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  • Writer's pictureRobert Lynch

Take it to the limit

*This was written before the recent virus disruption, for reasons that will become obvious there was a delay in publishing*

This last week has been an exercise in discovery. I found out just how tired I can be before my brain turns into mush.

After two years of permanent nights, I decided that I needed to prioritise socialising this year. This week on Friday, I finished work in the morning, slept a couple of hours then got up and made myself look pretty (A gargantuan task), then went out for dinner. Saturday I had footy starting at 10:45, so I squeezed in a couple of hours sleep beforehand, and after went home and took a short nap. Then I had an engagement party to go to Saturday night; it was also the end of the cricket minor round, so I had a couple of beers with the cricket boys until 3 am. Knowing I needed to work Sunday night, I tried to stay up so I could sleep closer to work. Instead, I went to sleep for a couple hours, then stayed awake for a while, then had another nap before work. By the time I got home Monday, I had a short nap, then got up because I had to go to a funeral.

Between getting up Thursday 5 pm and going to bed Tuesday 10 am, I did not sleep for more than 4 hours in a single stint.

When I was studying, I implemented the Pomodoro Technique, where you study for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, repeat for 2 hours then take a longer break. I found that my knowledge retention increased and my grades went up. After a while, I got to feel the threshold when I stopped paying attention and used breaks efficiently to let my brain recharge.

Similarly with writing, I frequently take short breaks to restore the creative juices. I certainly know academically that less sleep affects the creative process, but it’s never been so apparent as it was this weekend. I wrote less than a thousand words in 4 days. And have spent this week catching up on lost time. The point where I was zonked was before I even sat down to write, and as a result, everything was hard and I mostly wrote gibberish.

Learning to use breaks to increase my productivity took a long time when I was studying, and that analytical work is a different thought process to the creative thinking I’m doing when I write. Yet they have a lot in common.

Just like when I had time pressure from assignment deadlines, my writing now is hurt by trying to force it. There is a fine line between knowing when quality is being hurt and falling into the trap that many amateur writers fall into – writing when the muse moves you.

More than any other week since I started writing regularly in 2019, have I felt that point when it was time to stop writing and get some sleep. I felt pretty shitty for the whole experience, but at least I will be better able to identify that feeling in the future.

As for the mountain that is my long term goal, I didn’t get my base content done last week, but I did get one of the larger jobs ticked off. All of the flash fiction pages now have a previous and next link to pages around them. A small thing, but hopefully it will help my bounce rate. Basically, I did a day’s hike, but I forgot to wear shoes. This week I have to go back, lace-up, and get back out there.


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