In my twenties, I wrote a short story called Awake, about a girl who wakes up from a “sleeping sickness” that has put most of the world to sleep for decades, Rip Van Winkle style. I adapted the same idea in my first attempt at a twitterstory, a murder mystery called Olivia Is Awake. My first (failed) novel, Another Dance for Amaterasu, also had sleep, dreaming and sleep-deprivation as themes at its core. It’s funny, because when I wrote most of this stuff, I had not yet experienced true sleep deprivation myself. I had no idea, cheerfully writing about insomnia and sleep disorders, that lack of sleep would one day hollow me out and render me a shuffling, hazy, desperately unhappy version of my former self. (Um, I’m doing OK now, thanks).
Sadly, my memories of the first year and a bit of my second son’s life are mostly a blur of just… coping, if I can call it that. The days were not so bad. Or, they were never as bad as I feared they would be when morning rolled around. I felt slow and inarticulate and sort of … muted, with flashes of temper, often directed, totally inappropriately, at my good-natured two-year-old, but while they were sympathetic, I don’t know that my friends (or, for that matter, my husband) were really concerned about me. I was sort of OK. I had a nice routine with my toddler, and the baby, by day, was very peaceful, happy to be toted about in a wrap. But in the wee hours, as the night slipped away and the chance for real sleep became more remote, as dawn crept up and I realized, this is it, the night is over, I am going to have to get through the whole endless day on four broken hours of sleep, I was overcome with such rage I barely recognized myself, and my frantic mantra became “don’t shake the baby.” I’d like to say I have some thoughts, now, about sleep and sleep deprivation, but I think they are perhaps less “thoughts” than anguished, primal inner screams.
So, you get the gist. It sucked. Anyway, sometime during that year, I wrote about half a book. I don’t really remember writing it. I mean, I vaguely remember that I thought I could turn my short story, Awake, into a novel or a novella, but when I hit a plot-hole, I had no energy to think my way out of the tangle I’d created and I abandoned it without much further thought.
It’s still there on my computer, unfinished. I looked at it a while ago and was surprised to realize I really like it, while also thinking it is probably unmarketable. At some point I’ll go back to it, or, as with The Peregrina, use my favorite bits in something else. What surprises me is just that it came out of a period of my life when I could barely think straight, and I remember almost nothing about the process of writing it. But it’s really not bad. I’ll show you a bit next week.