Friday, January 8, 2010

Manic much?

A lot of people ask me how I manage to survive on as little sleep as I routinely get. The answer, of course, is not a single technique but rather a wide variety of things that range from "I just do" to "I make myself" to "I stop getting tired late at night." The last one always mystifies people, so I thought I'd use last night as an example of how my late-late work can go.

I was showing Sarah a few songs, and we were discussing music. I had been doing work email on one computer, personal email on another, and some interview answers and software updates on a third. I've set up The U of Power so that I can quickly and easily rotate among the machines, so that all three 30-inch monitors are full of appropriate machine state and the moment a machine makes me wait, I can move to another. When Sarah left, I kept the rock songs playing and bounced back and forth from task to task, my mind speeding up, all the different tasks ready to go in my head and waiting only on the appropriate computer resources, the music filling me up with energy and firework bursts of memories of past songs that the current ones triggered--and I was so alive, so full of energy, that I could have worked another six hours without a moment of fatigue.

Then I finished all the other tasks and opened today's novel file. I switched the music to songs appropriate to the moment, stood up and shook off the rest of the world (literally: picture--well, it's probably best you don't--a bad pale boy dance move combined with an all-over body twitch), and settled into a chair and through it without conscious thought into the scene in the book, the wall of the barracks against Jon's back and--wait, that would be telling.

Note the long, accelerating sentences; they give you just a hint of the way my mind is careening along.

Those among you inclined to therapy might now be wondering if I need medication for this mania, but I quite strongly believe, no. It's not as simple as mania. It's the state of letting out what's inside me, evoking the emotions that most of the time I must work so hard to control, letting them fill me until I'm almost ready to burst from the sheer pressure of them, and then using the alchemical mix of music, self-control, and the power of telling stories to force them to emerge from my fingertips as words on a page that will never be a tenth as good as I wish they were but that are the best I can do at that time. I worked hard to develop the ability to hit this late-night state.

In fact, I often don't need the music or the multiple computers or anything else at all to reach that inner zone. In a hotel room, with loved ones sleeping, trying to be as quiet as I can, my only light the glow from the screen, I can often go there and do my work as quickly as the single system permits.

Of course, it's not as much fun as The U of Power.

So, to answer my own title question: yes, every chance I get, and I always want more.

Speaking of which, I gotta go, because a computer to my left is playing my song.


John Lambshead said...

I do things like that. Of course I am maniac-depressive. :)

Mark said...

I'm just enthusiastic. And then not.


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