Sleep Deprivation, Jet Lag, and Writing
On the good side, I recently took a lengthy vacation and flew across the pond to Greece for the first time. On the bad side, the trip required that I get up early one morning, travel all day, and arrive where the time zone was eight hours ahead. As a result, I did not get to go to bed for almost a full twenty-four hours. I thought I felt fairly good under the circumstances. I could sense my excitement rising while I attended an orientation session followed by an evening bus ride into the city center of Athens and then a long walk deep into the old town for my first authentic Greek dinner, accompanied by Greek music and dancing. The fact that it was noon on my body clock and I had been up for nearly twenty-four hours did not seem to affect me. After dinner our group trekked back down through the steep, winding cobblestone streets to climb aboard our bus for a return to our hotel around ten thirty at night for what I thought would be blessed sleep. Wide awake (I thought) from the excitement and exercise, I sat down in my room to write an e-mail or two and play Scrabble and another a word game called Ruzzle, which I find addictive.
To my surprise I discovered myself making huge errors and also being far too slow at the Ruzzle game, losing round after round, until I realized I was a victim of exhaustion, even though I felt fine. The Ruzzle game became my gauge. As my exhaustion and jet lag abated over the next few days, I saw my Ruzzle scores rising back to normal, an interesting phenomenon indeed.
Upon my return to America two weeks later, I went through the same process, after being up for twenty-three hours and once again out of the time zone I had grown acclimated to.
I wondered about how exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and jet lag can affect our writing skills. I’m sure that it affects my reflexes and logic. I know I work best in the mornings, but by evening my enthusiasm, concentration, and logic go on vacation, and I need to rest and revive myself. Obviously the same holds true if I get too much excitement and not enough sleep.
We writers need to stay aware of exhaustion levels and our best times to write, and we must schedule time accordingly. Vacations are great, and I’m filled with terrific memories and more than 600 new photographs, but I was in no way a worthy writer after climbing hills and steps and cobblestone streets in southern Europe. No, I had to get home, get my sleep, and return to my routine before my writing passion and ability returned.
Fellow writers, to sum up my observations in a groaner of a simile, like a good pencil, we writers must all stay sharp.
Oh, and here’s some terrific news: the second edition of Write In Style is finally available. After the first edition sold out, writers across America, Canada, and Australia begged me to re-release the book, but I needed first to update the old 2004 version. The 2015 edition is bigger, better, up to date, and indexed, as well. Find your fresh voice with the advice in Write In Style: How to Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing. Just click here: http://tinyurl.com/o4trud2.