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7 Questions about How To Be a Novelist: with Stephanie Clifford

August 20, 2015

Meals for the Week 8/23 Edition: One Pot Shrimp, Summer Barley Salad + Easy Avocado Dressing

August 20, 2015

My Tragic Flaw Confession: I Need To Nap

August 20, 2015

(perfect photo via Mommas Gone City)

Confession: I need to nap roughly four out of seven days a week.

Bigger confession: I feel wildly guilty about this need to nap and pretend like it doesn’t happen. Yesterday I said, out loud, to my dog, “SShh, we need to nap for a bit but don’t tell anyone.” This is a problem for a number of reasons but let’s focus on the napping and the guilt for today.

My naps typically fall between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. That’s when my brain is so tired from a busy morning/afternoon working that I literally cannot keep my eyes open (note: the first time I wrote that sentence I made a typo and wrote tired as tried. Telling?). Sometimes I have a headache from looking at my computer screen for so long and closing my eyes is the only thing that helps. There are other times when I’m really frustrated by a chunk of work and just want to run away to a nice dream. Bottom line: I sleep because I need a break.

I usually set my phone alarm for 30 minutes and snooze for an extra ten. Sometimes if I’m particularly stressed or busy I set it for an hour and sleep for 90 minutes. Yes, if I am really busy I sleep for more time

This is where the guilt comes in.

I have an insatiable and unreasonable desire to produce things – from screenplays to clean closet drawers. Productivity is my religion. When I’m most down it’s because I feel like my output is too low. “I’m not generating enough!” I’ll say to R, “My output is too  low!!”  This is a problem for a number of reasons but let’s get back to the napping and the guilt for today.

Of course I’m tired. The demands I put on my brain are exhausting. The speed at which I expect myself to work is often unreasonable. I manage multiple project at a time, and every single one is a creative pursuit. Creativity requires a unique kind of brain power, the kind that is draining. Here’s a little bit of scientific info about all that jazz from the National Sleep Foundation, where I hope to someday work.

So it makes sense that my body wants a nap. It is proven that my body needs a nap. And – and here’s the kicker – my work deteriorates if I try to push through when I am tired. Sometimes it’s even worse than that – sometimes I get so frustrated that I lose the whole rest of the day! So in that case I get less done than if I sleep a little and get back to the computer. By not listening to my body I end up right where I was afraid of in the first place – less out put.

So then what’s with the guilt?

I’m working on that, but I think the answer has something to do with Superwoman Syndrome (not a real term). I want to be so smart/fast/amazing that I don’t need naps. I want to be such a genius that I don’t struggle at all because perfect words flow from my brain to the keyboard as if sent straight from the God of writing herself (Nora Ephron, duh). Needing a nap means I am not perfect. It is mortifying to re-read that sentence because it sounds so silly, but I think that is the core feeling. Nap = weakness. Weakness = bad. Perfectionism 101.

But truth trumps all, and the truth is, I need to nap. That’s how my body works. That’s how my brain functions best. I am very fortunate to have a work schedule that allows me to take care of myself. In this way I am more like my puppy and less like the idealized stereotype of a hard-working American. Deal with it! (That’s me telling myself, not you. You probably take two naps a day and don’t give a shit. I love you…).

Today I do not have time to take a nap because I have a few afternoon meetings, but tomorrow you will find me (and Lou) on the couch from roughly 2:30-3:15 – phone on silent. After that we’ll get back to being geniuses.

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  1. I gave up the guilt a while back. Naps recharge my brain so I can write at night. My zombie-ness is from 4-6pm. Feel great that you have created a lifestyle for yourself that you can nap. Besides enjoying writing, the main goal for creating a writer’s life for myself is having the freedom to nap in the afternoon and a no pants rule (settle down, I mean shorts or pjs) before noon. Naps rule!

  2. I love this! I too nap regularly and the days where I find myself able to come out the other side of that 2-5pm twilight period without shutting my eyes is normally because I didn’t get out of bed until after 10am. You also seem to be better practised at limiting your snoozing time to just 10 minutes. Maybe snoozing restrictions is where I need to start. Baby steps!

    1. Love this comment. Patience is, apparently, a virtue. I try to remember that. 30% of the time I succeed! That feels like a win. Happy Monday!

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