“Since childhood,” I reply. If the advice to “write about what you know” is apt, insomnia and I are a literary match made in heaven.
But I would never have written about insomnia if I hadn’t hit on a way to do it that was different from the way the topic is usually addressed. For this, I thank Andrew Solomon (who coincidentally was interviewed in The New York Times Book Review this week), whose book about depression—The Noonday Demon—changed my life. Not because I suffer from depression myself and found advice for my own situation. Rather, Solomon’s book was illuminating because it approached its subject in a way that was different—more honest, I felt—from most other books on depression. I thought I could write about insomnia in a similar way.
Real People, Real Lives
One of Solomon’s aims was to get people to recognize the huge impact depression can have on the afflicted, and to show people with depression managing their lives. To do this, he shares his own story and the stories of others with depression. This is, I think, a more meaningful way of creating empathy than the dry case studies often cited in self-help books.
Likewise, The Savvy Insomniac aims to show that persistent insomnia can be far more debilitating than it’s often assumed to be. It does this in part by sharing the words of real people talking about real lives.
An Intelligent Audience
Solomon’s treatment of depression is expansive. He assumes an intelligent audience that does not want him to stint on scientific information about the disorder or theories about its origins. And he writes in a way that I, a general reader, can comprehend.
Likewise, The Savvy Insomniac delves more deeply into the science of sleep and insomnia than most popular books on the subject. And it does so with a general readership in mind.
Solomon does not limit himself to addressing the medical aspects of depression. He looks at the cultural aspects as well: the assumptions and myths we have about depression, their historical origins, and the impact of these beliefs upon the afflicted.
Likewise, The Savvy Insomniac explores current and past attitudes toward insomnia with the aim of correcting misconceptions that keep us from understanding it as the serious problem that it is.
Going through Treatments
Nor does Solomon merely describe different therapies for depression. He undergoes the treatments himself and writes about his experiences, fleshing out our understanding without trying to sell us on the benefits of one treatment over another.
Likewise, The Savvy Insomniac reports on the experiences of insomniacs going through various insomnia treatments so readers can gain a fuller sense of what the treatments are like.
How well it all works in The Savvy Insomniac will be up to readers to decide. But my credo has always been this: “Aim high!”