Monday, March 16, 2015

Old Habits Die Hard

Last year, I babbled a bit in this space about the challenges of finding the time to write while balancing life, family, a regular job, and various other demands on the precious few hours to be found in any given day. Over the course of several years and fueled more than anything else by necessity, I found that I was at my most productive and creative late in the day, after everyone else had gone to bed and it’s just me and one or both family pets hanging out in my home office. 11pm to 1 or 2am was my prime word-pushing time, by golly.

Since writing that article, my personal circumstances have changed. For those of you joining our programming already in progress, I made the leap last summer to writing full time. Now, instead of having to scrounge for a few hours after a long day of work, shuttling kids to and from school or after-school activities, yard work, and so on, writing now has the opportunity to occupy my prime working time.

My current weekday schedule typically is bracketed by my kids’ bus times to and from school. I normally have a plan of what I want to accomplish, which usually consists of a daily word count for one or two writing projects, any blogging I want to do, and various “administrative tasks” such as reviewing contracts or manuscripts or editor’s notes. My goal is to finish my daily “Writing To Do List” before my kids get home from school. I still might work on something after dinner, depending on the evening’s schedule, the proximity of a looming deadline, or if I just feel like “tinkering.”

Yet, more often than not, I’m still working that 11pm-2am shift. You’d think I’d be diving head first into my bed to enjoy some of that...what do they call it?

Oh, yeah: SLEEP.

Nope, not me. That'd make too much sense.

Heck, I wrote this blog post right smack in the middle of that window. Why? Because that’s when the mood struck to write the thing.

I’m still getting that burst of energy after everyone else has gone to bed, and I end up just riding the wave for as far as it will take me. The key difference these days is that it usually ends up being “bonus” writing time, rather than my only or primary opportunity to make my day’s writing goals. Even though I’m still hit by the need to be “productive” during this time, I’m not feeling stressed about it. I’m therefore having more fun with the entire process, rather than having to treat it as the work it was required to be at this point last year.

So, as I said with the title: “Old habits die hard.”

How about you? Have you had a reason to try shifting the time you do the bulk of your writing? How’s that working for you? Have you embraced the new paradigm, or do you find yourself falling back into old routines?


Jewel Amethyst said...

Welcome to the club Dayton. Your story really reflects mine. When I had a full time day job, writing was relegated to late at night. Since I now work part time in the evenings, my daily writing schedule is around the kids school time. Yet I still find I think most creatively late in the night and do a lot of my writing between 11 and 1am. Old habits die hard.

I'm surprised how many times I send other authors emails around midnight thinking they would respond in the morning but instead I get an immediate response. So Dayton, you are not alone.

KeVin K. said...

Same here.
I have had productive writing days while the sun is shining. But I've found I'm better at editing (other people's words) during daylight hours. My brain usually kicks into high creative gear at about 11:00PM and turns to mush around 2:30-3:00AM. I'm usually up taking care of adult-type daily living responsibilities around 7 or 8 but - due to my advanced age - I usually grab an hour's nap after lunch.

Liane Spicer said...

Ditto. No matter how my schedule changes, those midnight hours are still the most productive ones for me. There's something about the quiet, coolness and solitude that opens those faucets and the energy just flows.

The difference the daily schedule makes is that it determines whether I get up next morning all bleary and headachy to the sound of a blaring alarm, or blissfully snooze my way to mid-morning, since my years of sending offspring off to school are well behind me.

Jewel, that happens to me ALL the time. I always think I'm the only one awake and then some writer zips me back an email at 2 AM.