A lot of writers have fears their writing will be adversely affected under certain conditions. Now, I’ve never written while drunk or high (I neither drink to excess nor do illegal drugs), but do, with some unfortunate regularity, write while exhausted. There are two different kinds of exhaustion days for me. Those when I’ve gotten only a few hours of fitful sleep, and those when I haven’t slept at all the night before. Overall, the ones where I haven’t slept at all the night before are better for me creatively. Often after nights when I’ve had little—and fitful—sleep, it’s harder for me to grasp ideas, and I don’t even want to think about the messes I create in my projects when I do try to write. I generally avoid writing after nights where I’ve had little sleep, but I’m quite happy to write—when my creative mind cooperates—on days following nights when I haven’t slept at all. The main reason for this is because if my creative mind cooperates, I can still produce good-quality scenes, especially if I have an outline to work from.
Technical quality may suffer a bit, though, from all the typos I tend to make due to fingers getting tangled on the keys—the worst period of this is usually about the 23rd hour and may last anywhere from two to three hours. After that, I’m not quite so bad, but I still have more typos than average. I wrote two scenes on one project today, which I’ll comb for obvious typos tomorrow and then reread at a later date for typos I didn’t immediately notice, but this is just standard practice after I complete writing a scene. I also am much more likely to punctuate questions with periods than I am when I’ve been well-rested, but those instances are generally easily spotted on initial read-through even when I’m exhausted.
My sentence structure gets neither more convoluted nor more choppy. It remains pretty much unchanged, though if I’m writing a project that requires more complicated sentences (as certain projects on one of my “defunct” worlds does), I may end up with nonsense as I forget by the end what I intended to say at the beginning. This is always complicated if I’m using a conlang (as those projects on that “defunct” world do), because I not only have to remember the beginning of the sentence, but also the spelling of the constructed word as well as its meaning. To be quite frank, there is no way I’d want to work on those projects on that world right now as long as I’ve been away from them. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve immersed myself in that world, and, because of the conlang, the pov, and the sentence structure I require for it (it’s as close to literary as I ever bring any of my speculative fiction in terms of style—with regards to plot, my stuff always has one, no matter how straightforward it may be), I need to be highly focused on those projects and drown myself in the world and the story.
And, the things I used to think would go wildly out-of-hand if I wrote while exhausted, are plot and scene ideas. Actually, they used to get pretty wild and illogical—but that was because all my ideas were pretty wild and illogical. As I’ve grown as a writer and come to recognize reasonable ideas and grown in my ability to make them follow one upon another logically, I’ve found this largely unchanged by exhaustion as well. Generally speaking, the vast majority of the ideas I come up with that I think are brilliant prove to be just as brilliant, sometimes with some amendments, after I’ve had a night of good rest. Most of my amendments are extrapolations on the ideas, as my exhaustion ideas may seed/feed one or more plot threads at once, so I can reasonably say that, on occasion, my exhaustion ideas are even more brilliant than average.
Even with that, I try not to go into exhaustion hours if I can help it. I much prefer to be on a regular sleep schedule, and generally employ exhaustion days only when I’m unable to fix a broken sleep schedule any other way. And, no, I wouldn’t suggest anybody else employing this tactic to try and tap into the subconscious in an effort to improve ideas on purpose. Even with as good as some of my ideas while exhausted can be, it’s stressful to be up over 24 hours, and I’d say, about two thirds of the time I’m up past 24 hours, my initiative fizzles out at about the 24 hour mark and only gets worse from there, to the point where I give up on writing and decide on reading or, occasionally, I end up staring blankly at my computer screen wondering what I was going to do next with the machine.