Inspiration's Calling Hours

12 March 2014

I learned something about myself recently.

I'm a late-night writer.

It took a shifting of room-mates to jolt my comprehension, and believe me, I resisted it as long as possible. For years I've tried to cultivate early morning writing habits. I'd set my alarm for six A.M. with wide eyes and high expectations, but when the dreaded hour rolled around, the last thing I wanted to see before my bleary vision was a computer screen. Maybe I needed more sleep (after all, it wasn't terribly logical to go to bed at midnight and try waking up to write five or six hours later). Maybe I wasn't inspired. Maybe . . . maybe . . . I hunted for some determining factor that would explain my limp inspiration. I kept hoping it would be different, that somehow, this time I'd have the gumption to yank myself from warm covers and type away. But to be honest, it rarely — if ever — happened.

Next came the phase of afternoon writing. It's a mottled one in its own respect; a clever sort of procrastination disguising itself as productivity. Schoolwork must come first, I argued. Then chores. Then personal reading. Then research. By the time writing came along, it was a lone half hour squeezed in before getting ready for dance, and one I'd most often spend on Pinterest, reading blogs, or answering emails. Thirty minutes in the middle of the afternoon just wasn't going to cut it. It was too easy to let things slide earlier in the day until even those short minutes were no more. By leaving my noveling as the last thing I did before going out the door for the evening, I built up a sense of anxiety around the whole writing process. My neatly written schedules rarely mirrored the day itself (do they ever, for that matter?) and something would inevitably come up that bumped my precarious routine out of order. When it came down to the wire, writing was the first thing I pushed off my to-do list. (Apparently teachers don't think "I was fulfilling my daily thousand word quota" a valid excuse for not finishing homework unless you can mention that said quota was inspired by Jack London, cite the website where you first encountered the quote, and give a detailed sketch of London's life and worldview.)

Days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months, and before long, writing was no longer a priority in my life on any level. Sure, I talked about it enough to give myself some sort of merit, and my classmates took my essays as proof that my creative writing was in good shape, but at the end of the day, I wasn't adding anything significant to the various projects that littered my computer's hard drive. I had plenty of ideas and notes and half-plots, but nothing solid that required real blood, toil, sweat, and tears. I talked about stories and writing concepts in abstract terms because to bring my own books into the picture would cut a little too close to home. Keep it secret, keep it safe. No one needs to know how long it's been since you've opened that Word document.

All that changed when Bree decided to move in across the hall with my two younger sisters and my baby sister claimed the top bunk bed in my room. Quite predictably, I dug my heels in at first, since Bree has always been my room-mate and confidante, but before long I began to see the benefits to this new arrangement. Ava falls asleep easily and sleeps soundly, leaving my own bottom bunk bed a quiet haven for whatever scribbling I want to do. I've built in a habit of pulling my laptop onto the covers and writing until I reach one-thousand words or thereabouts. Writing at night means there are few valid excuses to keep me from accomplishing something. There's no schoolwork or dance at ten o' clock P.M., no laundry to fold, dishes to wash, or spilled milk to wipe up. We writers complain often enough about how inspired we feel before we go to sleep — why not harness that inspiration, I thought, and see what comes of it?

For now, I'm slowly and steadily rewriting Rifles in the South Field from square one. We'll take it one day at a time — who can say what tomorrow will bring?

4 epistles:

  1. I must agree with you Elizabeth. . . I am a hopeless night-owl writer myself. My inspiration almost always comes as the clock strikes an hour when all decent people should be sleeping! I am glad to learn I am not the only one who stays up to the wee hours scribbling away!

  2. Good girl! I confess, i am not at all fond of writing in the morning, though i make myself do it in pushes.

  3. Elizabeth, I find it ironic at how very closely our writing struggles echo each other. Life has been so busy - I honestly cannot fathom how it all ought to fit in when I want to write so much. I just wrote a post this morning vaguely sharing the sentiments you share here, 'Where Her Fledglings Are Cheeping"

    My normal writing time is from around 8:30 till (OFFICIALLY speaking) 9:30 p.m every evening.. but in this time period has added to it the task of checking and responding to emails, reading blogs and commenting (and writing posts of my own) - all things I have to do more or less, but wish they did not infringe on my writing time. As it is, with so much on my plate, I sometimes head off to bed at 10:30 p.m. (which I have been doing lately), and still waking up early has not been the ideal thing for me as much as I get inspiration late at night I am not a night-owl health-wise. The predicament is hard to manage, especially since my only none school day is on Saturday for which we now regularly go to choir practice.

    I am so glad you found a way to fit in writing-time - definitely a change of room-mate can do the difference. I share the same room with my younger sister, Grace, and she is quite a light-sleeper, and goes to bed at least 1/2 hour earlier then me, so it is almost impossible to open up my laptop in my bedroom. I go to Dad's office and write there, but I cannot stay there very long before either of my parents find me staying up late and summon me to bed :P.These days, I'm just confining myself to notebook-scribbles throughout the day at tiny free moments when inspiration hit. Yikes, not my literary weapon of choice!

    All the best with your new writing schedule, and with Rifles in the South Field, Elizabeth - I pray the Lord blesses your endeavors, my dear <3.
    Postscript: I love the bit keep it secret, keep it safe!!!! Exactly my sentiments.

  4. This hits the nail on the head for me too! Problem is, when you're a married woman you can't shut out your hubby who's worked all day while you pound away at the keyboard . . . alas, I still have a writing quandary most days. If only I were a morning person!


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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