cliched Photoshop/knee-jerk right-wing invective niche remains unfilled.
Brain: Okay, I can see you're not in the mood for this. I'll stop.
Me: FINE. Thank you.
Brain: Soooo.... Are you on food stamps yet? What's the deal?
Brain: Hey, come on. Look on the bright side. Most guys who look like you would have killed themselves years ago. But you just keep on truckin'!

Usually takes me about three hours to fall asleep.

Michelle, you are one of the best writers in the entire blogosphere. I am in awe of your native ability and your skills.

You ARE a writer, ma'am, and you WILL be able to sell your work.

Which reminds me, does anyone know of any good websites and blogs for writers?

michele, I go through exactly the same stuff with my brain, except I'm a scientist by training and my brain keeps goading me about when I'm going to figure out an idea for that Groundbreaking Research Project I was supposed to do sometime in my life.

My brain spends an awful lot of time, late at night, telling me that regardless of the fact that I support my own self financially, I'm a halfway decent teacher, I've published more than a few journal articles, I do volunteer work, give blood regularly, give money away to charities I believe in, have lots of close friends, have a good relationship with my family, that I still suck and nobody loves me because I've not lived up to the insane predictions people were making about me in high school (seriously. I had one of the fellow students back then tell me he expected he'd hear about me in the future when I discovered a cure for cancer).

I think a lot of high-achieving people just have that kind of nag-brain as a personal demon. I try to tell myself that it's better than having a brain that says "Hey, it's ok that you didn't get all the bills paid this month. It's okay you pissed off your boss. Have another beer and watch some Growing Up Gotti"

Have any insomniacs around here read "At Day's Close" by Roger Ekirch? It's a history of night in the West. Apparently people used to go to sleep earlier and wake up for an hour at midnight; then sleep again.

At least, so the reviews say, for instance in the Houston Chronicle. I haven't read this book myself.

Well, I'm up all night on and off, too - but the source of my insomnia is related to back-pain among other things.

Here's something lovely to consider....and I'm only suggesting this because I can't remember how old you are....could you possibly be peri-menopausal? Insomnia is one of the symptoms.