I’m sitting at my desk, “Don’t Play with Guns” is playing, and I’m typing word after word on my desktop, waiting for the tea to get ready to be drunk. It’s dark outside, not a single light is on in any of the apartment blocks around. As far as I’m concerned, the rest of the world is dead and I’m alone and free to do whatever I please. It’s 4 am.
I started getting up at 4 to write. There was no other time to do it, really. I’ve found mornings are my most productive time and once the school year starts, they tend to get crowded with stuff to do. A while ago, as I was starting to get frustrated about this, I remembered an interview or essay by Toni Morrison, where she said when she started writing, she wrote early in the morning before the day began, as it were. I had my solution. I made the day longer by starting it earlier.
A client from New York, when I mentioned this (he asked how come I was available for emailing in the evening EDT, so I confessed), called me insane straight to my face and I suppose a lot of people would cringe at the thought of leaving their warm beds so early in the morning it’s kind of still night. For me, it’s the best time of the day and here’s why.
It’s quiet. Ever since I became the mother of a supertalkative, energetic child, I’ve had a problem with noise. I’ve developed excessive sensitivity to loud and not so loud noises of any origin and the fact that I live in a neighbourhood with several dozen buildings in construction, including one 20 feet from my kitchen windows has not helped. To sum up: I hate noise. Noise strains my ears and my brain. It’s either earplugs all the way or some noise-free time.
Early morning is quiet. Even the idiots racing along the ring road — of course it’s nearby! The world is offering me a variety of noise sources — have gone home (or to the emergency room) at 4 am. No construction work is being done during the night, at least not on my street. I’ve heard about less fortunate residents of the neighbourhood but we’ve been spared. No cars. No trucks. No loud little kids with their mothers ( I suspect I’ll die of a heart attack and it will be administered by a loud child in the street). No people. No light. It’s so easy to imagine everyone is dead and the world is near its end, it’s a little scary. Or then again, I just watched “Vanishing on 7th Street” so that could be it as well. In any case, it’s QUIET.
Here’s how a writing day usually goes for me. I take some notes, outline scenes and develop them as much as I can in the afternoon, when I’m done with my other writing engagements and can focus on fiction. At the moment, I have three A5 school-grade notebooks, which I use for “Eleven Doors”, De-Zombify blog post planning, and short stories. Since I’m a little (which means horribly) messy, my notes are all over the place. I did plan to have one notebook per novel/blog/stories but I usually write on whichever is the nearest, so the contents of these notebooks are quite eclectic. But anyway, this work I do in the afternoon, usually watching a movie or reading something to try and drown out the noise coming from outside.
Early morning is when the action takes place. I have about an hour and a half, between four and six, to write as much as I can. I include in this two-hour slot half an hour for staring dumbly at the screen, browsing possible settings for scenes online and stuff like that. The rest is writing at full throttle. I do try to stick to the “Write every day” rule although it’s not always possible. I’m taking my writing seriously , which still amazes me.
Okay, so I sometimes oversleep and I can honestly say I hate this almost as much as I hate noise. Oversleeping means I lose my alone time for the entire day. Sure, I spend hours on end alone in one room while mu husband works in another but the world is awake around me and I don’t feel alone enough.
Then there’s the 2 am wake-up for no logical reason at all when you cannot go back to sleep again until about 3:30 am, which is also the best time for extra-vivid and extra-weird dreams. A lot of the stories I’ve written came from such dreams. You probably know the kind: you’re not completely, deeply asleep, so whatever you’re dreaming of has this superrealistic feel while being sometimes so weird you question your sanity when you finally do wake up. The upside is that I can start writing the story immediately while it’s still fresh in my mind. The downside is a 20-hour day is not exactly optimal for the human body.
I’d say the upside beats the downside every time, and besides it’s not every day that I have these restless spells at 2 am. So, you see, 4 am is not such an insane hour to begin your day if it combines what you most like–and in certain circumstances crave–in life. Oh, and it is also dark at 4 am, a fact that reinforces the mildly apocalyptic feeling and deepens the quiet.
BUT. One thing I’ve found I should not do during this time is even think about checking my social media. Once I think about it, I’d do it and I’d lose precious time. It is therefore beyond me why I just opened my LinkedIn profile to respond to a prospective client’s message and now she’s turning from prospective into actual and I’ve no idea why I said yes when I’m only halfway through “Eleven Doors” and today is blog day and I have a short story to proofread and post here, and it’s 5:30 already and it’s time to start the work day, and school day, and all that reality. Oh, well.
PS I love my life, work and kid noise, and all. I especially love 4 am.