The Roll-Out-of-Bed Challenge

“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.

I came here to write words and cry.

I actually came here to write words and cry.

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.”

Guys.

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.

I have waited a hundred years to use this pic of Mr. Robitussin.

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.)

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.

milk + honey

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.

writing space
hail the pumpkin king 
wordcount: 41,700

–Samantha Chaffin


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? 

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11 thoughts on “The Roll-Out-of-Bed Challenge

  1. deshipley says:

    Why /is/ “afternoon ostrich” not a thing?…

    In general, my muse tends to favor nighttime for writing. (Possibly just because he, like me, prefers to put off bedtime until my eyes refuse to remain open.) During NaNo, though, I’ve found it behooves me to start cranking out the words first thing in the morning, as it only gets harder to focus as the day goes by. No accounting for the brain’s rhythms, as near as I can tell. I’m glad to hear you’ve found something that works better you, for however long and productive a season it lasts!

    • samchaffin says:

      Riiiight? Why wouldn’t afternoon ostrich be a thing? Hm. Henceforth, I dub it with thing-hood.

      And I hear that! NaNo makes us all do strange and slightly unhealthy things.

  2. Reagan says:

    I’m a nightowl. And for the last few months…years…(see since college started) I haven’t written enough to count as significant in my novel. Which sucks.

    So…I might try this. I HATE, HATE getting up early. I’ll do it, and after I wake up I’m fine. But it’s the getting out of bed part. And if no one holds me accountable I will not do it. At all.

    Buuuuuttt….if it’s working for you, it might get my creative juices flowing again. Who knows?

    • samchaffin says:

      Girl, I so get that. It was so hard for me to find a rhythm in college. My schedule was constantly shifting.

      And yes, I would say you should try it at least once. But only do it if you can go to bed early that night, because I’ll tell you that I start to fade in the evenings a lot faster now than I used to. All my brain power is kaput by the end of the day. 🙂 I hope it works for you! Let me know how it goes.

  3. Alyssa says:

    *whispers* I am an afternoon ostrich. I like writing in between homework and such and really it’s more of doing one sentence of my essay between scenes. I do adore this new bird nickname.

    Absolutely loved this post — seriously, it was hilarious the whole way through and I’m so happy for you that this morning routine is working out for your writing! My muse (and my body) shut off in the early morning AND late evenings, so I am probably cut out to stay an afternoon ostrich — but who knows? Perhaps I shall learn to sleep less and drink more coffee.

    PS: Love the milk gif!

    • samchaffin says:

      Omg you are the most writerly writer I have ever seen, writing between your writing. Haha and thank you! I wouldn’t recommend anything that involves sleeping less, but that’s just me. I also love me some afternoon ostriching. 🙂

  4. Topaz says:

    Uh oh. I think you may have almost convinced me to actually start waking up early (!) to write – which is 100% unheard of for me. I am a night owl through and through, but these days I’ve been so preoccupied with musical matters at night (i.e. the only time I can actually write music without somebody poking their head in and asking why I keep singing the same six words over and over at varying pitches), so I’m thinking I might actually have to convert to an early bird for the novelling side of the equation..

    Okay. I can do this. I WILL do this.

    (Read: I will attempt to do this and see how it goes. If it fails, at least I can say I tried. 😛 )

    • samchaffin says:

      You write music too?!?! Is there anything you CAN’T do? Why is life so unfair. Haha anyway… GOOD LUCK omg, I hope that you like it after the first attempt! Drop me a line to let me know how it goes! 😀

  5. my holistic life says:

    I’m an early bird writer…during nano I become an extreme early bird and wake up every morning at 5 AM to write or motivate myself to write. But now I’m sort of in transition and write whenever I can focus. I’m editing my second novel using Susan Dennard’s awesome step by step/extremely detailed method. This is my first time ever working through drafts…and I actually like 2nd drafting better then 1st drafting (less chaotic but still room for unexpected and creative changes). But for some reason I’m getting stuck on my outline…I ran out of sticky notes and I don’t feel like hunting for tape. It’s weird how some writers write for the process…I’m just desperate to get the story out. I haven’t found peace with the process yet…but I’ll find my rhythm eventually. Also I don’t write every day…I’m trying to write in my diary daily though.

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