Sunday, November 28, 2010

Night Writing

I cannot claim the genius of George Sand (nor even that of Judy Davis, who played Sand in the film Impromptu, pictured above), but like her, I love to write at night.

I hardly ever get to do it now, but a couple of weeks ago when I was interviewing Robert J. Wiersema, he mentioned that he always gets up at four in the morning to start his day's writing, because he works best in a liminal state. (That became the hit word of the whole evening: "liminal". Everyone at the event seemed to relish the sound of it...)

And that reminded me what I loved best about writing at night, when I wasn't asleep yet but wasn't quite fully awake, either, and the whole flow of the narrative seemed to come easier, somehow. I used to love the quiet, and the solitude; the sense of satisfaction that would come from closing off a chapter in the small dark hours before the sun came up.

My schedule changed, of course, when I had children. Though I did, I'll admit, seem to spend my first few years of motherhood in a continual liminal state, I was too tired when night came to put it to use! My writing time was fitted to the children's naps and meals, at first, and later to their hours at school, and writing through the night is not the wisest thing to do, I've learned, when you have to get up sharp at 6 to make breakfasts...

Which is fine. I have learned to adapt, and I don't think my writing has suffered at all for it. But this past Friday a deadline did keep me up half the night writing, till almost 4:30 a.m., and it felt...well, exhausting, but wonderful.

What time do you like to write?

Set your watches for Thursday, when Julie's next post will be up.


  1. I'm a night writer, too; a bit of a night owl by nature, I find the late hours the most stimulating. I suspect most of my university essays were written after midnight. I actually just wrapped up a chapter and popped over to my feed reader to see what was new before heading to bed (at 2am).

    Glad you've managed to maintain your creativity even with adjusting your schedule around your children. I imagine quiet and solitude are harder to come by for you these days.

  2. I'm a night owl too Susanna and the good news is your children will soon be old enough to make their own breakfasts :) When my kids were small, it used to frustrate me no end that I couldn't stay up late. I really wanted to, but like you, I knew I'd pay for it the next day and it just wasn't worth it. Now they're older, I relish my night time writing or reading and I think maybe I appreciate it more now!

  3. Whenever I'm on a plane - stuck, preferably with a glass of wine - I'm at my most productive because I'm stuck. Otherwise i write when and where ever I am but generally not at night. i quite like the quiet of the early early morning to write but that doesn't happen often....

    Well done on making the deadline.

  4. It's morning for me. It doesn't have to be early, but it has to be the FIRST thing I do. If I can get the story into my head before I start fretting the rest of the day's business, it'll stick. Otherwise, life shunts it out of the way in favour of day job, chores, etc etc...

  5. My muse is on hiatus, but when I was writing all the time, and doing nano, I did a lot of night writing. All day I can come up with reasons to procrastinate, but at night I know I have to get it done. Also with less distractions, it's so much easier to get into a groove and let the story flow.

    Coincidentally, I just finished re-reading The Winter Sea last night, and Carrie was constantly pulling all-nighters. ;)

  6. Seabrooke, now that you mention it, I DID write a lot of my university essays in the wee hours of the morning (I did most of the reading then, too :-)

    Christina, you've given me hope. Though while I do look forward to reclaiming my nights, I'm in no rush to have my children grow any faster -- I'm enjoying them too much.

    Ah, Liz, would that I were stuck on a plane with a glass of wine... But I can never write on planes. I have the best intentions, but Air Canada always has those "choose a movie" touch screens at every seat, and I get distracted...

    Anna, I always thought I'd be a morning writer, too. I love the early morning, but seem to only be productive in it if I'm coming at it from the wrong end, having stayed up through the night before.

    And Sofie, yes, Carrie did (coincidentally :-) take on my night-writing habits...