Imagine it’s two o’clock in the morning. You’ve been awake all night, working on this and that, and now your little spot on this planet is slowly rotating its way to dawn. You’re tired and you know you should be asleep, your body is practically yelling this at you, but you’ve just been hit by an awesome idea that cannot be ignored. You quickly scribble down the awesome idea in your notebook, but it’s frustrating, your mind feels thick and sluggish and you keep yawning like a Venus flytrap. You desperately want to work on the awesome idea, but your bed is calling you. This often happens to me, yet it is apparently quite common.
Research has shown, and I mean actual scientific research, that people tend to be more creative when they’re tired. When you’re tired you will find it more difficult to focus on a particular task. The tired brain is easy to distract and also struggles to remember links between the ideas you may have come up with when you weren’t tired. This can be a good thing when you’re trying to be creative, as your mind will drift and mix up ideas, potentially coming up with something new and brilliant. However, different people function better at different times, and even if you have great ideas at two o’clock in the morning, it might not necessarily be your most productive hour.
The majority of people generally know if they’re an early-bird or a night-owl, and both have their supposed strengths and weaknesses. Nonetheless, night-owls are usually the more creative types. A short explanation is provided in the video below…
A lot of famous people are known to be night-owls, particularly writers. However, if you are an early-bird do not despair. I recently read ‘Good Omens’ by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and there was a funny yet interesting afterword with a Q&A at the end. I quote…
‘Neil was mostly nocturnal back then, so he’d get up in the early afternoon and see the flashing red light on his ansaphone, which would mean there would be a message from Terry that would usually begin with “Get up, get up, you b******, I’ve just written a good bit!” and then the first phone call of the day would happen, when Terry would read Neil what he’d written that morning, and Neil would read Terry what he’d written much earlier that morning.’
Clearly Terry Pratchett is an early-bird and Neil Gaiman is a night-owl. So even though creative people tend to be night-owls, this isn’t a strict rule or observation. The onus really comes down to you, you have to figure out what works best for you.
Waking up at midday and staying in your dressing gown until the afternoon everyday may sound appealing, but the reality is quite different. Your daylight and sociable hours are seriously limited. If you are a night-owl, like myself, and find that you’re working all night and sleeping in late on a regular basis. For your own health and sanity, you will have to make the effort to see some sunlight, talk to people, and exercise. Plus, be prepared to be tired at all planned events that take place during the day.
As humans we spend way too much time on our phones, computers, and sitting in front of the television – I know I’m guilty. Our jobs demand it and now our social lives demand it too. The problem is, without regular breaks away from the screen, it affects our eyes, our posture, our weight and our eating habits.
New writers, make sure you have a comfortable working environment, ideally a good desk and a chair which supports your back, neck, head and arms. Set yourself a thirty minute timer whenever you’re working, and when the timer goes off, take a break for fifteen minutes, look around and get your eyes to adjust to both long and short distances, go for a short walk, stretch your limbs as though you are about to exercise, and make sure you have some water. After the fifteen minutes are up, you can reset the timer and go back to work. This is just one suggestion for promoting a healthy routine whilst writing, but you may find alternatives. The crucial thing is to take care of your body, you’re going to need it if you want to publish books for a living.
You may not think that this is important to consider, but it is. If you don’t think about your time and lifestyle before you start writing, you may find yourself thinking about them later. Time as an author does not exist in the same way as it does for other people, even on the days when I appear to be just sitting quietly, my brain is as active as the London rush hour. You don’t have to spend all of your time writing to be a writer, and you don’t have to publish books every few months to be an author, but writing is demanding. What it all comes down to at the end of the day is how you tailor your time and lifestyle to writing.
I’ve seen many posts that advise new writers to ‘make time for writing’ or ‘set aside time each day to write’. As much as this advice is good and works for some people, personally I’ve found that I have sporadic working hours. I never switch off from writing, I often joke with close friends that I never stop working. My hours are never nine to five, and I have never had a set time every day where I write. I can find myself writing on any day of the week, at any hour. Some days I will do no writing at all, and other days I might write all day (with frequent breaks). My advice is to try and set aside a few hours every day to write, but if you find that you’re just not feeling it, then don’t force it. It is more important to have fun when you’re writing, if you have fun and enjoy the writing process, it will show positively in your work.
‘Different authors write different ways, have different relationships with their audiences, and those are all legitimate.’ – John Green.
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