On Lack of Sleep and Discipline, and how One will Kill the Other

Good *yaaaawn* morning.

Last night, my tiny human, whom we shall affectionately refer to as CJ, was up again and again, crying for no reason. I say no reason because damn, son, ain’t no reason to cry like that and then IMMEDIATELY fall back asleep two minutes later.
But every night he does something like this, or the mornings where he inexplicably wakes up at 4:45 in the morning and then stays up, well, those days, my word count doesn’t go anywhere fast. And I have to learn to be okay with that.

Let’s talk about discipline and willpower and all that good stuff. I like to think I have a fair amount of it. I’m East German, for one. Need I go on? I kid, of course, I kid. Really am German, though. And a raging embodiment of the discipline and punctuality stereotypes. Yes, I’ve been called rigid in the past. (Rowr?)

Aaaanywho, the point is, I have certain blocks of time in a given day that are strictly dedicated for producing words. And those time blocks include all of the early, early morning hours until about 6 am, when I have to get my son ready for daycare and I have to get myself ready for the day job. Which we both actually enjoy. So we have that going for us, which is nice.

So, on days like today, when CJ woke up at 1:13, then at 2:24, then at 4:16… it’s hard to get any work done. Like, really hard. After a night like that, a lot of times I don’t make it out of bed until the dread gong of 6 o’clock. Then, I usually freak out and stomp down on myself for being lazy and not hitting word count, and never getting anything done, and WHY DO I SUCK SO BAD, HUH?
All of that is, of course, total horse shit.

Not meeting word count in a given day does not make me a failure. Being too exhausted from my toddler’s tirades does not make me a failure. Shit, I somehow managed to finish school this year (FINALLY) despite (or perhaps because of) the toddler. So yeah, not only am I not a failure, but I have to remind myself that getting anything done at all is a damn miracle with a little guy like him around. Which makes me a miracle worker. Say hello to female Jesus, people!

Ok, no, but seriously. It’s so easy to be harsh on ourselves, to hate on ourselves, to put ourselves down in ways that we would NEVER do to anyone we actually care about. Maybe not even to someone we don’t care about. I have had to learn, and I am still learning, that so long as I continue to try, I haven’t failed. The same is true for anyone else doing anything else. You haven’t failed until you give up. For the day, for the year, for life.

Yeah, sure, there are the little failures. Not making word count, messing up that corn souffle, ruining that priceless painting you were totally gonna make, but then this weird shit happened instead and now it looks nothing like the pristine vision in your head.

Those ‘little’ failures are normal, and we need them. We cannot get better unless and until we allow ourselves to be bad first. The reason those little failures aren’t that big of a deal is also, in part, because they do not spell the end of anything for us.
“Oh no, I wrote the worst short story ever. Oh well, guess I’m never allowed to write again because Orpheus and Apollo are going to come soaring from the heavens to burn me where I sit!”
Yeah, no.
Worst case scenario of a bad story? No one ever reads it. Even if you were to publish it. If it’s that bad, no one will buy it.
It won’t ruin you, or your reputation, or the value and validity of your life.

But that wasn’t the point, was it? I was trying to talk about discipline. And willpower. It’s a good thing to have both. Hell, you need both. You need to be disciplined enough to put ass in chair, over and over and over again, for years, for the rest of your days perhaps. And you need to have the willpower not to give up on yourself when success does not happen right away. Shit, it might never happen the way you envision. As a matter of fact, our visions almost never come to fruition the way we imagined. If there’s one motto that, in my silly opinion, summarizes this crazy ride on this hurtling ball of space debris through the void, it’s this:

“It didn’t go as planned, and that’s all right.”

I may have paraphrased. And I forgot who said it. But it’s still on point. Goals change. Even our best laid plans of action will never survive contact with the enemy, the enemy in this instance being reality. So even if you’re successful, you sell well, you hit some lists, and so on, there may be other pitfalls you didn’t account for, there may not be ENOUGH success (there never is) and so on.
In those moments, we have to remind ourselves that we’re not in this for the money. If you ever meet an artist who’s only in it for the cash, please, you have my permission to bust out the loudest, most horrible laugh you can possibly muster, and to laugh until they’re so confused and uncomfortable, they’ll slink back to whatever delusional hole they crawled from and reevaluate their life.
Most of us aren’t Steven King. Or J.K. Rowling. Or Dante. Most of us never will be. And that’s okay.

To make a long winded explanation no less long winded: Keep writing. Keep feeling utter joy and trepidation and sadness and all the exquisite things that drew us to writing in the first place. Keep dreaming big.

I won’t make word count today, after the night my son and I had. So I’ll just have to make it tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.
I can do this.
You can do this.
You only fail if you quit.

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