Creativity = Insomnia?

I usually don’t blog here about the writing process, mostly because (a) I think everyone has his or her own process, and does whatever works for him or her, and (b) no matter what advice you get or give, you still do things in the way that makes the most sense for you.

But I had a recent epiphany, one of those “I guess I’m not crazy after all” moments. I was talking with a bunch of other mystery writers about a strange phenomenon I experience: When I’m starting to think seriously about a new book, and plotting out all the twists and turns, I get hit with major insomnia. The sleeplessness continues until I get the first draft done, which is one of the reasons I tend to knock out my first drafts quickly. I need to get back to sleep, and editing/improving the garbage of the first draft doesn’t take the same toll on my sleep cycle (in fact, it takes no toll at all).

I thought I might have been alone in this, but when I mentioned it in an informal setting (i.e., a hotel bar), a bunch of other writers immediately said that the same thing happens to them: thinking about/creating a first draft = insomnia.

My problem may be this belief that questions get answered while sleeping. So, before turning in for the night, I find myself asking, “How do I figure this out? – “How do I give character X a reason for doing Y?” – “How do I tie all this stuff up?” – hoping that the answers will have come to me, magically, while sleeping. The good news is, they often do. The bad news is, 3 months of 3 hours’ sleep a night is no way to live.


Krazy Kars (or Vivacious Vans)


The above was parked in the lot of a motel I recently stayed at. This photo doesn’t do justice to the TLC of the creator(s), who clearly conceived their vehicle as a rolling piece of art and a Statement. I particularly liked the Winged Victory (Nike of Samothrace) on the hood.

I must say, this is much more interesting than the Toyota Camry I drove for 16 years.

Deadly Ink Recap

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Deadly Ink, New Jersey’s homegrown mystery lovers’ convention, was held last weekend in New Brunswick, NJ. It was the usual weekend of mayhem and collegiality, with guest of honor Brad Parks and toastmaster E.F. Watkins. I particularly enjoyed Brad and Eileen’s (E.F.’s) lunchtime discussion about the current state of journalism (even though it was a bit depressing).

My personal best for the weekend was being awarded the David S. Sasher Award for Best Mystery of 2014 for The Outsmarting of Criminals. I was honored to share the award with my friend Jeff Markowitz, who also won for his book Death and White Diamonds, starring a murderous Richie Cunningham (yes, the reference to Happy Days is intentional, if Jeff is to be believed — which he isn’t, always).

On the list of nominees was a very worthy and important mystery, Jeff Cohen / E.J. Copperman’s The Question of the Missing Head, which is narrated by Samuel Hoenig, a young man (late 20s) with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’ve always been a fan of unique voices in crime fiction, like Eva Wylie in Liza Cody’s series and Romulus Ledbetter in George Dawes Green’s The Caveman’s Valentine. To even been nominated alongside a book like The Question of the Missing Head was an honor in itself.

Next year’s Deadly Ink will feature Reed Farrel Coleman as the guest of honor. I was just looking at his home page and I wish I could look as tough and mystery-writerish as he does. So mark your calendars for next year’s Deadly Ink…