I’ve had a busy day.
I ran the kids around town, went grocery shopping, washed and hung two loads of laundry, scrubbed the entire bathroom from floor to ceiling, made dinner and dessert, did the dishes (3 times), bathed the baby, prepared to have 18 people for lunch tomorrow… and a whole lot more.
It’s 9:30 pm. My children are finally both asleep, and I’m halfway there, myself. Now, to write my blog post.
Uh. Yeah. Soooo.
To be honest, I’m exhausted. This is the first time I’ve sat down today. The last thing I feel like doing is staring at a computer screen.
When you’re too tired to write what’s the best way to recharge your batteries so you can get back to writing with full fervour?
Get some sleep.
“What?” you say. “No tips? No tricks? No motivational speeches???”
Nope. Just get some sleep.
If you’re genuinely too tired to write, the most counterproductive thing you could possibly do is force yourself. Your body, your brain–they both need rest so they can function properly.
A tired mind is a fuzzy mind, so even if you do manage to motivate yourself enough to sit down and write something, chances are whatever you write won’t be worth the time you spend on it.
One other thing: don’t confuse the feeling of being too tired to write with the feeling of just not wanting to write. The former is a legitimate, biological excuse; the latter isn’t.
Next time you’re exhausted from work, a long day with the kids, or some other responsibility, don’t beat yourself up for being too tired to write. Give in to the urge to get some sleep.
It’s 10 o’clock, and I’m off to bed now, because I know I’ll wake up rested, happy, and ready to write something great. Something far better than anything I could possible think of right now.
Good night, all.
P.S. Do you ever feel guilty about being tired when you think you should be writing? Do you have trouble admitting to yourself that you need a break? Do you disagree with my assertion that sleep in the best way to motivate yourself when you’re too tired to write?
Join the discussion
I love your line, “don’t confuse the feeling of being too tired to write with the feeling of just not wanting to write. The former is a legitimate, biological excuse; the latter isn’t.”
That makes so much sense. Being tired doesn’t mean you are being too lazy to write. Sometimes writers beat themselves up a little too much by not making that distinction.
Lisa, last night really made it clear in my mind that I was simply too tired to write. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, or was simply lacking motivation. It’s so important to make the distinction. Thanks!
That shows a very high level of maturity and personal discipline. It can be incredibly difficult to tell ourselves ‘no’ … even when ‘yes’ is out of reach.
Melissa Marsh says
I’ve felt guilty many a time when I was too tired to write, but had the time to do so. This usually happens after a long day at work and trying to catch up at home after work. But sometimes, if I can rouse myself and get some energy, I can end up typing a few hundred words or so. Other times, I just instinctively know that whatever I try to write will be worthless, so I don’t fight it – I just go to bed early. 😉
I go to bed early and wake up early to write. It works for me!
I think it better to write nothing and gain sleep, than to write nothing worth keeping and lose the sleep, too.
Jamie D. says
That’s definitely the optimal choice, for sure. But since my writing time is late at night (I work full time during the day), if I always gave in to sleep when I was tired, I wouldn’t get nearly as much done.
I perk myself up for a little while with a cup of Matcha tea (which contains a gentle stimulant), a handful of almonds (magnesium is great for a short bit of energy), or a small amount of dried fruit (quick, healthier sugar rush). A workout earlier in the evening tends to perk me up for awhile as well. Then I can normally get my writing done and still get to bed at a decent hour. Won’t work for everyone, obviously, but that’s what I do. 🙂
That is a problem, Jamie. If you write at night, you need to find ways to perk yourself up for at least a little time in the evening. I prefer to write in the morning when everything’s fresh in my mind, so it’s a little different for me.
Christi Craig says
In answer to your PS: feel guilty? yes. Trouble admitting I need a break? yes. Disagree that sleep precedes creativity? no. But I do struggle deciphering between a true need to nap and an avoidance to write.
Great post, thanks!
If something is bothering you about your work-in-progress, or you’re stuck for a writing topic, chances are you just don’t want to do it. But if you’ve had a busy day, you can give yourself a break 🙂
Joan Swan says
Sleep is highly underrated IMO. And your point about differentiating “too tired to write” from “not wanting to write” is well founded. One thing I also do to combat the fatigue contributing to my unproductiveness is to twist the thoughts around. I use affirmations like, “writing energizes me” “writing replenishs me” “I don’t write because I have to, or because I should. I write because I want to.” When you look at it that way, writing at the end of a busy day can be nurturing instead of just another thing to do.
I agree, there are ways to use writing to energize yourself. Last night for me was more about extreme physical and mental exhaustion, so it was a good example of when one shouldn’t push oneself.
I sometimes find that the more I write, the less I sleep! This can form a bad cycle. I’m trying to break it by waking early instead to write for an hour before the kids are awake. I enjoy the quiet, focused time. Just need to be disciplined with getting to bed earlier to compensate for the early morning start!
I always write first thing in the morning while the house is still quiet. It’s the best!
I often have trouble admitting when I need a break. I’ve always been really ambitious (it’s one of my strong suits), and that causes me to overwork myself. I’m always working on something and ready to move on to the next thing when I’m finished with the first. My ‘to-do’ list is miles long…
Because I’ve always been driven and had goals I want to reach, I tend to push myself really hard and don’t stop to rest. I get maybe 6-7 hours a sleep a night, if I’m lucky. I work a day job where I write all day long, then when I get home, it’s back to writing all night long.
I do agree with you thou. When you’re tired, you’re better off getting sleep than writing. However, you made a great point: Don’t confuse ‘being tired’ with ‘not wanting to write.’ I think most people do that. They leave writing as the last task of their day/night, and then when the time comes, they think ‘I’m too tired,’ when really they just don’t feel like doing anything else that day.
Admitting this to yourself is important. And it’s the first step in overcoming procrastination.
I can imagine writing all day long for work must make it difficult to come home and get motivated to pursue other types of writing. It’s wonderful that you’re so goal-oriented, though. Just make sure you did get _some_sleep! Thanks.
I am always impressed with how often you blog and how high the quality of the information always is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered: “does this powerhouse of a mother/wife/writer ever sleep?!” And now I know you do. When forced. 🙂
Thanks for showing that you’re human. I feel much better now.
Separately, I have to say that writing has improved my ability to sleep. Ever since my first son was born seven years ago, I’ve had trouble with insomnia. I wake up in the middle of the night, wide awake, and lay there for hours. Reading makes it worse. TV makes me up for the rest of the day.
I started writing again over the last two years and my insomnia has improved dramatically. Writing–and I don’t mean the physical act of writing at a desk. I mean eyes closed, curled up in a ball and creating stories in my head–often lulls me back to sleep. And many times, I wake up in the morning and rush to my computer to get it all down before I forget. I find these dream-like story-telling moments are richer with details and scene and dialogue, and often better than the ones I write when I’m trying much harder to be clever.
So yes, get some sleep. And if you need to, alleviate the guilt by writing in the middle of it.
Ha ha, thanks Tamara. No powerhouse here, just an overworked, overtired mother looking to keep my sanity. Definitely human, like everyone else here.
It’s wonderful that writing and mentally composting stories has helped your insomnia. I do tend to write in the middle of the night when my baby’s up for a feed, but I find it keeps me up more than helps me get back to sleep.
Lisa Romeo says
Though I can’t locate it now, but not too long ago, I was happy to read a report on a research study in the NYTimes which showed that creative individuals are more productive after a good night’s sleep or EVEN after a nap – something about the REM cycle stimulating the creative centers in the brain.
This made such perfect sense to me, because I know I have “solved” many writing problems after, literally, sleeping on it.
That’s good to know, Lisa. It’s a good excuse to get some sleep!
Great advice! I just came back from the college, switched on my system to write few articles. But was way too tired thanks to the hectic lecturers and labs.
I was indeed tired, and I did sleep! Now the best part is – I’ve worked twice as much as I could do while I was tired, all this within the given time span.
And, of course, I’ve trouble admitting that I need a break when I am tired. I try my best to be productive during the day.. sleeping in the middle of the day shouldn’t be made as a habit.
I never feel better for sleeping in the middle of the day–it only makes me feel groggy. Night is a different story, though 😉
Wendy A.M. Prosser says
Great advice! No point in forcing yourself to write if you are truly exhausted. I think we sometimes need permission to be nice to ourselves! I often get sleepy in the afternoon; it can be real struggle to keep going, but I always feel guilty if I nap during the day.
I like to save up my day-time napping urges for about 8:30 or 9:00 pm. Going to bed super early means I can get up earlier and not feel terrible about it.
Thanks for the useful tips… excellent information.. very helpful.. glad you have posted it..
Back in February, while exhausted, I wrote a truly inspired blog post. The following night, equally tired, I checked it for spelling, grammar and ‘think-o’s, then posted it. That ONE post has caused me more trouble IRL than I can shake a stick at.
I don’t know if sleep is a good motivator to write; but I’m pretty certain that making mistakes while too tired to write is a good motivator to draw a line under it and stop writing earlier in the day.
I agree! Sometimes I’m so bleary-eyed after finishing a post, I just pass the laptop to my husband and say, “Proofread!” Better to start earlier and stop earlier.