Insomnia – that moment at twenty past two when you abandon all hope of getting back to sleep, go downstairs to put the kettle on and have a think about how to pass the long dark hours.
I generally take my tea back to bed, fold my arms, scowl at the wall opposite and have a bit of a think. I let my mind wander – even more so than usual – and wait to see what turns up. Snatches of dialogue, bits of plot, disconnected fragments of ideas, it all rises to the surface rather like the scum you get when boiling bones.
The big thing is not to panic – or lie, jaw clenched, thinking I must go to sleep, I must go to sleep, over and over again. That really doesn’t work.
I’ve always slept badly. Ten or fifteen years ago I barely slept at all. I don’t remember being particularly bothered by this – although I did learn that falling asleep at half past six in the morning just in time for the alarm to go off at seven really wasn’t a good idea. Thirty minutes’ sleep is much worse than none at all.
I learned to daydream in the dark, working out plots and putting together characters without the slightest idea any of it would ever see the light of day, far less be of interest to anyone else. And then, when I’d designed Hawking Hangar, peopled it with technicians, decided what they’d wear, how they’d behave and so on, I’d get up and go to work. I wasn’t aware of any ill effects of only two or three hours sleep a night – although you might want to check with my colleagues for a more accurate assessment. For all I know I was staggering around like the Living Dead, but owing to sleep deprivation, considerably less amenable.
There was another Attack of the Fifty Foot Insomnia last night. I tell you now, there was a lot of wall scowling at going on at twenty past two this morning. On the other hand, I may have resolved a knotty plot problem in Book 9 – yes, it is coming along, but very slowly. This one’s a difficult book to write. I also clarified the outline for the sequel to White Silence, made some notes for a possible sequel to the sequel of White Silence, had a bit of a think about this year’s Christmas Story, discarded my idea for this year’s Christmas Story, briefly considered a stand-alone contemporary romance, dwelt for a moment on my next Regency novel, and spent some time thinking about the Time Police. It’s only a small bedroom but I think you’ll agree – I pack a lot in. Although now I’ve typed that it does occur to me that some people might get the wrong idea. Shame on you.
Anyway, I’m sitting here, with my umpteenth cup of tea and my writing schedule mapped out for the next four years. My point being that even insomnia can be advantageous. The opportunities to scowl, uninterrupted, at a wall for hours on end during the day are fairly limited.
In a separate but probably related issue – I had my first coffee yesterday. I didn’t mean to – I was seduced by the word ‘chocolate’. I was out for lunch and we were studying the desert menu. The only really chocolatey thing was ‘Three artisanal truffles served with an Americano.’ Having no idea what an American was, but with a vague hope it might be Matt Damon related, I ordered, and found myself confronted with three tiny but delicious chocolates, together with a small jug of the Devil’s Juice or milk as everyone else calls it – and a cup of what I initially took to be engine oil. Turned out an Americano is a coffee. Who knew?
However, not one to avoid a challenge, I closed my eyes and sipped. It wasn’t that bad. A bit weird, but not bad. At the urging of others, I was induced to pour in a drop of milk. Still not bad. I would have preferred ice cream but apparently, that’s not an option for serious coffee drinkers.
So there we go – coffee and insomnia! Could they be connected? You read it here first!