Or lack thereof. Pertinent this week for me. I'm back at work after Christmas and I'm SUFFERING. My head is busy, busy, busy making plans, catching up and being excitable. I'm gripped by the book I'm reading. And my baby? My lovely baby is waking up at night. Except she's not a baby any more, she's four and thus a wriggly, squiggly tangle of limbs who climbs into my bed and wraps her arms around my neck with the deadly efficiency of a boa constrictor. She also talks in her sleep. Shouts about her bicycle, about ice cream or spiders.
I am not sleeping.
The most rapid sign of this is going a bit manic. I start working too fast. I tear through stuff, I talk too quickly. I'm not calm. I turn into a mini-cyclone and then of course, I struggle to sleep. Voila! A vicious circle emerges.
As this is not in keeping with my new year's resolution to BLOODY WELL CHILL OUT I'm nipping it in the bud. I'm going to have a bath and get the f**k to bed. Even though it's early. Even though I could get a bit of writing done. Even though...
Because I know, if I try and do any of that, it will be crap. Yes indeed, you heard me. And moreover (as the advert says... here comes the science bit) it's proven crap.
There's a fascinating article on t'interweb (on Serendip, an online playground hosted by Bryn Mawr College) on the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Brain and Behaviour, which tells us about the impact of sleep deprivation on the brain's frontal lobe:
"Its functions are associated with speech as well as novel and creative thinking. Sleep deprived test subjects have difficulties thinking of imaginative words or ideas. Instead, they tend to choose repetitious words or clichéd phrases."
Furthermore, an article on the WebMD website, citing Jim Horne from Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre tells us that:
"... the part of the brain that overworks in the sleep-deprived people normally is one of the most active areas of the brain. It is involved in complex functions such as updating working memory, planning, attention, sense of time, dealing with novel situations, and verbal fluency."
Oh dear. Repetition! Gasp. Clichés! Weep! Diminished verbal fluency! Wail!
What writer wants that?!
So what got me thinking about that then? A GREAT article by erotic romance writer Emma Holly, that's what. Check it out. It's called Steaming Up Your Love Scenes and its excellent.
One of the points Emma addresses is not being in the mood to write love scenes. "Are you getting enough sleep?" she asks. "Exercise? Are you eating right?"
The health regime for writing sex is apparently the same as for having it. If you're exhausted, badly fed and de-energised a sauce-pot you will NOT be - whether its in your head, or in your bed.
What's more, not only will you not be sexed up, whatever you are trotting out will be hackneyed, dull and forgettable. So forget about that image of writing in a garret by candle light, falling asleep with your ink-stained face pressed, bleary eyed, against your work of genius.
And get your arse to bed.