Nearly every morning my kids wake up early. When one does, they all do. It’s sort of like a really fun game. Only now when I think about it, it’s not really that fun. There have been times were I’ve stayed up late writing the night before and then get woken up by screams of “MAMA DADDY MAMA DADDY!” Followed by our oldest saying “Mama, I think Clara wants daddy.” I flop out of bed and rescue our middle child from the confines of her crib and head into the dark living room.
I wanted to write this post not because I am a terrible father and want to complain about sleep deprivation, but because I realize I sometimes set myself up to fail with my writing goals. I blame this on Robert Downey Junior, Guy Ritchie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and even a little bit on Margaret Thatcher.
Let me explain.
Before we had kids, there was a time when I woke up at 5:30 to write every Saturday morning. Think about that. I had a good three to four hours all to myself where my thoughts were clear and my mind raced with one brilliant plot line after another (or so I thought). So, when I watched the first Sherlock Holmes film by Guy Ritchie starring Robert Downey Jr., I was immediately enamored by his ability to cast sleep aside and finish a task with a flourish. I thought this must be the best way to produce a novel – write with a feverish, reckless abandon.
The problem with this is obvious. That is Hollywood. That is not real. No one can repel sleep for days while sorting out a problem. They’d go insane. Right? Well, then theirs Margaret Thatcher. Ever read her biography or watched the film Iron Lady? She was a real person (obviously) who supposedly slept four to five hours a night and still ran a country. I’m having trouble with this blog post. Perhaps we are on different plains of brilliance and I need to be OK with that. Or, maybe I am dead wrong with the method that works best at this point in my life.
I find I write best when I am awake. Strange. When I am well rested and have accomplished things during the day I can go downstairs to my desk and write something. My creative well is full from a life lived and a decent amount of sleep. I realize now that instead of staying up late for a few days in a row and then crashing, its best if I sleep for several days in a row then stay up late once. Burning out is not an option. I have a wife to love, children to raise, and a day job.
This might sound simple to you, like a math problem, but I hate math. Reading and comprehension I can do. And to do them successfully, I must be well rested.
How about you? What have you done with your schedule to improve yourself as a writer? Have you ever tested how you work best? Do you stay up all night or do you conserve your energy for a controlled writing burst?
Write 500 words today.