“As a general rule, writing is extremely inconvenient.”
This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite women. This is also one of those I’m-laughing-because-it-hurts situations.
Like many of my peeps, I’m working two full-time jobs—as both a novelist and a nonprofit marketing coordinator. Since I can’t really do this at my other job, there are definitely days when I sit down to write and am like, “nope,” and then stand back up and go eat blueberry muffins in the kitchen while basically loathing everything.
But recently, I realized that those days were happening more often than not, because I am an embarrassment to nature. So, with a new novel to work on and an old one to query, I decided the time had come. The time to get down to business. OH YOU KNOW.
Two weeks ago, to be exact, I was sitting at my dining room table with my roommate, and I was staring at a blinking cursor, as per ushe. And I realized one of two things was going to happen: I was either going to sit there until I typed a few truly obscene words to cope with my guilt about all the not-writing currently going on, or I was going to go to bed and loathe everything, as was my tradition.
It was 10 PM. I’d had a long work day and I was getting delirious, so I told my roommate I was going to bed. And I don’t know what possessed me to say it, but I did:
“I’ll just wake up early tomorrow and write instead.”
You should know two very important things about me.
One, I generally overthink before I say I’ll do things, because I have a weirdly overdeveloped sense of pride that holds me painfully accountable for any and all of my promises.
Two, I like sleep. I like eight hours of sleep. I like eight consistent hours of sleep.
So basically, I screwed myself over on both accounts.
The next morning, I dutifully and very reluctantly woke up at 6 AM, an hour and a half earlier than I normally wake up on weekdays. My roommate was already awake for work, and she looked at me like I was insane for doing this voluntarily. I mean, I couldn’t actually see her because I am legally blind without my contacts, but I sensed her judgement as I rolled out of bed, groaning like a 60-year-old man, and promptly stumbled into the door jam.
Then I sat down. And I mind-vomited 1500 words onto the page first thing in the morning.
The weird thing was, I felt so good afterwards that I started wondering why I hadn’t done this before.
SO not the reaction I was expecting to have, considering that I hate mornings and mornings hate me. (Sidenote: there seems to be a running theme of blanket hatred for things in this post, but I do actually like some things sometimes. Right. Anyway.)
Woke up early to write for the first time in my life and liked it so much that am currently regretting the past 22 years of night-owling.
— Samantha Chaffin (@thathalfasian) July 7, 2015
In college, I wrote at night and only at night. I was too distracted when the sun was up, and I found that at night, I was just sleepy enough to let the words pour out without filtering myself. That’s how I got through pretty much all of my last two novels and a two-act play.
But now? I write during the day as a social media and blog manager for work, and then I come back and try to write at night and find that I’m in fact dead inside.
But when I wake up early, I’m fresh. It’s my time. I don’t have the crap of the whole day weighing me down, nor do I have thoughts like, “I should go to the gym tonight but wait that sweaty guy who doesn’t wear his headphones when he runs is probably going to be there LOL I’m so not going to the gym” constantly sidetracking me as I eat my morning muffin.
Also, I don’t do it every day.
Because I would die, guys. Three times per week is about enough for me. But this is coming from someone who, for the past year, wrote maybe a paragraph before bed on a good day. Three times per week resisting the snooze button is a victory for me.
Downside: the actual waking part. Honestly, it helps to have a roommate who has to get up with me and will start to sing strange arias at me if I hit snooze. But in a few weeks, I will have my own room (for the first time in five years), so who knows how long this bout of discipline will last.
Another downside: I can’t drink coffee at 6 AM or I will sure as all heck faceplant in the middle of my 3 PM work meeting, which breaks my poor caffeine-addicted heart. I’ve so far fixed this problem with a little English breakfast tea (fun fact: that is actually me pouring milk in my awesome The Library mug in the below GIF), but I’m pretty sure my coworkers still think I’ve had about two weeks’ worth of wild nights in a row.
But here’s the upside…
Since July 7, I have written 20,000 words.
That’s just 6,000 words less than I wrote over the course of a month during my last NaNoWriMo. So I guess something’s working??!?!?!??!
You should know that for a hot second, I considered challenging all my late night-write followers to try tackling a morning or two with me for the next week, but then I laughed, because that’s dumb; if night-owling works for you, you’re doing it right. Also, I figured you all would rather sit back and watch me suffer (see, I know you).
But let me tell you, I am the last person I would have thought would become… this. Yet here I am. I hope this novel is very pleased with itself.
hail the pumpkin king wordcount: 41,700
When do you write best? Are you a night owl? An early bird? Why are there so many fowl metaphors for various times of day, and more importantly, why is “afternoon ostrich” not a thing?