Once upon a time, I wanted to go back to grad school for my MFA in creative writing poetry. In college I had a concentration in creative writing (and a certificate in journalism!) and always felt that teaching creative writing classes would be neat. The instructors assigned their favorite collections, made up cool prompts, and were basically awesome.
But talking with my mentor, he really discouraged getting the MFA just to teach. MFAs were for people who desperately needed the extra time to be creative and just write, he said; it wasn’t a guarantee of any job at all. Beyond what I wrote for my thesis, I haven’t been able to reproduce that zest for writing since. I can’t tell if that’s a reason to go back (as in, I’m so deadened by my routine that I have no inspiration), or if it’s a reason to stay away (…because I have no consistency).
My writing was fueled by insomnia. I wrote late at night and rarely revised. In the twilight hours I’d sit outside, smoking of course (I quit and fear it’s another reason I can’t write anymore…), and watch the sky and birds. There were many things to see in those hours that weren’t apparent to me usually. During the day even, trudging around campus on a few hours of sleep, I’d experience those deliciously delirious senses, when little things are perceived. Moments felt longer, stretched even, so that I could pick out the brilliant parts of living. It was excruciating and lonely, but I was writing.
I was reminded recently of the moments of brilliance that can happen from this sort of crazed exhaustion. I was reading excerpts from a liveblogger’s entries of the Isner-Mahut game at Wimbledon. Take this, for example:
“4.05pm: The Isner-Mahut battle is a bizarre mix of the gripping and the deadly dull. It’s tennis’s equivalent of Waiting For Godot, in which two lowly journeymen comedians are forced to remain on an outside court until hell freezes over and the sun falls from the sky. Isner and Mahut are dying a thousand deaths out there on Court 18 and yet nobody cares, because they’re watching the football.
Soon they will sprout beards and their hair will grow down their backs, and their tennis whites will yellow and then rot off their bodies. And still they will stand out there on Court 18, belting aces and listening as the umpire calls the score. Finally, I suppose, one of them will die.” – Xan Brooks via Deadspin
There’s desperation in the exhaustion, maybe even bewilderment, and yet in these moments I can pluck from my distant and obscure memories, lucid declarations, and above all, vividness, a vividness that only comes from an extreme state of being, be it lack of sleep or mind-altering drugs.
I prefer the lack of sleep method.
So I am deciding what to do. I think an experiment is in order. I should stay up one day this weekend and see if the method lives on — can I write while sleepy? It sounds like a dangerous game for teenagers.