The battle of sleep and creating

Sleep is great. I need it as much as the next person. The thing is, I don’t really want to sleep. Think about all the fun stuff you could do instead of sleeping. I could learn to speak Italian, write a sci-fi novel, maybe make my own pasta. Ok, I’ll likely never make my own pasta because cooking is boring, but you get the picture - you could get a lot of things done during eight hours if sleep wasn’t a prerequisite for being a functional human. 

So, before going to sleep, I read for a while. It’s a way of tricking myself to stop thinking about all the things I want to do and, well, calm the fork down. When I start feeling sleepy, I put my Kindle away and try to think about something positive that will not make me too excited about the future, because then sleep is out of the question for hours.

Lately, I’ve become more aware of how the process feels when I’m about to fall asleep. Even when I'm tired to the brink of exhaustion, I sometimes notice this intense urge to move, anything to stay awake. If I can control my mind enough, not move or get caught up the thoughts it triggers, then I relax into the sensation and fall asleep fairly quickly. 

Which brings me to the point of why I’m sharing this - I have a similar experience with writing. I’m currently working on a project I've committed to in a way I haven't before. To not make progress is simply not an option. 

Getting words out is easy enough, but making them sing, creating that rhythm, that I can only manage when I get into the flow. And the process of getting into that flow, that elusive state of mind, is a constant challenge. As anyone doing something creative will testify.

So. I sit down. I write my words, to get into it. After a while I’ll usually feel that sensation creeping up, similar to the when I’m about to fall asleep. An urge to move. 

“I’ve been here for an hour, I should take a walk, clear my head.”
“Maybe it’s time for some coffee now, I haven’t had any in like five minutes.”
“Did my phone blink? No? Well, maybe I have some notification if I open every app I could possibly think of, over and over again for five hours.”

But, if I just can sit with this for a little while longer, not listen to that little voice of sabotage, flow often waits on the other side. That panic is a signal I’m getting close to the juicy stuff, the stuff that matters. 

I don’t know what the end result will look like. I don’t know if it'll be good or if anyone will care. But just being able to create and, as Steven Pressfield would put it, “Beat the Resistance”, it’s a victory in itself.

The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.
— Steven Pressfield - War of Art