1/05/2011

What I want most in the New Year is...

...a magic button on the back of my neck that, when flicked, makes me suddenly enormously enthusiastic about writing in the morning. Because it would solve a lot of problems, really it would.

I have always been at my best, writing-wise, in the late evening, and very early morning - between midnight and two a.m. But the way my life is arranged these days, my life would be an awful lot easier, vastly more productive and leave me more time to get various things done if I wrote in the morning instead; between, say, eight in the morning and midday.

But I just can't do it. I've tried, but only managed it on rare occasions. The fact is that no matter how awake I am in the morning, I just can't contemplate writing fiction until much later. My brain refuses in most cases to do it. Even if I get up early after a really good night's sleep, some part of my brain remains completely futzed until at least two or three in the afternoon. The creative side of me just won't become fully functional until after sundown.

There are night people and morning people, and I most definitely am not a morning person; nor have I ever been. I've done a little online research to find ways to boost my morning productivity, but it doesn't look hopeful. You can tell me all about changing habits, getting to bed earlier, etc, but it doesn't work. Before two in the afternoon at the very earliest, I stare at the manuscript I'm working on and it's like all the lights in my head are off. There's no enthusiasm. Even after two in the afternoon and before (say) eight in the evening, forcing myself to write, as I usually have to, turns into an awful, grinding process, like trying to start a half-frozen car in the depths of winter with all its windows iced up.

And yet many other writers do manage it. I really wish I knew how they do it. If there are any miracle cures, I'd love to hear about them.

14 comments:

iansales said...

I have a miracle cure: cut out caffeine. You will no longer wake up feeling like a zombie. It's worth a try, anyway.

Neal Asher said...

My miracle cure is sitting back and remembering 25 years of shit jobs, but I don't know if you have that option.

Orin Thomas said...

I have the same issue - I can be sitting at the desk at 7am, but stuff doesn't really start coming together until somewhere around 11.30am - and I'll accomplish more between 10pm and 2am than I will between 11.30am and 10pm.

I haven't been able to switch my routine around (I even tried getting up at 5 for a while and staring at the screen). It may simply be biological.

I think Paolo Baciagalupi has been playing with an internet deprivation tank to get himself writing, but that seems a little extreme.

gary gibson said...

Actually, Neal, that technique has often been my spur of last resort: thinking about the shit jobs I could be doing. It can indeed be powerfully effective, yet for some arcane reason that power is dimmed by morning light (and strengthened by nightfall). Ian - I could try, but after I read your comment, I typed 'caffeine' and 'creativity' into google and got hit by articles extolling caffeine as the wonder-drug for creative types. Score one for caffeine; I swear, my life feels better for it - and I never drink it after the early afternoon. It's out of my system by bedtime.

Orin - I'm with you. It's biological, I think, and I'm very sure I read something about it somewhere. And even if I cut myself off from the internet, believe me, I'd just find some other way to procrastinate. I guarantee it.

Pedro Pinheiro said...

Why do you want to change things? Is it affecting the amount of output and/or the rest of your life? A lot of writers (and other professions...) work *through* the night. Different people, different cycles. I'm a bit like you in my photography, I love photographing and post-processing it late at night, even if I have to wake up at 7h30am to take the kids to school and go to work. I just need more caffeine! :-)

iansales said...

Gary, I thought the same about caffeine - I needed it to kickstart my brain in the morning. But I cut it out & now when I wake up I'm ready to go straightaway. All caffeine does is get your brain in the state it would be in if you weren't hooked on caffeine.

Neal Asher said...

Perhaps you're getting it entirely the wrong way round, Gary. Maybe you are too awake in the morning, too together, and your brain has yet to achieve that slightly disconnected dreaming state required for writing. Maybe a large whisky at 8.00 AM would do it.

Neal Asher said...

Incidentally, courtesy of Macmillan I now have a copy of Empire of Light. Looking forward to it.

gary gibson said...

Neal - that's a thought. My mind does wander down interesting avenues in the evening: it's when I have most of my best ideas. It's also when I most often feel the most relaxed. Hope you enjoy Empire.

Neal Asher said...

Here's another one. In a similar vein my writing really kicks in in the afternoon. Yet, when on Crete with no Internet access and nothing to do with my laptop when I turn it on but write, I normally hit my target word-count by midday.

I'm sure I will enjoy it - haven't not enjoyed one of yours yet.

a said...

As an occasional creative type myself, I too have suffered from the inability to write at any time other than stupid o'clock, so the chance I might be able to blame this indisposition on genetics rather than myself cheers me greatly, as I hope it does you. Also, regarding Neal's suggestion of an 8am whiskey; don't do it - whiskey before lunch inevitably means that one becomes two, two becomes twelve and before you know it, you're wrestling your agent naked in a basement bar in Soho before a crowd of braying mustachioed men who have money, and possibly other things, laid on your endeavours. Or maybe that's just my run of luck.
As for developing a nous for morntime scribing, have you considered All Bran? I hear that's good for everything.

jfarnold said...

I recommend very highly just writing in the times that you've set aside for it. Just the habit of writing even if it's shite. I think if you just spent a week or two just typing or however you create in those time constraints you want to create you'll find yourself adapting. It takes three months to change a habit. It requires consistency and will. I know that you can do it. You must really choose to do so. Sorry I'm choppy typing on a wee phone. Good luck.

jfarnold said...

I recommend very highly just writing in the times that you've set aside for it. Just the habit of writing even if it's shite. I think if you just spent a week or two just typing or however you create in those time constraints you want to create you'll find yourself adapting. It takes three months to change a habit. It requires consistency and will. I know that you can do it. You must really choose to do so. Sorry I'm choppy typing on a wee phone. Good luck.

antihippy said...

Hi Gary,

In the past I've turned in my best work after writing at 3am to meet a deadline! And I can't even look at a pen (or keyboard) till about 12 let alone 11.

I tried giving up caffeine once. EVERYONE (boss at work, boss at home, wider family and friends) told me to start drinking coffee again ...

I am that cranky without it.

I sympathise.

I have a different problem. How do I kickstart my enthusiasm after 2-3 weeks straight of drinking and partying... how I get myself back into it? Answers on a postcard please!