When I was younger, I thought that being a ‘writer’ would involve spending all day… well… writing. It just seemed logical. But now that I’m older and wiser (well, a little) I know that the world isn’t always a logical place. And it turns out that there are very few writers who are lucky enough to be able to write all day long.
Now, I may not currently have a 9-5 job ruling my weekdays, but I am at university, and contrary to popular belief, there’s actually still a fair amount of work involved in getting a decent degree. So that leaves me with the same conundrum as pretty much every other aspiring author: when do I squeeze in my writing?
It’s a question that’s asked a lot in the writing community and opinions vary hugely, but one of the most popular views seems to be that first thing in the morning is the way to go. You set your alarm an hour or so early, bash out your quota of words (most likely with the aid of a very strong coffee) and then start your working day knowing that you’ve already done the most important thing – made some progress with your book.
I think this is a great idea. It seems smart and practical and perfect for me, because unlike most students, I am definitely a morning person – I just don’t do late nights. But actually, I’ve tried the whole ‘writing early in the morning’ thing and I haven’t had very much success with it. If it’s university work I’m swamped with then yes, I can – and do – get up early to try to make progress, but when it comes to writing my novel, it just doesn’t seem to work.
During term-time, I’m sure one of the main reasons is the pressure of academic deadlines. As committed as I am to my book, the self-imposed deadline I have for its completion just doesn’t carry the same threat as those which come with my university assignments, and I find it very hard to focus on my writing when I know that I’ve got other work that I have to get done. But it can’t be just that, because even in the holidays, when I’m wonderfully free of academic assignments, I still find it difficult to write first thing in the morning. It’s my most productive time for so many other things, so why should writing be any different? I’ve pondered it a lot and I’m still not entirely sure. The only possibility I’ve come up with is that maybe I simply need a little time to connect with the world.
It may sound like a terrible cliché, but every day of life is an experience. Every single day brings events, thoughts, conversations, emotions, and even when I don’t feel like anything remarkable has happened, I always end up with a head that’s crammed full of stuff – stuff that’s just begging to be explored in words. I’m not saying that everything I write is simply plucked from my life – not at all. Imagination is a wonderful thing. But having some contact with the real world definitely seems to help me to get going, and lately I’ve found myself doing an awful lot of my writing last thing in the evening. I try not to stay up too late (I’m pretty grouchy when I don’t get enough sleep), but I can’t always help it. I find myself naturally reflecting on my day and reliving moments – a person’s expression, a snippet of speech, a flash of emotion – and then I start writing and I just can’t stop.
A year or so ago, if you’d asked me whether I was an early bird or a night owl, I would have said ‘early bird’ without hesitation. Now? Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’m becoming a strange sort of hybrid. I don’t suppose it matters, in any case. The only thing that really matters is that I keep getting the words down somehow.
Word count as of 23rd Feb: 32,704