189 search results for "sleep"


I went to bed around 9:30 last night and got up around 9:30 this morning. Partially this was a response to getting up around 5 in the morning to take my sister to the airport*, partially its a response to my inability to sleep for longer than an hour at a time since I had the cyst cut out. Near as I can tell, the twelve hours I spent in bed equated to about seven hours of fitful sleep. The rest was all tossing and turning and getting out of bed to make sure that my nightmare I’d just had about the stitches pulling open and starting to bleed really were just nightmares.

Obviously, I am not a good patient. Me and bleeding have never been a good combination. And I really, really want to wash my hair.

Now I have to go and make up for lost writing time. There is stuff that needs doing, and I’ve been slack ever since Thursday.

*wish her luck – she’ll be walking the Kokoda Trail for the next ten days and I’m quietly expecting to get another story out of my parents growing concern.

Feelin’ just a little bit sleepy

The short answer to where I’ve been for the last week: sleeping.

The slightly longer answer goes something like this: Last week there was the return of the tooth pain and the right-hand side of my face swelled up like I was using my cheek as a storage pocket for a golf ball. Bugger, says I, that’s not really normal, and so I hie myself off to the dentist in order to do something about it.  The dentist takes one look and agrees with me – definitely not normal. Turned out I had myself an acute dental abscess – which largely translates as cavity infection that has spread into other nerves. His first impulse is to pull the infected tooth out, but since I take moderately good care of my teeth (despite what this post may suggest) the decision is made to try and save it, and so I get my first-ever root canal.

Oddly, this wasn’t the bad part. The root canal was surprisingly painless and I’ve been chewing again within twelve hours. Today I actually chewed steak with the right side of my mouth and that hasn’t been something I could do without pain for seven years now. Of course, that may be the drugs talking.

You see, the bad part about all this is the weird grab-bag of medication and anti-inflamatries I’m on to deal with the infection. Still no pain, but these things encourage me to sleep for eighteen hours a day and spent the six hours I’m awake stumbling around like a drunk. Which is kinda weird, given that two of the three have “For the love of all that’s holy, please don’t drink while taking this medication” on the label.  My routine since last Wednesday has become wake up, eat, take medication, stay awake for an hour pretending I can be a productive human being, then go nap until it’s time to start the process again.

There’s a lesson in this, I suspect. Not take care of your teeth so much as dentists can perscribe you the really good drugs when you need them. Unforutnately the days when I’d regard that as fun are long behind me – right now I’m dreaming of a productive day of writing or an afternoon where I don’t doze off on the couch.

Things I Was Thinking About at 3:30 AM This Morning

It’s 3:30 AM and the insomnia has set in, creeping in behind a mild anxiety moment that hit about six hours ago.

It’s 3:30 AM and the night sky is a dark, luscious shade of indigo that sits above the darker silhouettes of trees and houses and hills. It’s 3:30 AM and I wish the camera on my phone wasn’t broken, so I could distract myself with the attempt to photograph the darkness.

It’s 3:30 AM and everyone on social media is recommending Safia Samatar’s essay about Why You Left Social Media, but it’s not 3:30 AM when you read this and if you were asleep then it’s possible you missed it, and so I’m going to link it here because it is quite extraordinary and maybe you missed it while you slumbered.

It’s 3:30 AM and the guinea pigs are rummaging through their hay, unbothered by my presence on the couch with a clicking laptop.

It’s 3:30 AM and the apartment is cool and pleasant, courtesy of the the air conditioners stripping the muggy heat out of the humid air.

It’s 3:30 AM and I’ve been reading James Patterson books. It’s 3:30 AM and I need to urinate, but the bathroom is next to the bedroom where my partner sleeps, and I do not want to wake here unless I have no other choice, and I do not need to pee so bad. Not yet. I’m happy for her to keep slumbering.

It’s 3:30 AM and the world is magic, but magic isn’t always pleasant and it isn’t always useful.

It’s 3:30 AM and i scare myself with the thought that some lies in wait, hunkered down behind my couch, armed and seeking to do me ill. I fret about the fragility of the barricades separating me from the outside world. i scare myself with the thought of what may be lurking on the tile floor, waiting for my bare feet to come past, and so I rest my heels on the coffee table.

I should turn a light on, but that’s not going to happen.

It’s 3:30 AM and I’m appreciating the irony, given that I tweeted a link to an article about what to do when you cannot sleep about nine hours ago. Maybe people will find it useful? It hasn’t helped me much, even though I came back and read the advice.

It’s 3:30 AM and I’m weirdly content in my insomnia, taking pleasure in being awake when there is no-one else around. Enjoying the quiet and the world that is made small by darkness, contracting down to the light of a laptop screen and an overly busy mind.

It’s not 3:30 AM anymore. It’s 3:49 AM and counting.

It’s 3:30 AM and I shouldn’t be trusted with a keyboard, for the typos come thicker and my editing is weaker. I will mistype simple words and fail to correct them.

It’s 3:30 AM and I’m muttering Pink Floyd lyrics, stuck on the phrase is there anybody out there. 

It’s 3:51 now. 3:52. 3:58. 3:59. Sleep is coming no closer.



Coming Full Circle with Brain Jar Press

I’ve spent the last few months preparing for my major project in 2018: launching Brain Jar Press and getting its first book ready for release.

I did my first stint with indie publishing back in 2005. It’s strange, looking back, because indie publishing hadn’t really taken hold in fiction publishing yet and I was still a few years away from writing fiction anyway. I focused on short, useful products for the D20 system, the open-sourced rules for the edition of Dungeons and Dragons that was in vogue way back then.

It taught me a lot about the difference between writing and publishing, and it shaped the way I thought about everything I did in writing after that.

2005 is another world, given the pace publishing moves at these days. We didn’t call it indie publishing back then – I set out to be a micropress, producing content by me and a small group of other people, and in the space of two years we managed to get out 50 odd products. I had a blast, and I enjoyed the process of taking a book from a raw idea to a finished product, and it represents the single-most focused chunk of time I ever had writing because I knew where everything I did fit into the overall plan.

I made a pretty good chunk of money, too, courtesy of some forward thinking and an attempt to hit niches that needed to be filled. The products I got rebadged after the end of the D20 system still sell, and I imagine the rest would too if the death of my PC and back-up drive hadn’t wiped out all the production files at the end of 2006.

In another place, another time, I’d have settled into RPG publishing for good and probably done okay with it. Instead, a computer failure forced me to sit down and replan my next few years, and I noticed four things:

  • First, the yet-to-be-diagnosed sleep apnea was kicking my ass, making it harder to focus on the business side of things. Since I wasn’t anywhere near being willing to admit that something was wrong, I focused on conserving energy.
  • Second, the writing was on the wall for the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and the d20 system would lose marketshare as a result; this would result in some pretty significant shifts in the business plan and a lot of product rebranding, which the computer death made…problematic.
  • Third, I had just been exposed to the fairly toxic streak of ideology among some gamers that would eventually harden into things like Gamer Gate, and I was disheartened by the idea of writing for that audience.
  • Fourth, I had just gotten into Clarion South and was about to focus on fiction for the first time in nearly fifteen years, so it was time to pivot and try something new.

And with that, the Clockwork Golem Workshop shut it’s doors and I started writing fiction. Then I got a job at Queensland Writers Centre, and eventually found myself running GenreCon. I watched the rise of indie publishing in the fiction and non-fiction space from the sidelines, passed on what I knew from the RPG side of things to folks who came to QWC’s indie publishing workshops. I learned a lot from researching those seminars and following the evolution of the indie side of things, and I learned even more by comparing the way indie publishing evolved in the gaming space with the way the nascent self-publishing options transformed into viable strategies.

The thought of getting back into publishing has been around for a while. I started putting together plans for how I would approach indie publishing back in 2012, but that was three years before the sleep apnea was diagnosed and the upside of knowing the effective business models for indie publishing is being able to gauge whether it’s an effective thing for you, your goals, and your process. The thing eager beginners often miss about going indie is that it works best when you’re dealing in quantity, producing multiple books a year and building up a long series. It’s a business model that works based on a deep, readily accessible backlist. If you’re not starting out with that backlist – and most writers diving into this aren’t – then your first few years are basically building that list from the ground up.

In 2012, I knew I wasn’t going to produce solid work at the speed I’d need to in order to make self-publishing viable, given my long-term goals. In 2015, I felt like I was getting closer, but still wasn’t able to hit it. In 2016 I started looking at the changes I’d need to make going indie viable for me and my long term goals.

A few months back I put together the business plan and did all the paperwork for making Brain Jar Press an official business. Next month, on November 1st, I put a collection of my short stories, The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales,  up for pre-order.

On November 30, it becomes an actual book, and I gear up to hit the ground running in 2018. The things I know about indie publishing will come up against the thing that I need to learn, and I test the long-term plan I’ve been tinkering with for nearly five years against the reality of actually writing, releasing, and commissioning books.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the publishing side of things, after nearly a decade away from it. I’m looking forward to the learning curve as I figure it all out in a whole new era.

To Solve That Particular Problem

At the start of this year, when everyone was flush with New Year Energy and optimism, I had a bunch of conversations with various peeps about the way I used whiteboards and bullet journals and generally planned my life.

At the same time this was happening, I was basically packing in all of those habits and letting them lie fallow for the summer. Not because they were bad habits, but because they were responses to specific situations where conflicting priorities and time-crunch made my natural workflow untenable and inefficient.

Basically, once the scholarship kicked in and my thesis was underway, I didn’t need to plan so heavily because a) I rarely needed to be anywhere, b) most of what I was doing was reading things and noodling with ideas, and c) it didn’t matter if I destroyed my sleep schedule by staying awake and working until 5 AM, because it wasn’t like I needed to get up at a specific time. I could get away with a monthly plan, a list of upcoming deadline, and a quick whiteboard schedule on the busy weeks when I had a lot on.

The needle swings back the other way this week. Quarterly checkpoints, monthly checkpoints, weekly checkpoints, daily plans in the bujo. Detailed project lists where I adequately scope out what needs to happen and why. Partially this is because it’s July, when my commitments ramp up a bit due to book launches and writing events. Partially this is ’cause I’m a relationship, and I find myself syncing in with someone else’s schedule – I want to be free when they are free, and I do not want to be distracted by a nagging feeling that I should be working.

Mostly, it’s because the mandatory classes associated with my PhD ended and I am largely left to my own devices again, which means I am more likely to waste time if I am not mindful of it.

The temptation with any organisational or time management system, when you first come across it, is to embrace every aspect of it in the hopes it will make you suddenly superhuman. A dynamo of getting shit done, buoyed up by the glorious certainty of your to-do list.

I’ve done that in the past. And things rapidly fell apart.

Any productivity system I trail is there to solve a particular problem. Productivity systems are a tool, not a superpower.

Progress Report

I frequently get the shits with antidepressant medication and seeing my psychologist and all the processes that are necessary for managing the inside of my heaf. Part of that’s the ongoing struggle with self-stigma that any of it is necessary at all, part of it is the annoyance of the month-to-month cost of keeping my shit together, and sometimes it just feels like it’s not goddamn working and all the time, money, and effort is going to waste.

It’s not. I spent a good chunk of last night taking a really long walk, ’cause I was starting to get a little squirrely and fragmented. Two years ago, I would have disappeared into a week-long TV binge or computer game obsession where I skipped sleep for days on end, so even when three hours feels like a failure, it’s not.

Where I once used to stress-eat incredible amounts of junk food and cola after rising at midday, I will now usually respond to long-term stress by eating a considerably healthier breakfast at my local cafe.

I have slowly, painfully, gotten better at acknowledging that I occasionally have feelings, and will even discuss them with a select group of other human beings from time to time.

I no longer remember the last time I felt like a fake human being, merely presenting a clever facade to the world, or a bundle of incoherent rage lurking beneath a thin veneer of civility. Intellectually, I know it was about eleven months back, right about the time virtually everyone I know said get help, but it feels further back than that.

Progress feels weird and invisible. Sometimes it’s just swapping out really bad habits for less destructive ones, but it’s still progress. Not always as fast as I’d like, or as thorough as I’d like, but it is what it is. 

And when I get shitty with the process, I try to focus on that. I am not where I was, and that is a good thing.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).


What am I working on this week?

Two weeks until I have to hand in my thesis prospectus, and I’m about a third of the way through my draft at the time of posting. I’ve more-or-less admitted that nothing else is being done until I clear this as the major project that is stressing me out, which unfortunately includes drafting the short talk I’m meant to be doing Friday.

Short version: if you need me this week, I’ll be hip-deep in genre theory and thesis planning.

What’s inspiring me this week?

A few weeks back I had a heated discussion with Kevin about the difficulties facing John Wick 2 as a sequel, largely because the first film has a strongly dramatic, very personal arc for the main character that reminded me a lot of Die Hard. I figured the sequel risked being very much the Die Hard 2 of the series – all the same beats, with none of the emotion behind it, with the law of diminishing returns starting the slow transition from everyman to superman.

And, in truth, John Wick 2 doesn’t come anywhere near matching the emotional stakes of the first film, but it comes a damn site closer than many other franchises could manage and the way they’ve set that up is fascinating. It remains a film that is at its best when the action is small and intimate, focused on the consequences of John’s actions and choices on him and his circle of allies. It’s at its worst when it goes big, exploring the larger mythology of the world presented in the first film, which transforms the central character from a bogeyman walking among mortals into a bogeyman walking among gods. At one part he becomes, metaphorically speaking, bulletproof, and that’s a misstep that stops an incredibly good sequel from being a thematically great sequel.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

This is one that I don’t like to admit, but over the last week my oh-shit-I-have-a-deadline instincts saw me ignore a lot of the basic habits that have kept me relatively even for the last twelve months or so. This kinda hit a boiling point on Friday, when I was running on three hours sleep and on the jangly, anxious side when interacting with people.

The upside is realising what was happening much, much earlier than usual, but it does mean that this week basic self-care (and regular sleep/work hours) go back on the menu, no matter what.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).


What am I working on this week?

Setting aside creative work entirely this week and focusing on getting the rough draft of my Thesis Prospectus written. It’s not a big document – just 4,000 words – but that’s a deceptively short amount given what I’m trying to pack into it (and my lack of familiarity with the format/voice required after nearly a decade away from academia).

What’s inspiring me this week?

As you can probably guess from Friday’s post, I’ve been enjoying James Ellroy’s Black Dahlia this week, and in particular the first four chapters. The write-up of the boxing match is incredible and I’ll probably spend the next few weeks pulling it apart so I can better understand the blocking and techniques that went into making it so good.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Not my project, inherently, but my sleep schedule has gone to hell over the last few days, which is probably a sign of how much I really, really dislike the idea of doing the prospectus write-up. Much as I love the research side of the thesis, and banging on about literary theory in general, I still really dislike the writing-up and assessment side of things.

Some Thoughts On Writing and Mental Illness

Every night I take 25 mg of Valdoxan before I go to bed, nudging my brain towards a healthier normal. Every morning I start tracking data on my preferred stress, depression, and anxiety management app, marking hours of sleep and minutes of exercise and whether I’ve had contact with the outside world.

Every week I’m learning to pay more attention to the default narrative in my head, and the defence mechanisms set up because of those narratives, so I can better at identifying which are actually useful and which need to be dismantled. Every couple of months I get a blood test to see if the Valdoxan is doing unhappy things to my liver enzymes.

I still have bad weeks. I was in the midst of one seven days ago. My stress responses still need work, because they’re currently front-loaded with the message: for the love of god, procrastinate to the point of self-destruction. I was stressed last week, but I hadn’t even processed that until the stats on my app laid it all out for me and I was like, oh, that’s why I’m sleeping two hours a night and obsessively playing computer games I hate for twenty fucking hours a day. 

There were very few parts of my blogging gig for Queensland Health that felt personal, but working on this one was fucking hard, for the simple fact that I went through every goddamn thing on the list.

It was about this point, last year, that I first realised things were getting very bad.

I did what I thought were proactive things to deal with that at the time. Some of those were good – including the conversation that eventually led to me going back to university on a PhD scholarship – but some where just slapping a band-aid over a gaping wound. I told myself I could just work harder, do better, and everything would be fine.

It would take another four or five months, a shitload more stress, and some pretty insistent friends and family to actually get me to consider the fact that there was something up with my mental health.

The funny thing about blogging for Queensland Health was the sheer amount of time spent looking at data and statistics that I’d otherwise ignore. When it comes to mental illness, the stats I keep coming back to were these:

  • 45% of Australians are going have some experience of mental illness in their life
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men will experience some level of depression
  • Only 35% of people with anxiety and depression will access treatment

Stigma around mental illness, and a general lack of knowledge, tends to make up a big part of the 65% doesn’t access help. Given my general reluctance to go see a GP when I needed it, or even recognizing I was going through something where help would be useful, I totally get how that happens.

I had the advantage of knowing multiple peeps with depression and anxiety issues, talking to them about what was going on, and still had myself convinced that it wasn’t something I was experiencing right up until the doctor suggested antidepressants and counselling.

And even after you learn about depression and anxiety, there are all sorts of ways the stigma fucks with you: don’t talk about it too loudly; don’t talk about it too often; don’t talk about it with the wrong people. Don’t bore the pants off people with you and your problems.

And really, fuck that shit, because it becomes part of the problem.

Depression is not a light switch that flicks on and off. It’s not a clearly deliniatied line where you go from okay to not okay the moment you step over. Regardless of how it’s used in clinical settings, depression is colloquially used to group together a whole bunch of mood-related disorders, of differing levels of intensity, that affect people in different ways.

Part of the reason I wondered around without looking for help for so long was the relatively lack of exposure to people whose experiences mimicked my own, or who experienced symptoms at levels of severity I didn’t quite relate to.

Beyond that, I’ll admit to another slice of foolishness: I worried about writing and depression. Not in an I’ll-never-write-again way, ‘cause hell, I got this far, nor in a I’m-a-writer-and-I-cannot-work-if-I’m-not-depressed, ’cause…well, I can tell you how much work I did while depressed and anxious and it pretty much amounts to fuck all.

No, I worried because my brain was wired to worry. I worried about getting treated the same way I worried about that stupid thing I said when I was eleven, or the same way I fretted about saying something stupid in that email I just sent, and the same way I obsessively rehearse conversations with people I’ve hurt or pissed off, as if I’ll somehow be able to make it all okay by taking back that conversation and inserting the one in my head instead.

Which is, I worried to the point where worry filled 90% of my waking moments, because worry felt like control to me.

And when my GP suggested that I was actually not okay, I worried in a what-will-this-actually-be-like-and-how-will-depression-affect-things way that sent me looking for other writers who talked about their experiences. Reading about other writers talking about their shit helped a lot back then, which is why I occasionally pop up and talk about my experiences here.

So let me be clear: Shit went wrong. I got help. I’m still getting help and working shit out. It’s an ongoing fucking thing.

And writing is better because of it.

But I am just me, and let’s be clear, in writing terms I am small beer. Since I’m an rigorous bookmarker of useful links, here the short list of folks who write a hell of a lot more than me (with a hell of a lot more success), whose posts about their own mental illness helped a lot when I went on medication last year:

Note the incredible diversity of conditions, experiences, and coping mechanisms out there. Mental health is not one-size-fits-fucking-all.

For all my resistance to getting help, and my occasional nervousness about medication and frustrations with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, going to my GP and letting them know I might not be okay was the best goddamn thing I’d done in about ten fucking years.

Don’t talk yourself out of getting help if you have even the vaguest suspicion you might need it. It’s really not worth it.

I Recognise That Tree

Back in November I posted about going into a mild depressive episode. As many folks may have surmised from the Friday post a few weeks back, it turned out to be not-so-goddamn mild. I lost the first half of December to an incredibly irritating funk, which only really clicked as a more-than-mild depressive episode when a friend messaged me last week and asked how I was doing.

At the time I’d just come home from a book launch, after what had already been a pretty kick-ass day at work, and I’d settled into my couch to cry for the third evening that week. I had not written anything creative for the better part of a month. I’d been cancelling or avoiding social events for two straight weeks. I was not sleeping properly. I avoided going to bed until very late in the AM, then woke up a few hours later. And since the friend who asked how I was doing is one of the handful of people where I don’t automatically try to answer with yeah, okay out of misguided defensive instincts and crushing self-stigma, there was a minute or so where I looked at everything that was happening and went oh, right, instead.

I forget, sometimes, that this is still relatively new. That just being on antidepressants is not automatically going to fix every goddamn thing, and that just having a name for what’s happening is not automatically going to stop it from happening. It also doesn’t stop me from using this idealised vision of what I should be capable of as a tool for the kind of self-flagellation that can make things considerably worse.

The diagnosis may be new, but this thing with not writing? It’s agonisingly familiar. I’ve spent years getting incredibly frustrated with myself, again and again, because every time I found a process that was productive and consistent, it would eventually fall apart for no real apparent reason. The Other Peter would come out, and his process was not terribly efficient. It starts with doing less new writing and more rewriting, pulling apart the beginnings of things because nothing was right. When that didn’t fix things, he started writing new projects. When that didn’t fix things, he retreated into the most mindless distractions he could find.

When that didn’t work, he loathed himself. He assumed the failing was his, and as he emerged from the endless meh he’d start rebuilding his process from scratch to try and prevent that failure from happening again.

As they say in Waiting for Godot: We’ve been here before. I recognise that tree.

I did not write this week, not really. I tinkered with blog posts or did a page or two of scribble in a notebook, but I wasn’t really pushing to finish things or make them good. I was just keeping the muscle memory alive, or revisiting old projects to make sure they were still viable. I spent what would have been my writing time cleaning the house, or clearing email programs, or clearing out systems that had been clogged up when I started retreating from writing, social media, and the vast bulk of the world.

I worked on improving my sleep hygiene and went to bed on time. I finished my Christmas shopping. I drafted some blog content for my personal blog. I patched together all the little things, minor drags on productivity that I never truly get around to doing, and waited calmly for things to pass and the desire to work returned. I started looking at all the things that need to be done, like exercise and eating right and getting enough sleep, that will keep me relative even and productive instead of disappearing into the mire.

And if I’m looking for silver linings right now – and I am – there are two. The first is that I’m going back to the things that have worked for me, for the bulk of the year, and resisting the urge to rebuild anything. Because it’s possible that it was never anything wrong with the system, aside from the shit bouncing around inside my head.

The other is that it’s finally occurred to me that managing this shit isn’t easy, and I should probably stop expecting it to be. There will always be options that are far more seductive than practising self-care – options that are more fun and seem like a better short-term solution for propping up my mood – but the math never quite works out.