You’ve heard it a hundred times right? Everyone (and sometimes it feels like everyone) tells you that you’ve GOT to get your writing done in the morning. Get it out of the way. Get those words down when you’re fresh. Get on with your day.
Well – I’ve pretty much been ignoring that advice for as many years as I’ve been alive. I’m a NIGHT OWL. Always have been. At high-school, all my best study was done between the hours of midnight and 6am. University was the same: in that quiet, dark time when it feels like the rest of the world is asleep, that’s when the magic has always happened for me. Most of my writing has been done between the hours of 10pm and 2am. I pretty much wrote and edited the entirety of my novel White Eyes during those hours.
And honestly, who in their right mind wants to get up early if they don’t have to? Getting up before everyone else has always seemed to me to be a form of strange and unusual torment. It’s scientifically proven that the human body doesn’t mind staying up late (something to do with our sleep patterns and natural body clock, I think) but struggles to get up earlier. Especially when it’s cold. And dark. Or dark AND cold. (I just made that last bit up but it works for me).
Night writing does take its toll. Full of ideas and fuelled by caffeine, I’ve always found it very hard to switch my brain off after a late night session, hard to get to sleep. That makes mornings a bitch – a tired, sleepy, grumpy, sluggish stumble to the kitchen for more caffeine. I’d often delegate morning routine with the kids to my hubby (I’m very lucky he works close to home) so that I could get at least 5, perhaps 6 hours of sleep. It was hard, but it felt worth it – writing is sacrifice because the rewards outweigh the cost – and losing a little bit of sleep isn’t the end of the world.
I could have gone on like that indefinitely, but for two things:
- My eldest daughter started school. My kids are great sleepers, and up until that point, they’d generally not wake until 8am, but now she’d need to be up at least an hour earlier, and there were sandwiches to make, uniforms to prepare, hair to do. I was going to HAVE to get up earlier.
- This was the big one. My husband and I decided we’d like to add another child to our family.
I cut down my cups of coffee to two – the recommended limit for pregnancy (don’t ask how many I would normally have in a day – it’s not a pretty number). And we waited. I went to visit an acupuncturist who specialised in fertility. She was adamant. I needed to get more sleep. I needed to be in bed no later than 10pm. And I ought to give up the coffee. I laughed in her face (in a good-humoured kind of way). I’m a writer. Caffeine is the very substance I transform into words, and 10pm is my Prime Time. There was no way I could give those things up.
And there was no way I could get more sleep. There weren’t enough hours in the day. But the acupuncturist was clear: I was 37 and had a low egg reserve – if I wanted the best chance of a baby I ought to listen to her.
Begrudgingly I gave up the coffee. Not quite cold-turkey, but close enough that I got terrible headaches. I still wasn’t quite ready to give up my nights though. I figured I could start writing at 8pm, be finished and in bed by 10pm. But without my usual afternoon coffee, by 8pm my brain had left the building. My eyes were drooping and all my ideas had already gone to sleep. I was like this (but not so adorable):
It was all I could do to scour eBay for a few Review fit n’ flare dresses and check Facebook, before I’d drag myself to bed, or park myself in front of the TV (or just skip the middle man and not bother sitting down at my computer at all).
Something had to give. With two kids, I was getting no writing done in the day. I’d lost my prime night writing time. There was only one thing for it.
Set the alarm clock.
It was time for morning writing.
(pop back next week to read part two)