I am so guilty of this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “just a few more pages” and turned out the light an hour later.
This is especially terrible because I need my sleep. My goal is to turn the lights out at 10:00 pm every night, not reading “one more chapter”–even if I am in bed. That doesn’t count.
Two things are curing me of this bad habit.
First, I’m becoming more aware of the extent of the problem. Between my daily checklist (where I record lights-out time) and my new Jawbone Up (which tracks my actual sleep), I notice when I stay up too late. I can’t tell myself a chapter will only take “a few minutes” anymore, because I’ve been paying attention–and I know it’s more like twenty. And if it takes me 15 minutes to fall asleep, and I don’t turn out the lights till 10:30, I’m in trouble.
I sometimes pretend to myself that I have insomnia, when what I really have is a good book and inadequate respect for tomorrow.
Second, I finally realized that good books are hard to put down. It’s that simple.
Rachel Aaron explains this in her ebook 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. (Writers: it’s 99 cents and totally worth it.)
“Chapter breaks should increase dramatic tension….If the end of a chapter is a good place to put down a book, that’s exactly what the reader will do, so I make sure I never give them the chance. Putting down my book should be the hardest thing my reader has to do that day.”
Ironically, knowing it’s supposed to be hard somehow makes it easier. A good book shouldn’t be put-down-able. At 10:00 p.m., when I’d really rather keep reading, I tell myself I’m thrilled to be reading a great book. I notice how the author handles the chapter’s end: ratcheting up the tension like that. Well done, author, I can tell myself.
And then I can close it. And go to bed.
Is it hard for you to put down the book and go to sleep already?