When the creative juices are flowing, any time is a good time to write, but there are layers of this creativity that will dictate whether I get out of bed at 2:00 a.m. or stay in cozy-mode, thinking and plotting – it’s the words that are the deciding factor for me – It helps if I am awake or waking up at the time, but that’s secondary to getting those words down pat.
General ideas, plot structuring and solutions to problems all can leave me snug in bed. I usually have a notepad and pen next to the bed, but I also use a mental blackboard where I’ll write key words, usually in multilayered, multicolored chalk – white, then pink, then yellow, then blue, then white again, overwriting each word in a new color to lock it down into memory. That works well for single words, short lists and short phrases. With that, I can drift back to sleep and I’ll retain that information quite comfortably.
The detailed layer, however – the one that comes with the exact words you’ve been looking for – drags me out of bed no matter how sleepy I am, because writing on a mental blackboard or even in a notepad isn’t enough and I know that immediately. This is the layer that expands as I catch it word by word. What starts off as a small paragraph turns into three or four pages or more of wonderfully detailed prose, exactly what I want. If you’ve ever thought of a great sentence and lost it again before you got it recorded somewhere, you know the frustration of that. You ‘ll do anything to catch what’s running through your mind right at that moment now that the floodgates are open, even if it is the middle of the night.
I’m a morning person, but I quite enjoy a midnight stint. This is particularly true when the house is quiet and nothing is required of me. There isn’t the morning hassle, I don’t need to watch the clock, prepare tea or coffee or get lunches organized.
Cats, though… Cats can be an issue.
Whenever possible both our cats are in at night, but one of them always tried to keep out extra late. If he misses the time-to-come-in call, he lets me know when he wants in by banging on the bedroom window, usually between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. I have long learned it is easier to get up and let him in than it is to pretend I haven’t heard him.
Occasionally this will trigger a middle of the night writing effort, but it can backfire on me, too. The cat in question most often settles down for the rest of the night, but sometimes if I’m up, he’ll decide he’s onto a good thing. He’ll get all excited about a midnight snack and let me know he wants out again – after all, there is moonlight out there, there are mice and maybe dragons.
His promise that he can slay the beasties – whatever they might be – if only I will let him out again does not sway me. This results in a battle of wills with him repeatedly letting me know what he wants, and me playing the dumb human who doesn’t get the message. If he plays up too much, though, I’ll shut him out of my office. Simple? Yes. Effective? No. Recently he has learned a new trick. He’ll seek out the other cat (an old lady now) and gets into a rip-roaring cat fight that will get my attention every time. You guessed it, Mr I-Can-Be-Trouble gets shown the door.
The drawback to letting him out again is that he’ll want in once more further down the line, and then he’s back at the bedroom window carrying on, not paying the least bit of attention to the light on in my office.
To circumvent this issue, when he manages to get free again into the night, I now take the phone into the bedroom and inform Greg gently that it is there. This is so when the fiend is back at the window, Greg can ring me at my desk and I can go and let him in again. Otherwise, I don’t hear him and Greg’s sleep is more deeply disturbed by getting out of bed to let the cute little bastard cat in.
Sometimes it’s better just to go back to bed when I let him in the first time, and skip all those fun and games that might ensue.
That aside – cat or no cat – when the creativity is there, I will drop everything to get it captured, I’ll even set aside sleep.
Last night I sorted out what might have become a major problem in book 4. Yes, the next book, as yet untitled, not the one I’m currently working on. Normally I will take notes, but I will pull myself back to the area I need to be focused on, book 3 in this case. This time, though, it was important to catch everything I could for book 4.
I had the plot all organized – the way and the how. Book 4 is the “Crunch Book”. It’s where the original story ends. The series is going to continue beyond that point because other characters have since come along and can take the story further, and they will, but this particular book contains the climax I have headed towards ever since I planned the original series.
Okay, so given the technology in place, Greg made a comment to me a little while ago that made very good sense and totally screwed up the setting for the Crunch in book 4. This presented a problem – a big problem, actually, and one I haven’t been able to devote much time on as right now I need to work on book 3. Not that I have forgotten it, I simply put it on the backburner and let it stew.
Well, last night, the backburner did its magic and produced the results I needed and very much desire, and has given me a reason to live solution that is actually much better for detail than the original plot.
No, I didn’t get up and capture it, it wasn’t that sort of inflow. I didn’t get the words or anything exact, but the ideas were all there, stringing together nicely and building a solution. I lay awake, scribbling on my blackboard. By the end of that mental exercise, my blackboard covered three walls with lots of lovely chalk, and I’ve got a grin on my face. 😀
Having pegged that solution, I can set it up in my notes for book 4 and get back to writing book 3. I’m thrilled because it was something I expected to take some serious time to figure out when I got there. Now it’s done already and cost me only a couple of hours in the middle of the night.
Why am I telling you all this? Because it’s all part of the flow, but lack of sleep left me tired this morning, so I went back to bed, which is why I’m posting so late today.
Writers do that.
So, when the full flow is working for you, do you have a favorite time or place to write? A favorite situation? For me it’s 2:00 a.m., a coffee and two sleeping cats!