I can’t stop thinking

I’m borrowing a line from Scott McCloud because it’s been stuck in my head since the day I first heard it (or rather read it) way back in 2000, and sometimes it really resonates with me for a completely different reason.

This weekend has been very productive (and satisfying) but also very tiring. I went to bed expecting to sleep soundly, although I often have trouble falling asleep on Sundays.¹ I nodded off two or three times over my Kindle before putting it away and lying down. I promptly fell asleep and had some very disturbing² dreams before waking up again, barely fifteen or twenty minutes later. Then I started thinking.

And I can’t stop thinking.

You’ve probably read that many great artists are or were bipolar. I don’t claim to be a great artist, but greatness (in any field of endeavor) requires drive, dedication, obsession even, and I understand where they get that drive. Imagine that you wake up in the middle of the night—or a sudden spell comes over you during the day—and you find yourself getting increasingly restless and agitated and your thoughts are running away from you and you are overcome with the urge to translate those thoughts into words, or code, or chords, or colors, or anything and just keep going until they’re purged from your brain and you can stand up and scream


and sometimes the moment passes before you’re even halfway done and you sink, and sink, and sink and you stare at the unfinished work and it stares back and mocks you because who are you to think you could ever build this?

So in the hour that passed between waking up and giving up trying to sleep, I mentally designed a wiki-style markup syntax⁴ and a Perl implementation complete with parsing strategy, class hierarchy and a plugin system for custom output formats. Then I got up and started installing that liquid cooler I bought for my desktop three months ago but never got around to installing, only to discover that the heat sink has leaked into its wrapper, so I reassembled the computer and hang it from a rail under my desk using that bracket I bought two months ago but never got around to installing.⁵ And I pretty much wrote this blog post in my head while I was disassembling and reassembling my computer.

I can’t stop thinking.

And this is what I’m like when I’m on meds that work. It used to be much, much worse. I don’t cycle as rapidly as I used to, and I never go as far up or down as I used to. So these days I mostly manage to finish what I start, unless I hit a serious obstacle and don’t have an outside factor to push me onward, and I’m much better at prioritizing and at not taking on (too) much more than I can handle.

Maybe this is why creative people tend to have cats rather than dogs. Cats don’t care if you’re batshit crazy.

Relevant (if you read Norwegian): Jaja, det er vel på tide å legge kukken på bordet igjen

¹ Even when on vacation, so it’s not work-related.
² Yes, that’s a euphemism for “explicit”³
³ I know, I know, “explicit” is also a euphemism.
⁴ which is idiotic because there are already so many to choose from, yet not completely idiotic because most of them are crap and those that aren’t have no decent Perl implementations, or are implemented as part of a complete wiki application which is not what I need so shut up.
⁵ I have ridiculously expensive brand-name office furniture in my home office. Considering how much time K and I spend in there, it’s worth every penny.

5 thoughts on “I can’t stop thinking”

  1. You might be interested to take a look at the ketogenic diet. I used to have nights where I couldn’t turn off my brain (Mondays in my case). No sleep issues at all since switching.


    An interesting anecdote on it working in one case:


    This is a standard treatment for epilepsy. The first link has references to it working for all kinds of conditions. I have a refereed survey paper somewhere with pages of studies where it works for a variety of conditions.

    (I switched after having bypass surgery, doing what the doctors and nurses were telling me to do and then discovering that I couldn’t think properly anymore.)

  2. Hmm, that was sort of random and not very meaningful. I’ll think some deeper thoughts tomorrow.

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