I’ve had insomnia two nights in a row…and boy, it really takes it out of me. I don’t know how all those sleep-deprived new mothers handle it; it remains a terror of mine when I imagine parenthood, because to say I’m not at my best without sleep is to understate the situation rather dramatically. What was stealing my slumber this time? Oh, I don’t know…it may well have been election excitement on Wednesday night – sometimes my mind whirs so that I can very nearly hear it – and last night, well, that’s anyone’s guess.
In the early hours of this morning, I was lying there going over and over my manuscript. The things that need to be jettisoned. The characters that no longer fit. The links that aren’t yet properly established. The relationships that need to be altered, finessed, or excised. I thought about a mass word slaughter, of just going in there, guns or at least DELETE key blazing, and ripping out whole chunks of text that might be weighing me down, holding me back, slowing my progress. I know they’re in there. I just need to start systematically smokin’ them out. I hacked off one page yesterday I’ve always quite liked. A version of this page has appeared in every single draft of the MS so far. But now it’s gone. I’ve lobbed it off and it wasn’t that hard, in the end, getting rid of it. Brutality becomes easier. I wonder if this is what happens to psychopaths. Maybe they just become so accustomed to violence that after a while, they’re completely desensitised to the horror. It’s probably a peculiar parallel for me to draw, but I’m telling you, I’m no good without sleep.
I almost got up and started working on the MS once it became clear that sleep would not come. I should have, I think, but I didn’t, and I never do, because it feels like giving in to the insomnia if I stop trying to beat it. I tell myself that as long as I’m where I should be, with my eyes closed, trying to empty my mind, then it hasn’t won. I’m still in the fight. In the dead of night, I should be dreaming, not sitting at my computer hacking the flesh from my text. It seems to me a dangerous precedent, and one I’m determined to resist for a little longer. When Llew was away, I did sit up late one night working on it, and I found it to be a wonderful witching hour, very productive and clear, but staying up too late is not at all the same thing as getting up far too early. One is a choice; the other is a sentence.
I wish insomnia had never found me. I preferred life without it. But now that it’s here I have to find a way to make it work for me, and I guess using the time to edit the MS in my mind is not a bad start. It’s a vast improvement on the early days, which were among the darkest of my life. During that terrible period of mourning, and the graphic, visceral horror that words just cannot describe as I tried to come to terms with my niece’s death, I honestly thought I’d never sleep through a night again. In some ways, I didn’t want to sleep, because when sleep came, so too did the blackest nightmares. It was awful. And I’ve suffered intermittently from insomnia ever since. I accept that it is now a permanent part of the fabric of my mind. Something opened back then that cannot be closed, and now my stress triggers burrow down, down, down into these subterranean recesses, and there they take hold, and occasionally flourish. And that’s when I don’t sleep. I don’t sleep, I don’t dream, I don’t doze. I lie awake, and watch my little series of stress triggers climb out of their rabbit hole, one by one, gathering about the edge of my bed, sniffing the cool morning air.