First of all, before I get into the meat of this post, I’m proud to say that I’ve been forcing myself to edit my novel again after a relatively lengthy hiatus (call the hiatus a crisis of faith in myself). I have 50 pages left to mark up of the paper copy, and then I’ll be able to move into the computer document and start making changes there. I’m not sure which I feel is the more daunting task.
When I was in college, I took the majority of the classes I needed to satisfy my creative writing minor requirements with the same professor. He was forever going on about how he woke up early in the morning and did his writing for a few hours before getting on with his day. I thought that he was trying to encourage us to get up early in the morning and write because he was also forever trying to get us to be just like him. To this day, I’ve never once decided to wake up early in order to write.
I am, by nature, not a morning person. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how some people naturally wake up anywhere from 4:30 – 7:30 a.m. My “morning” starts somewhere between 9 and 10 generally (if I don’t have to be up for something). Part of the reason that I don’t wake up early is because I stay up so late. That’s always been more my pace. I like being awake past midnight when everyone else is asleep and it’s quiet. I can focus better. In college, this is typically when I did the majority of my homework (and even in the end of high school I could get away with staying up until 1 or 1:30 a.m., and then getting up at 6:45 for school). If I really must work during the day, I can make it happen. I just prefer working at night so much better.
So it’s no surprise, then, that about 97% of my novel was written between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. (Regular blog readers may have noticed that most of my blog posts are published during these same hours. In fact, it’s 11:59 as I write this.) I’ve done a bit more editing during the day, but there can be NO ONE else in the house with me. If I’m writing or editing, the minute someone else comes into my sphere, I’m done. I lose my concentration. I’ll stare at the words I’ve just written or read, over and over again, and my momentum falls apart. I think part of me feels like they’ll try to read over my shoulder or steal thoughts from my head (I’m perhaps just a tad neurotic like that). Case in point: while I was writing this, my brother came plowing through my door and I quickly opened a new tab and got really annoyed when he wouldn’t leave so that I could go back to writing. It’s not that I care if someone reads it, nor do I assume that they’ll want to (my writing ego is not really inflated), but it’s difficult to explain. I feel like it’s sort of similar to handing them a piece of my soul (which is right there, bared) and then watching while they judge it. I can’t even be in the same room as someone reading a birthday card from me.
The more I started paying attention to what other writers have to say about writing regularly, the more I came to realize that it wasn’t just my professor who writes early in the mornings. I have yet to find a well-known writer (or any writer at all) who says “I do all my work really late at night.” Surely there must be other writers suffering insomnia! Someone please tell me it isn’t just me.
I suppose that everyone has a place that they go to when they’re preparing to write (I immediately think of Happy Gilmore’s “Happy Place,” even though that’s not my zone). This is my typical writing zone: It’s late. My family has all gone to bed, so the house is finally quiet. I sit in my room in the dark. Sometimes I have a desk lamp on, but oftentimes I don’t. Most of the time I sit at my desk, but if I’ve had a really bad day, I might crawl into my bed with my computer. Once in a while, I’ll tell myself that I can write while listening to music, but this is really only true if it’s that rare day-writing occurrence and I’m drowning out other sounds. So I’ll turn the music on, accomplish nothing, and turn it back off after a song or two. I’ll write a few words. I’ll get up and brush my teeth. I’ll come back and do a few paragraphs. I’ll stop and look at Facebook and/or Twitter. Oh, look. The girl I haven’t talked to since elementary school who called me by the wrong name the last time she saw me posted new pictures. I should check those out.
Oh, right. I’m writing. I go back and I write some more. I get stuck. I start inspecting my shoulders and arms for new moles. I get some pain somewhere and immediately start thinking of all the diseases or ailments that I might have. That reminds me that I don’t have insurance. Then I start looking for jobs.
Oh, right. I’m writing. I go back to the document. I remember someone telling me to write my way through it. Who cares if it’s garbage? I’ll just edit it later (this has to be some form of procrastination, too. I’ll suffer now, but choose to suffer more later). I write a little bit, and then I start looking at writing blogs, etc. I’ll decide that I’m a totally horrible writer compared to these people, and I’ll give up for the night.
I waste a lot of time. Let the record state, though, that there are quite a few days when I’ve got ideas and I sit down and the words flow off my fingertips. I don’t bother with music or Facebook. I’m not worrying about what kinds of physical ailments or afflictions I might have. I don’t care about that girl from elementary school who isn’t even my friend anyway, despite the fact that she added me on Facebook. I don’t write many blog posts on the spur of the moment. Typically I’ve considered the topic for at least a few days before I put words down on paper (or into WordPress). Most of the time I’m procrastinating and convincing myself that I’m going to die an early death as a terrible writer, I’m writing fiction and I haven’t thought about it that much before sitting down to write.
The thing is, though, that none of that has actually stopped me. I’ve still managed to write a novel of roughly 90,000 words. I’ve still managed to publish all these blog posts that vary between 1000 and 1600 words. No matter how much I’ve convinced myself at night that I’m a terrible writer, I wake up in the morning and I spend all day getting ready to write (which equates to doing nothing besides telling myself that I’m going to do it). Then at night, I repeat the process.
The funny thing about writing is that I’ve started using it to procrastinate …. writing. I started working on a short story and I really like it (I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, I’m sure). I’ve just come to a point right now where I’m not sure which direction I want to go with it. I really should be working on that. I opened the document, I looked at it, I saw the cursor blinking back at me and I…… came to WordPress and started writing a new blog.
I have every intention of getting myself to write regularly (which is to say, more often). I’ve been writing or editing anywhere from 3 to 5 nights a week when I’m in that zone. Then I’ll go a week or two doing nothing. I think that’s just part of my process, because for ten months now, I’ve been bouncing back from those “off-weeks” with productivity. In the interim, I blog. I know that not every blog post is a good one. Not every one is well-crafted or interesting to read. That’s par for the course. The point is that I’m writing. It’s practice. It’s keeping my arm warm. It helps me to shape and craft myself as a writer and build my self-discipline (that’s key, because I’ve always been pretty stubborn in that, if I don’t want to do something, I probably won’t do it. As a result, I lose interest in a lot of things after a month or so). And finally, that self-discipline helps me to take what I’m doing more seriously.