Problems using the daily writing time? Check your patterns

Things are rarely truly random – we are creatures of habit

I try to see patterns in my life, especially when I do inexplicable things. Things I KNOW will interfere with writing.

I know I need to get to bed by a regular hour. Then I will wake up early enough so that I KNOW there really isn’t much out there on the web of new content I MUST keep up with, and I’m in reasonably good mental shape: I use Freedom to block the web, and then get to work writing, using the early muddle-headedness in writing about writing, or in writing about why I can’t seem to get started on the writing today, and we’re off… and writing, in my safe little internet-blocked writing world.

And the system works its way reasonably quickly to actually working on the work-in-progress, and having something to say, and figuring out where to go next. Working the ‘process’ steps.

But late nights work out badly the next day.

I wake up at the same time – but without having anywhere near enough sleep, and get up and try to function anyway, sensing that sticking to a ‘usual’ time to be up is somehow beneficial, leading eventually to my brain always being up and ready at this time. Or I wake up late, already behind in the day’s work, and unable to block the internet for hours, making myself even later; some work eventually gets done, but the rest of the day – and everything I’m behind on or have to do today – is weighing on my mind, competing fiercely with the writing for my attention, leaving me even more exhausted than usual, and unable to do the OTHER stuff – and so, further behind.

As a sentient being, I try to figure these things out.

Caught: another pesky bad habit

I think I caught another one last night: sometimes, when I can’t get to sleep, it’s because of an excess of ‘good’ stuff happening too late at night.

Intermittently – long-interval intermittent positive reinforcement is THE most powerful form of reinforcement there is – one of the kids will call and, it being late at night, be in a talkative mood. I treasure these calls – can only get them when THEY are in the mood, and would never turn one away. At times they have been extremely necessary for the well-being of the child in question, and I am happy to have been up and available to talk them down off a metaphorical ledge.

But I note these are more and more infrequent, as the kids become more and more adept at handling their own life crises – and they KNOW (I tell them often enough) that if they NEED me, they should call my cell, which is there for that express purpose, and that I do NOT mind being woken, whatever time it is. They need to know there is one person in their life who will do that. Every time. As long as I possibly can. So it shouldn’t keep me up regularly.

Last night the ‘good’ was wonderful: our eldest called (at a very decent time – 9pm our time) from Hawaii, WITH his girlfriend, to tell us he and she have made the most momentous decision in their lives: to choose each other.

After that, and figuring out that they weren’t trying to keep it a secret (thank you, Facebook), I spent some time sending emails to family and close friends who would want to be informed. Still smiling, I am.

Not the problem’s fault

But that does not excuse me from not preparing for the consequences today: back pain kept me up doing stretches, etc., longer than usual, too, which again is not a problem.

My reaction this MORNING is the problem: I didn’t allow for the FACT that mental debris accumulates in my brain from an excess of ANYTHING, including pain and joy, and I needed to take that into account TODAY.

What should I have done? Take my morning pills (B1, a pain pill) immediately, and then GO BACK TO SLEEP. Take FIRST NAP. Do some extra MENTAL DIALYSIS. Because I sure needed it.

I’m railing here not about taking care of special circumstances (including church music yesterday that was extremely difficult, very rewarding, and required a much longer rehearsal and a lot of extra work), but of me not planning in advance and remembering to help my brain-fogged self cope with what I should have known – and now do (let’s see if I can remember next time, which is why I write these things down): that extra stress (good and bad) is going to require extra REST, over and over, until I compensate for the extra load on my system, physical and mental.

My fault: not preparing for the KNOWN consequences

If I had thought about that in advance, I would have realized that I would need the almost-immediate help of lying down for the rests that help me clear my mind AS SOON AS I GOT UP: get up; take pills; drink water; go back to bed.

There was going to be extra junk in the system, and I would also have to compensate for having had less and less-normal sleep, and there was no point in arguing about it.

There is ALWAYS extra junk in the system – and extra brain-fog – after late nights and after days with too much ‘stuff’ in them, good OR bad.

So what DID I do? I argued. With myself.

Arguing about it is what I did this morning: surfing, whining to myself ABOUT surfing, and resetting 20 minute timers over and over (should have used the 5 or 10 minute ones for more regular jolts), and not getting to sleep/rest until I absolutely couldn’t put it off another instant.

Arguing about it with myself just wastes my own time.

I will try to learn – there is always a next time.

I keep trying to refine my management of my own addled self – that’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? And Pride’s Children STILL isn’t writing itself.

How do you manage extraordinary events and late nights? What derails your next day?


9 thoughts on “Problems using the daily writing time? Check your patterns

  1. Catana

    “I know I need to get to bed by a regular hour. Then I will wake up early enough so that I KNOW there really isn’t much out there on the web of new content I MUST keep up with…” Spotlight on my my-bad pattern. If there isn’t much going on on the web, (weekends are worst,) I keep jumping from site to site, hoping something will change. I don’t *use* that time; I fritter it away. Also, I need to get to bed earlier: by 11:00 instead of 11:30 or nearly 12:00, wake up earlier and use the extra time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Oh, dear. I rarely get to bed before 2AM. And I would much rather get up right before first light.

      This may be a temporary state of affairs – I have most of my good talks with the daughter still in residence at those ungodly hours.

      But I’ve always been a night owl type, with probably Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, and it means I’m burning the candle at both ends if I get up, and wasting prime writing time if I don’t.

      You can’t win these things, you know.


    2. Catana

      I’ve given up hope of getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Taking an ibuprofen just before bed helps sometimes, but mainly you’re right. It’s impossible to win.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. serendipitydoit

    We must be thinking along the same lines. I drafted a blog post yesterday about setting priorities and finding time to write but then got distracted. No, the books will not write themselves but what’s the hurry? There are always so many things to do, so many distractions.
    Great news for you and your family. Congratulations. I must try to be more efficient.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      The hurry? I’m scared to death (hehe) something will stop me before I finish – I’m in the final stretch on some pieces, and Life keeps intruding. You younger folk may have forever – I may not.


  3. juliabarrett

    I’ve never minded derailment until recent years. I guess it’s because so many unusual and unexpected events have occurred over the past three years. I’ve felt as if I’ve been taken over – forced to be reactive as opposed to proactive. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
    What I’d like is another ten day wilderness hiking trip or a horseback riding excursion in Iceland or something. That sort of downtime recharges me. Can’t do that right now or for the next 3-6 months depending upon this stupid knee.
    I don’t know, Alicia. Life had been pretty stressful for some time now. Good times too, but, just lots of stuff.
    I do say no more than I used to. 🙂


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      No point in HAVING experiences if I don’t learn from them. 🙂

      Aren’t there some gentler experiences you could still have – with easy swimming instead of hiking? With both of you sort of out of commission, knee-wise? I recommend all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and Huatulco – they golf-cart you around, feed you, and you laze around on the sand, on the beach, or in the pool.



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