Ever since the first breed of writers slipped out of the waters, our species has displayed a remarkable behaviour that sets us apart from most other mammals. Like the peacock’s feathers or a baboon’s behind, the common writer proudly displays their refusal to sleep as a sign of virility and dominance. Bags-under-the-eyes are flaunted as a badge of honor; a caffeine-enabled display of our selfless dedication to the art. We brag about it on Instagram; declare coffee the saviour of our mortal souls, and low-key pressure others into pursuing that same lifestyle.
Not-sleeping is our social currency. And that’s really, really dumb.
You see, sleep isn’t just a matter of glorious hibernation; it’s the very life blood that trickles down into every other aspect of our existence. It’s what gives us energy to face the day; helps us focus on what we want to achieve, and keeps us from snapping at whichever poor soul inadvertently crosses us. The dark of night lets you process your learnings; process your emotions, and helps you avoid just about every disease under the sun. Sleep is the backbone of our life, and the miracle cure to most of our problems.
Throw that to the wayside, and the house of cards crumbles.
Now sure, it’s wonderful that you got shit done, and we’ll gladly marvel at your discipline when you trade-off a mid-noon snooze for a wonderful burst of productivity. And yes, some of us have day jobs and children and really clingy pet rocks, and nighttime might be the only option we have to work on our masterpiece. And if that’s what you need in order to reach your word count, then I’m in no position to tell you not to. But let’s not pretend it’s in any way glorious. It’s something that we should try very, very hard to avoid.
You may have heard the old adage of working smart, not hard. And sure, that sounds like the print on some curry-stained muscle shirt, but it’s actually very applicable to life as an author. Realistically, few of us have the luxury of dedicating our entire lives to the craft, and so we often have little control over how many hours we get to work on our writing. What we can control, however, is what we do with the hours we’re given; whether we actually put words to paper or merely fail at beating our Solitaire high score. Thirty minutes of focus is far more valuable than two hours of mindless stares — and a lot more comfortable in the long run.
And in that light, being well-rested is just about the most essential thing we can do for ourselves and our writing. It’s a necessity we should defend with tooth and nail, and we should feel proud when we do get our required daily amount of zzz’s. Because when push comes to shove, sleep deprivation isn’t a sign of dedication; it’s shooting yourself in the foot in the dumbest way imaginable.
Did you sleep really well last night? Brag about it in our writer’s group on Facebook.