I decided to give up writing a few days ago. It seemed logical at the time. I was having a miserable experience with my latest, feeling unappreciated and harassed, and I thought, Why go through this? I’ll just stop. It was, of course, 2 A.M. That’s why it seemed like a logical decision.
Fortunately, I managed to get a few more hours of sleep and when I finally got up, I had no more urge to retire. That’s really the problem with decisions you make at two in the morning: there’s no such thing as good sense at that hour of the day.
I’m the kind of insomniac who can get to sleep fine, but who then wakes up a few hours later unable to sleep any more. This usually happens when I’m stressed, and the reason I can’t get back to sleep is that I’m thinking about whatever is stressing me out. Of course, the next night I’m usually able to sleep pretty well because I’m too tired to stay awake, but that doesn’t stop me from being up and about and stressing.
But here’s the thing—at two in the morning, everything seems a lot worse than it really is. If you’re having problems at work, they’ll seem insurmountable. If you’re unhappy with your writing, you’ll be convinced that you’ll never write anything worthwhile again. It’s the 2 A.M. effect, and if you can keep that fact at the back of your mind, you’ll be able to weather the storm, knowing that once the sun is up, you won’t feel quite so down and out.
So here are some things you should never do at 2 A.M.
1. Call someone. Even if you get their voicemail, it’s a very bad idea. This is the equivalent of drunk dialing—it’s 2 A.M. dialing. You may be cold sober, but you’ll be in the grip of 2 A.M. thinking, and that’s the same as a couple of hours of tequila shots.
2. Send emails. Same principle applies. If you must write emails, do not, under any circumstances, hit Send. Keep them in the draft folder and then you can delete them when you’re back to normal.
3. Make major decisions. Well, you can make them, but don’t take any steps to implement them. Do not wake up your Significant Other to announce your life changes. Trust me, tomorrow morning this impulse to head for that monastery in Nepal will have passed.
4. Do revisions. Again, if you insist on revising your writing, make sure you save the original copy somewhere so that you’re not stuck with the changes you made. Eliminating the hero or changing his profession from firefighter to fashion designer will no longer seem like such a great idea.
Actually, the only thing you can reliably do at 2 A.M. is either read or watch TV, and even then, make sure your credit card is nowhere near the TV remote. You do not want that jewelry on QVC, no matter how nice it looks right then, and if you buy that onion chopper, you will be sorry when you realize it’s the same one you bought two months ago.
Just pick up that article on compost you’ve been meaning to read, or better yet check out the manual for your microwave. Find something so mundane and boring your brain will go into hibernation. You too can survive 2 A.M. Just make sure you do nothing that can’t be undone tomorrow after you’ve had your first cup of coffee.
So what else should you never do at 2 A.M.? And has anybody found a way to make 2 A.M. thinking work for you?