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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Stream of consciousness writing & insomnia

Earlier I blogged about how I often write when I have insomnia. Well, it happened again this week in Malta, woke up at 3:30am and started writing a new SF story 'The Negotiator'. But in the recent past I also wrote about insomnia itself, what it's like. The passage below uses a writing technique called 'stream of consciousness', whereby you see the unabridged flow of thoughts. It's not used so much these days in conventional fiction, but maybe it should be - it's an intense form of writing both for author and reader. It seemed to me the perfect style for insomnia, where usually the problem is that the flow of thoughts won't stop. So, without more ado, here it is. A word of warning - chronic insomnia isn't fun so there are some swearwords. And 'Marna' is fictional, naturally...


I crack open a crusty eye towards the offending instrument. 2:15. Fuck, an hour since I woke up, two hours since I went to bed, having taken the usual potions guaranteed to make me sleep eight hours. I change sides again, left side of my face on the pillow this time, flat on my stomach.
I could count my breaths again. What did I reach earlier? 237? What’s my record? Read, the books say – what else would they say, they’re books for Christ’s sake. But I’m tired, too exhausted to read. Anyway, light wakes you up, they also say.
It’s dark outside. I’m a chronic insomniac, I can pretty much tell the time by the shades of black, the depths of night. And of course the sounds. The cars usually stop after 1:30, pizza moto’s – those mosquitoes I’d like to swat – give up around half-past midnight. Of course an ambulance can happen anytime, or some asshole driving home fast, drunk, heading towards their own bed, probably after sleeping in someone else’s first, racing towards Morpheus’ embrace, that cool balm that evades me. Lucky bastards.
I turn back onto my right side, that’s the best one for sleep, or for relaxing without sleeping. I let my mind drift. The office starts up: what I should have said to my boss, but of course didn’t. Great, that’s really going to help. Someone else at the office. Marna, her breasts in my hands, her lips hard against mine, me shoving her up against the back of my office door that won’t lock… I sigh. That’s not exactly going to help me sleep, is it? I sneak another pointless time-check, hoping my brain will recognise the figures and suddenly shout, ‘Oh shit, sorry man, I thought it was only 10:30, here you go, sleep time!’ 2:39. Brilliant.
I get up. No need to turn the light on, I know the layout of my bedroom, just like a blind man. I walk over to the window and open it a crack; it’s cold outside, but quiet enough now to allow in some fresh air without the attendant noises that might wake me. Except the foxes of course, haven’t heard them yet tonight. I really should buy an air rifle. I peel back the curtain. Ice-white stars punctuate the darkness. No moon, though, that old insomniac’s nemesis. Nope, no excuse this time.
I try some yoga, a shoulder stand, feet stretching up in the air, balancing on my shoulders and elbows. My neck feels tight; I shouldn’t really go up into it just like that. But then ‘should’ has no rights here does it? I should be asleep after all. I come down, lie flat on my back, knees up. I can feel there’s more oxygen now the window’s open. Before it was like a deluxe coffin. I wonder if I’ll sleep when I’m dead, or just lie there for eternity listening to the worms hunting rotting flesh. I shudder, get up, collapse back into bed.
I ram the pillow vertical up against the headboard, sit cross-legged, back against it, and meditate. Try to anyway; it’s difficult to meditate when you’re so fucking tired. Desperate; tortured. Scenes flash through my mind; it’s like channel hopping on TV. I wait. The TV goes off, and I see an empty universe. I move the current one aside so there’s nothing there, really nothing, not even distant stars. I imagine it’s two hundred years in the future, so I’m dead and long forgotten, and concentrate on the space, the sound it doesn’t make, the texture it doesn’t have. I focus really hard, stretching my mind out in all directions, surfing nothing. My back relaxes, tension dissolving, cool rain drizzling down my spine like pebbles tumbling down an up-ended rainstick. Now, it has to be now. I lie down. One last glance. 3:03. I close my eyes; right side; breathing calm. I can feel it coming. Shhh. Don’t scare it off. Sleep. God’s design error. The little death. Bliss.   

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the idea insomnia is a state of mind. That leads to recovery coming from a change of focus and mental conditioning rather than a quick resort to drugs . Drugs in the long term can only make insomnia worse. Insomnia Treatment should be about changing routine and behaviour.

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