Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Early Bird or Night Owl?

I always thought I was a night owl. One of those late night prowlers who could stay up, quite happily, until one, two, even three in the morning reading, watching TV, doing assignments, surfing the net and WRITING. Oh, those heady early days when I finally discovered my passion. I was writing every day, seven days a week, compulsively, addictively, from ten at night when the kids were in bed until at least one in the morning, if not later. I'd get up at seven, bleary-eyed as usual, get the kids out the door, hopefully dress myself appropriately so the day job wouldn't think I was out boozing the night before. I'd even write a little more on the subway ride into work and on the way back. The words gushed out of me like water from a cracked fire hydrant. This went on for years. I called it my obsessive love phase.

But then the kids grew older and busier and so did our lives. I couldn't seem to manage to stay up past 11 most nights and the ones where I did, it was to do laundry or veg in front of the TV because I'd been doing kitchen, homework, and chauffeur duties for four hours after I'd come home from work. I'd snatch my writing time in increments of twenty minutes here or, if I was lucky, an hour's skating lesson there. And there was always those wonderful half-hour subway rides. But even though I found I wasn't pouring the words out in the quantity I'd been used to, I noticed the quality was improving. I could tell when something was right or wrong pretty quickly. I learned to work quite efficiently in those snippets of time. And I learned to tune out the world pretty easily even if I was sitting beside some nattering nimrod on the bus chatting to her girlfriend on the cellphone about her latest disappointing date. Obsessive love was turning into practical reality pretty fast.

What I learned is that no matter what kind of internal clock your body is tuned into, when you have a passion - when it's something you HAVE to do - you'll find a time to do it in. I don't write any better or any worse if I'm writing from 10 pm to 1 am or from 5:30 am to 7:30 am (okay - maybe THAT's a little early for me). And I don't kick myself if I don't write every day. I've learned that to nurture your passion you can't be obsessive about it. There are other things that you need in your life. Like sleep. Sleep is my lover competing for my limited time right now. But my steadfast, true, long-lasting love? It's always there, waiting for me, faithful that I'll come back to it. Always.

So, what about you? Early bird or night owl? Or is it what I've become now - a bird pecking at her food whenever she finds it before it's snatched it away?


  1. I write whenever I can, usually in small increments. The one thing I've discovered lately is that I can't seem to really really write unless I'm out of the house. Otherwise I'm far too distracted by laundry, clutter, dishes, kids, or if the house is clean, the internet. When I'm "out" somewhere (usually Panera), I focus and get the job done.

    I understand about sleep, though. I have a three month old...

  2. Hey, Amber! I've always wanted to get away on the weekend for a couple of hours to sit in a coffee shop with my laptop and peck away by a window. It's like my ideal vision of a writer. But children (and, gah, I remember the first few months of my little babies very well. I feel for you) do make you adaptable. I'll take my small increments of writing when I can...