Posts Tagged 'flash fiction'

Insomnia and Creativity and Neuroatypy

I haven’t slept since yesterday afternoon. Before that, I slept for two hours, from 2:00 AM to 4:00 AM. Before that, I slept from . . . well, I can’t remember. I can’t keep track of which days are which anymore, even worse than normal, because if I don’t sleep on Sunday until 6:00 AM Monday, does that count for Sunday’s sleep or Monday’s?

I’ve had a range of sleep disorders since I first was chemically injured in 1995. In fact, when I was falling ill, I remember having terrible nightmares, every night, and I didn’t know why. Then, as the CFIDS/ME and MCS got worse, I slept less and less until I was sleeping literally no hours per night. Thank god, a doctor gave me Elavil and that worked.

Over time, I had to raise the dose, but it helped a lot with sleep and with body pain, as I discovered the few times I had to go off it. And I’ve added other things that help a little. And I’ve tried everything that’s been available for sleep and most of them, I have one of two reactions: 1.  No reaction. As if I’ve taken a sip of water. I can take twice the normal dose and feel nothing. I’m wide awake!  2. A paradoxical reaction. This is when you take, for example, Valium, and your body’s response is shaking, sweating, anxiety, racing thoughts, pounding heart. Well, you get the picture. Not sleep-inducing.

I’ve been on a vampire-ish schedule for many years. It’s common in people with CFIDS/ME — we don’t “do” morning. But after getting chronic Lyme disease and coinfections, it’s gotten worse and worse. Lately, my body seems to have written a contract which I don’t remember signing that if I fall asleep before 5:00 AM, I will sleep, at most two or three hours, and then I will be awake for another twenty-two or so.

Sadly, the less sleep I get, the more pain I’m in. The more pain I’m in, the more exhausted. The more exhausted, the more shaky, mobility-impaired, voice-impaired I am. And all this isn’t even touching on the cognitive impairment: the brain damage from the carbon monoxide poisoning. The brain and neurological damage from Lyme and babesia and Bartonella. These days, I can’t read. Not only can I not read books, I can’t even read long emails. I can’t remember words I used to know. I keep wanting — desperately, desperately wanting — to blog about how torturous it is to be a writer who is brain injured and can’t read and can’t even explain why I can’t read. Can’t explain why my cognitive impairment has gotten so much worse. For a year, I’ve started draft posts here and at my writing blog, about my cognitive impairment and how it affects my writing, and I never finish them.

And what makes the level of illness and dysfunction and cognitive impairment I’ve been dealing with even worse is that I now have the desire to write again, to be creative again, which Lyme stole from me for a few  years, but I can’t access my creativity. That spark. The place where leaps happen in poetry or fiction. In world-building. In taking risks.

Instead, I follow this bludgeoning, insistent mundanity, of persuasive arguments about disability rights or descriptions of training regimes — essentially, “What I did (with Barnum) today.” And I wonder where the other part of me has gone, and if it will come back.

One thing I have noticed: Often, when I do my best writing — my most risk-taking, creative writing — is when I am really sick, and often in the middle of the night. But it’s a certain kind of sick. Like, a certain migraine state, if I can write through it, can produce good work. A certain level of disconnection from my body required by, or a result of, pain and exhaustion and cognitive strangeness.

These are usually short pieces, because I’m too sick to write anything long, and if I do attempt something long and don’t finish it, when I go back to work on it in my “normal state,” I can’t recapture the spark. It just sits there, unfinished. I have possibly hundreds of such pieces.

But, if I’m too sick — if I’m really, really sick — I can’t write at all, and I don’t want to write at all. I have no creativity. I don’t care about anything except the amount of pain I’m in and just trying to do as little as possible — not to breathe or swallow or shift in bed — to get through it. I have no leaping thoughts. I have no desire.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read a great article in Scientific American called The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People Are Eccentric. I’ve never considered myself exceptionally creative nor exceptionally eccentric. I think I’d score above average on creativity and possibly a bit on eccentricity, but nothing like the examples they gave. However, most of the focus of their research was that the connection between creativity and eccentricity is people who tend not to filter out a lot of sensory stimuli and other information that we mostly consider “background noise.”

To me, this fit with the state I’m in sometimes when I’m sick enough — especially when something neurological is going on, like a migraine, which is believed to be a form of slow seizure, that that shifts my thinking. And it fits why I haven’t been having these spells of creativity — because now, when I’m sick, I’m too sick to write. And my brain is too impaired most of the time to have that plasticity to leap when there are opportunities. It’s filtering out too much. Not just what normal brains filter out, but additional stuff — words, memories, concepts.

And then, the bout of really extensive insomnia. It’s coming up on 24 hours since I’ve slept. And I entered two flash fiction contests today. I haven’t done any creative writing for many months, and now, when I literally almost fell over, because my legs gave out when I was transferring from chair to bed, because my muscles are so shaky from exhaustion, I could slip into that place where I could let go, and my thoughts took me places.

Are they GOOD places? Is the writing interesting or worthwhile or actually creative? I have no idea. I’m too exhausted to have any clue. But I did it, and that’s something. And it will probably have to be something I remember for a good, long while, because when I crash at the bottom of this crash, it’s going to be a severe, severe crash. I can feel it in the way  my body is locking up. So I have a certain desperation to get this post out before it does.

If you want to read what I wrote today, I entered the #TuesdayTales contest at GlitterWord, over which you have no control of the outcome. And I entered my original and favorite, #FiveMinuteFiction — and I’m a finalist! So, you can actually vote for me, if you want to.

And now I will go to sleep. I don’t know when you’ll hear from me again, but maybe there’ll be a leap somewhere between here and there.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT extraordinaire

I’m a Finalist! Please Vote! (& My New Blog Is Up!)

This is cross-posted from my new blog, Bed, Body & Beyond. This gives you a chance to check it out, sign up to follow or subscribe (hint, hint), and see what I do when I’m not training my dog or wrangling with disability-related life issues. Enjoy!

* * *

Hello to my friends and readers from After Gadget! Thank you for following me here. And welcome to those who are “meeting” me for the first time. Here’s my first official post at my writing-and-non-dog blog!

I discovered a fabulous blog a few days ago, Write Me! which hosts the #5MinuteFiction contest. The deal is that every week, blogger Leah Petersen puts up a prompt at 1:30 PM Eastern Time, and then you have until 1:45 PM to write a short story and post it as a comment!

As soon as I read past contests, I knew I wanted to enter the next one, but the chances of me waking up in time, being functional, and being able to do anything fast, were extremely slim. However, I’ve been getting a lot of pats on the back as a writer in the last few weeks, which has given me additional confidence. So, why the hell not try?

I woke up at 1 PM today, of course completely forgetting that it was Tuesday. I was in a fair amount of pain and just lying in bed trying to decide what I was capable of, when I clicked my Twitter tab and saw the reminder for the contest.

What does a chronically ill writer do to get prepared for a writing contest in less than half an hour?

  • Pee! I just knew as soon as the contest started, I’d have to pee, so I got that out of the way. Then I was in more pain and exhaustion, but some things cannot be avoided.
  • Find my keyboard, mouse, lap desk, and clipboard. I use my clipboard as my mouse pad. It had fallen off my bed during the night. Searching and finding it was another time-and-energy drain.
  • Arrange pillows for maximum comfort and functionality (arm bolstering).
  • Ignore the ringing telephone. (That reminds me — gotta check my voicemail!)
  • Hope like hell that my computer and internet connection cooperate.

By the time I did all that, it was 1:31! I looked at the prompt and tried to “multitask” by thinking about what I wanted to write while I filled in my name, email, and blog address.

I actually used a fair amount of time dithering about which blog address to give. I decided to give this one, my new writing one, even though I didn’t have any content yet. Hell, I don’t even have my widgets and links and such set up. It’s just soooo unlike me to not get all my ducks in a row before going public. But this is part of my new strategy of believing I will actually accomplish the things I want to accomplish. Blogging with the confidence that eventually, I’ll have the rest of this site looking how I want.

Of course, if I’d had more than 10 minutes to write, I’d have revised, cut, tightened, proofed, and otherwise tweaked the story. But much like videotaping my dog-training sessions, seeing what I wrote after that thinking-on-your-feet burst has already helped me to see what I like about what I wrote, and what I don’t like. (Guess which one wins out?) Yes, there’s a lot I wish I’d done differently, what I want to do better next time.

Oh yes, there will be a next time. I’m hooked. I’m pretty sure that this weekly contest, when I’m able to participate, will make me a better writer, especially of, as Anne Lamott says, “Shitty first drafts.”

Anyway, I’m one of the five finalists out of 30-something stories, I think. (I can’t remember how many there were.)

What does a chronically ill writer do after she has finished the writing contest? Take her pain medication and try to get the word out about being a finalist! These two activities turn out to be a bad match, today. I thought I’d had enough breakfast before taking my meds, but apparently not, because I’m all fuzzy-headed now. I hope this post makes sense!

The winner is announced tomorrow at 9:00 AM Eastern Time, so please go to Write Me! and read the Week 64 Finalists, and vote! Obviously, I’d like it if you voted for me, but really you should vote for the story you think deserves to win.

This is a fun way to start my writing blog.

P.S. Please spread the word about the contest and voting, and about my new blog!

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