Writing on empty

If I had a petrol tank, it would be showing Empty tonight. We would be sitting in the middle lane of three lanes of traffic, needle in the red, wondering if we’ll make it to the next petrol station, wondering where the next petrol station is. There would be three children in the back, whinging that they’re hungry/thirsty/being hit over the head by their younger brother.

In other words, not pretty.

I’ve never been a good sleeper. You can ask my mum, who reckons I was awake for the first four years of my life. Awake and screaming, if I recall her exact words. She loves to tell people how she took me to see the doctor when I was about 12 months old, certain there was something wrong with me. Either that or I was possessed. The doctor reached over, patted her hand, and gave her a prescription for valium.


There are nights when I could use a doctor like that. Nights when I waft around the Fibro, wandering from room to room like a ghost, searching for sleep where there’s none to be found. These are the nights that have allowed me to maintain a writing career and be a mum at home with my kids. Insomnia is a very good friend to the work-at-home mother.

Then there are the other nights, when the computer screen seems to be emitting 1000 watts of light, hurting my eyes, adding to the lines under my eyes when I squint. When the words don’t come out right. When I have to concede defeat at 10pm and go to bed. Those nights tend to come after a long run of productive nights. They also tend to occur at the most inopportune moments. The nights when a solid post-midnight performance would make all the difference to the clamouring deadlines.

You can’t fight these nights, though.

Tonight is of the latter variety. No wafting for me tonight. No writing for me tonight. Just bed. All I can do is write my To Do list and give in.

Never underestimate the power of a To Do list for an insomniac. If you write it down before you go to bed, you won’t lie awake for hours reminding yourself of the things you need to do. Awake and screaming.

Sometimes I wonder if this is what was going on with me as a child. Was I lying there, desperately trying to remember what I needed to do the next day? Eat. Breathe, Cry. Excrete. Begin again.

When people use the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’, they really have no idea, do they?