by Laura Anne Gilman
I once admitted to a fellow writer that I got a great deal of satisfaction in waking up and accomplishing things before the sun rose. I think that an admission of gleeful cannibalism would have been received better, and with more understanding.
Many writers turn to the dark side… that is to say, they are nocturnal workers. For some, it is the result of maintaining a day job; for others, it is the only time they get to themselves. And some simply work better in the relative stillness of the night.
But there are a number of writers who – like the majority of the working population – get up every morning and put in their time while the sun’s doing its thing, knocking off at dinner time
You will hear writers discussing their preferences, sometimes with vehemence, sometimes with a sort of sheepish deniability better suited to the aforementioned admission of cannibalism.
Neither is ‘better,’ and neither is ‘more appropriate.’ Yeah, even if you’re a horror writer. Or an erotica writer. Much has to do with the schedule of those around you. If you have children, their needs factor in (factor x10, in fact). If you have a spouse who works a specific shift, that will factor in. If you have other obligations – outside job, parents, hobbies… all of that needs to be factored in.
Plus, if you are working with agents or editors in another time zone, you need to keep that in mind for administrative communication – although the blessing of email has reduced some of that strain. The days of having to wait for someone to be in the office before you can tell them something are, thankfully, long gone. Ditto having to get to the post office during the hours they are open, to send a manuscript…
But the truth is that – no matter what outside needs push us – there are certain times we find that we work better. When the creative mind takes control, pushes everything else to the back, and hits the groove. And it’s different for everyone.
Some of us wake up, and we’re ready to write. The hours between 5am and 10am are prime creative territory, and once the afternoon hits, your brain shifts into other patterns. Some of us can’t get it cranking until 10pm. And some lucky folk can create at any time of day or night. Yes, you can (and will) train yourself to work in the time available… but if you can adjust your schedule to take advantage of that ‘hard-wired preference,’ you’ve got a half-step start.
But what time is best for you is not something you’re going to figure out – you should pardon the expression, overnight. And it may not be immediately obvious.
Even if you’ve been in this gig for years, try tracking your hours. Note not only when you’re most productive, but when you feel best while writing. When do you produce work that sticks to the page? Note the patterns over a week, or even a month.
And, just as importantly, when do you find your brain turns to other tasks? Are you able to juggle administrative details or external stressors better in the morning or afternoon?
Take all that data, and hold it up against your schedule. Is there something that can be adjusted? If so, do it. You may be amazed, not only how much better you work, but how much better you feel.
Coming up in Week 44: Weighing in on The Great Debate
Laura Anne Gilman is a former editor with Penguin/Putnam, and the author of more than a dozen novels, including the THE SHATTERED VINE, Book 3 of the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, IN STORES NOW! (ahem), and the forthcoming urban fantasy TRICKS OF THE TRADE (12/11). Her SF collection, DRAGON VIRUS, which SF Signal called “amazingly evocative….a potent ride through a changing future,” was published by Fairwood Press in June 2011. For more info check her website, her BookView Cafe bookshelf, or follow her on Twitter (@LAGilman)
She also runs d.y.m.k. productions, an editorial services company (www.dymkproductions.com).
And yes, her nickname really is meerkat.