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?