I got a new mattress/bed recently, after my back kept suffering. As a result, I have a great new sleeping experience. Unfortunately, I also wanted to start hanging out in my new bed, reading, writing, working on projects. But my back started hurting in that posture, pillows propping me up, in a new, not fun way, sharp pains in the mid back. So I am back to sitting at my kitchen table with my lovely MacBook Air, feeling the joy of working in a messy, quiet kitchen after my five year old daughter falls asleep.
As I don’t like to complain, and I did buy the new mattress for other reasons, I am going to focus on the positive. In addition to the absence of sharp back pain, I get to eat and drink at a table without fear of getting my bed messy. Also I am not exposing my eyes and brain to a screen or other activities. I have read many times, that you should only sleep in your bed. To help you sleep, better, and avoid insomnia. I may have been aching in the morning, but on my old crappy mattress I was not having any insomnia issues. No “hanging out”.
Avoid other activities in bed, they say, especially with glowing screens. I assume sex is ok, in moderation. Or just resting, which is a good idea sometimes. Prone. But screens, not so good in bed. In the kitchen, at night, when it’s quiet, very good, for me.
I started staying up late, literally past my bedtime, when I was very little. My dad worked later, a lot of overtime, so my mom would keep me up, late, which was not easy for her, so that he could see me and rock me to sleep at night. And like most kids I got up early anyway so for most of my life until I went to college I stayed up late and got up early and got maybe six hours of sleep a night.
I don’t know when I started working at night. Probably at U Penn when I would stay up late at night in libraries, or some obscure corner of a building, with one of those blue and white Greek coffee cups from a vendor, or a bagel from Skolniks. I didn’t stay up late in high school except to read on the couch, and I didn’t do as much writing, although I started keeping a daily journal when I was sixteen, and probably wrote in that in my bed at night.
There is the amazing Fine Arts Library at Penn, Furness, a really interesting shaped building that had this sort of secret lair, an area of the stacks upstairs with glowing translucent floor panels, like glass blocks but bigger, that you could walk on and eased the pain of late night studying. And huge amazing books about art. That was before I really started writing poetry and novels, before I really considered myself an artist, but to study there was very special, with my friends who were in on the secret area and alcoves.
Later in life I spent many hours late at night at tables, in coffee-shops, smoking, writing, reading, working. I don’t smoke anymore, just try to breathe in a healthy way and keep my lazy eye from drifting. Dozens of notebooks and hundreds of pages typed in computers of various kinds. I do like getting up early and going to work, to my day job, which is great in many ways and I am lucky to have, the tech world, not redundant to my art like an academic teaching job where I am in some kind of glass bubble/petri dish/echo chamber/inbred literary scene. Not to be negative, I’m lucky to not have to worry about tenure or which tweed jacket to wear. Of course I am exaggerating and being a little bitter about being shut out of that market. But there are advantages for a writer in the business world, just ask Kafka, who was extremely cheerful. So I like getting up early, drinking hot coffee, being alone in the morning, or getting my daughter ready for school, but being up late by myself is a rare treat now when I can pull it off and supremely productive. A few pages a week and you have a novel/book pretty quick, or at least a really good crappy first draft.
I am looking forward to many more late nights, quietly typing away on writing projects that involve hundreds of pages of fantastical literary fiction or memoir, and being quiet, and not hurting my back on some fancy new mattress. And new habits writing during the day, getting back on a normal healthy routine…