Sleepless in Philadelphia
What if you never had to sleep? It’s something I’ve thought about off and on ever since I read Nancy Kress’s masterpiece, Beggars in Spain, about genetically-modified children who don’t need to sleep. My friend and fellow author Josh Vogt has been thinking about this question, too, and has popped by to tell us his thoughts. The second book of his urban fantasy series, Maids of Wrath, comes out in early April. Here’s Josh on his love/hate relationship with sleep…
Can we all just admit that? It eats up almost a third of our actual life. Time we could be doing things. Important things, too, like binge-watching Doctor Who to catch up on the latest seasons, or searching hours on end for the funniest cat video on YouTube.
Or, y’know, working and writing and whatnot.
For as long as I can remember, sleep has been my enemy. My nemesis, of sorts. It is something to be opposed for as long as possible, and woken from as quickly as possible so the conscious hours can be taken full advantage of. Sleep still irks me to no end. In fact, if someone presented the world with a trial pill that could eliminate the need for sleep, sign this lab rat right on up!
But you know what? Until that happens, sleep is necessary for little things like health and sanity.
Sad, I know. It’s an unavoidable truth, though. I learned my lesson after a string of bouts with insomnia left me something of a shambling wreck, unable to focus, unable to write, functioning on auto-pilot and wishing for nothing more than a solid night’s rest. I’ve come to accept the fact that sleep has to actually be a priority in my life if I want to maintain any sort of balance in my energy levels—and thus be able to keep my writing productivity going full throttle for as long as I can.
Without this thing I hate, I cannot have this thing I love.
Yet I can’t deny the facts. When I take what steps I can to have a good night’s sleep, the next day tends to go far better than if I’d pulled an all-nighter or forced myself to stay up until 3am just because I didn’t want to accept defeat.
Why do I gripe about all this? Because just as sleep is an undesirable I’ve realized can actually be helpful, so there are other undesirable elements within the writing process—ones I ignore dealing with at my own peril.
This can be anything from criticism of my writing to rejection from publishers to bad reviews to envy of others’ success, and much more. I have to work at each of these, handling them in ways that give me the opportunity to grow as a writer, rather than remaining complacent, becoming stagnant, or getting angry and entitled. I want to learn how to accept constructive criticism better. To embrace the sting of rejection as a challenge to improve my craft. To not have an online meltdown and troll reviewers until my reputation is trashed. And to applaud my peers’ accomplishments, because they well and truly deserve it.
All of this takes ongoing work, just like keeping my sleep schedule and routines intact. But I can at least know even when I’m struggling with something I don’t enjoy (or hate altogether), it will bring about a healthier mentality, lifestyle, and approach to writing in return for the effort. And, at the end of the day, I know I will have earned my rest.
Author and editor Josh Vogt’s work covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes, published alongside his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). He’s an editor at Paizo, a Scribe Award finalist, and a member of both SFWA and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt.