Thursday, July 18, 2013

How I Broke Myself By Writing

A few months back, I hosted a guest post about the Health Risks of Writing. I should have paid heed to it. Instead, I dove into a frenzy of writing (for Butterfly Dome, a WIP) and rewriting (for Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, which is currently with my editor). I did what I always did: sat down on the couch with my laptop and typed away. I guess I figured since I'm young and healthy, I could get away with things like bad posture and staying up late for no reason. Wellp, I was wrong.

This whole thing began back in March, when I randomly decided to enter April's Camp NaNo (a spring version of the National Novel Writing Month) to get cracking on an idea for a YA sci-fi/paranormal romance that popped into my head somewhat randomly. I was between books at the time - I'd just finished a draft of Synthetic Illusions (the sequel to Artificial Absolutes) and hadn't yet received feedback for Flynn. The plan was to just start jotting stuff for Butterfly Dome down while letting Synthetic percolate in my head (I hadn't submitted it to my publisher yet). 

Unfortunately, my brain had other ideas. I ended up spending April revising Synthetic and getting it ready for submission. Then May rolled around, and I felt guilty for completely neglecting Butterfly. I started writing it with the idea that I'd get through maybe half the manuscript before it was time for Flynn revisions. But then I somehow got really into writing it, and thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I finished it?" So I stayed up late trying to accomplish this lofty goal, depriving myself of proper sleep for weeks. It became a disease (as I mocked myself for in a previous post). Spring allergies and work stress (from the good ole day job) meant trying to go to sleep was nightmarish anyway. Instead of spending ages tossing and turning, I opted to just keep typing, since I couldn't sleep anyway. Bad idea. I should've reached for the sleeping pills like a rational person. Or tried meditation. Or at least turned my brain off by watching TV.

And that's how I broke my brain. By June, the effects of my insomnia plus my brain always being "on" were so bad that I ended up blacking out. As in, I'd be sitting around chatting with friends, and suddenly, I'd come to, having missed the last five minutes of conversation. It was freaky. Simple situations seemed impossibly convoluted, and anything I typed came out looking like babbling nonsense. Once, someone gave me their phone number, and I went to write it down a few seconds later. I couldn't remember a single digit. And when it came to writing? Ugh! I couldn't figure out how to describe a cardboard box!

By the time it came time to revise Flynn, I had the mental capacity of a cucumber. For about two weeks, I could barely do anything other than reread the manuscript and try to get my head back into the universe. Eventually, by taking sleeping pills to deal with the insomnia and adhering to a strict sleep schedule, I managed to become mostly functional again. Even so, just last week, I went to a kickboxing class and couldn't tell left from right to save my life.

Then there were the physical effects. I developed cramps in my neck and shoulders that made it hard to turn my head without getting stabbing pains. Even when I wasn't moving, my shoulders were perpetually sore. If this persists, I might have to get physical therapy. That's right - I might actually have to go to an actual medical doctor for writing-related injuries. I'm also pretty sure my eyesight has suffered from spending far too much time staring at screens.

So... I'm trying to break these bad habits so I don't break myself again. No more typing while sitting on a couch - the couch is for typo-hunting only. I'm also trying to be mindful not to hunch over the keyboard. Also, sleep is extremely important. So are breaks. When your brain is always on, it eventually burns itself out.


  1. I, too, need to work on my sleep schedule. Haven't quite started blacking out, but my brain hasn't switched off properly for months. It's catching up on me.
    So, thanks for sharing... It's the whole "Yay, it's not just me", thing. (o:

    1. Thanks for reading! Rest is so important. Trust me, you'll do things much better and more efficiently once you've slept properly for a spell :-)

  2. I think we all push ourselves so much harder now then before.. trying to do it all and squeeze everything otu and neglecting ourselves. I am so guilty of some of those things and everytime I abuse my body and start to feel it, I claim "This is the last time!" until the next time :)

    Hang in there.. I hope you get to feeling better soon.. Yoga before bed is also helpful (and well help stretch out the kinxs from writing and sitting and kickboxing)

    1. Thanks! I've been doing some stretches to try to un-cramp myself. So true about how we push ourselves harder than ever - everything moves so quickly nowadays...