Alan Wake should sleep Alan in lake

Surviving burnout – Alan Wake should get some sleep

Strange things lurk the forests of Bright Falls, while the Darkness bubbles and toils on Cauldron Lake. A strange presence beckons artists into its waters and Alan Wake is another casualty of its siren call, yet that was only the beginning. Alan Wake is a battered, broken man looking for rest, unfortunately fate will not afford him any reprieve and the results are damning. The man sees himself as an author first and husband second, thus his inability to write has brought him to a halt in life, without a muse he fell down a hole failing to recognise that it wasn’t inspiration he lacked, but rather it was the weariness eating at him.

So before we begin let’s go over the original story for context: Alan and Alice Wake are on vacation when Alan discovers that Alice’s real motivation for coming to Bright Falls was to help him deal with his writer’s block. Upset, Wake storms off in anger before Alice is taken by the darkness and he is forced to draft its manuscript for a week before barely escaping. After that Alan goes on a wild goose chase trying to save Alice whilst avoiding the Darkness that pledges the lake and a rogue FBI agent. Wake finally realises that he has to sacrifice himself in order to save Alice and the rest of Bright Falls by finishing his story and destroying the Dark Presence.

 Alan is introduced to us as this irritable man, especially towards women (Rose and Alice suffer the brunt of this). He’s self-centred and aggressive to the point of punching Emil Hartman over the slightest provocation. This is an indicator of someone dealing with burnout, since it designates stress which is doubly ironic since Alan came to Bright Falls under the pretence of going on a vacation, in the hopes that it would tame his bad attitude and restore his ability to write.

The darkness (while wearing the face of Barbara Jagger) seduced him, contorting his literature into a horror story. In the heart of Cauldron Lake, Alan wrote mindlessly for a week without any sparks of enjoyment or blissful rest, he was exploited by an enthralling power stripped of his agency and manipulated. Miraculously he escaped, but the work was done, and Alan was left consumed by fear and darkness. Emotionally drained, and physically exhausted.

Alan stumbles into more suffering at the hand of Nightingale and Hartman. Both men sought him for the manuscript pages, Nightingale abused his authority, while Hartman orchestrated a false kidnapper. The lengths these men went to, while dehumanising Wake, were extreme and dangerously selfish. In a clever subversion, Barry Wheeler Alan’s agent is one of the few characters who genuinely care for the man and doesn’t show much interest in what he writes, which is in sharp contrast to the Nightingale, Hartman, and Barbara Jagger who all try (with varying success) to plunge Alan deeper into a hole, estranged from reality where he’s just their little writing toy.

It is worth noting though that Alan had his own demons prior to the game’s start. Irritability aside, Wake was also an alcoholic, and on one occasion he got into a physical altercation with a member of the paparazzi narrowly escaping jail time. That incident shocked Alice, whose marriage was already rocky by that point, Alan’s alcoholism, violent personality, and emotional withdrawal drove his wife to her wit’s end. Alice Wake begged for him to hit her thinking that at least then he would have to confront himself then and reflect on his actions. Eventually, Alice contacted Hartman, in a desperate bid to save her marriage. 

The Sudden Stop; a fitting title for the last book Wake wrote before succumbing to writer’s block until Departure. At the end of the game, Alan reflects on the creative process. How it is “like an illness” all-consuming and overwhelming, in the end, all artists isolate themselves in order to complete their work. The procedure is long and difficult, requiring a lot to be sacrificed in the pursuit of the finished product, and when it’s all over time has to be spent in recovery. Unfortunately, Alan didn’t get that chance. The Sudden Stop’s tour was mired in conflict, and Departure’s end was merely the beginning. Alan Wake sacrificed everything, mind, body and soul. Even that wasn’t enough, and the world asked more of him than he could provide long before he arrived in Bright Falls.

Everyone says he should wake up; I say Alan Wake should sleep. The man has shuffled himself from one supernatural disaster to another, letting him rest and reflect on himself, between the aggression, substance abuse, dwindling enjoyment of his profession, and strained relationships. Let him recover from his burnout and cool him off. 

As someone who’s trudging through university right now Alan’s tale is a reminder to me that no matter how important the work is, no matter how high the stakes one shouldn’t ever compromise their well-being for it. Artistic pursuits are best accomplished with a clear mind and a happy soul. Alan didn’t have that and it led him into a dark place. Even I struggled with that sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be that way, not for him and definitely not for us. So please take care of yourselves, and act responsibly.