If I described my ideal writing environment, it would certainly include a lamp, a desk, and the world quiet around me. As writers, we know these conditions are usually wishful and romantic thinking (i.e. They never happen). In fact, the daily world is rich with anything but tranquility, and in all cases, daylight doesn’t come with a “mute” button.
The sound of lawnmowers, doorbells, passing cars, screaming children, and cellphones often break a writer’s concentration right when the perfect word is bubbling toward the page, the word that could impact the tone and quality of an entire sentence or paragraph. If only a time of day existed when the world went to sleep and the landscape became ripe for unleashing the creative process, uninterrupted.
Lucky for writers, the sun goes down once a day, and there are ways to maximize the nighttime writing experience.
Choose the Date, Make it Happen.
Many of us don’t enjoy the privilege of a full-time writing career, so in lieu of a glorious 5-day writing schedule, writers often make the best of the time they have. In instances where we plan to work a full day’s shift before writing, we have to plan ahead, taking active steps to optimize the writing experience.
The first step a writer should take is to set an actual date for writing after dark. If you have advance notice of your work schedule, try to write on a night when you aren’t working or responsible for playing tuba the next morning. Both situations could lead to a sloppy and embarrassing performance, so it’s best to schedule accordingly.
After you choose a date for late-night writing, try to schedule the next day’s events during the evening when you’ve had enough time to rest from writing the night before (Hitting your late night word count is no good if you fall asleep driving to grandma’s house the next day).
Bring Snacks to the Party.
One of the unavoidable issues with staying up late is that our bodies can quickly become depleted. On a normal day, we may eat three meals and then hit the hay long before our body decides it’s time to eat again. Unfortunately for the late-night writer, the body will certainly demand more sustenance after a few hours of scribing, usually at the same moment a brilliant idea is about to hit the page.
For this reason, it is important to plan ahead and have snacks ready when the belly bear wakes from hibernation (You know the sound I’m talking about). Selecting the right snacks can be tricky and dependent upon the writer’s individual dietary needs. Although caffeine and sugar are great short-term energy suppliers, the long-term effects of overdoing it can lead to all sorts of unwanted issues.
Try to find snacks that keep you ticking through the a.m. hours without also putting you in a diabetic coma. Slices of your favorite fruit and a bottle of water are usually enough to keep the cursor moving and the sugar levels stable.
Set the Mood for Writing.
Before the actual writing gets underway, it’s important to remember why you planned to write after dark in the first place. Nighttime is a peaceful time, one where the kids and spouse are asleep, and the darkness belongs to you and the story. I’ve found that my imagination is most alive when I’m free to retreat into my own mind without interruption.
For writing after dark, this means turning off all the lights, leaving only the glow of the monitor and a hum from the desk lamp. In the yellowing glow of the night, the writer’s dreams are not captured in the prisons of sleep; instead, ideas are unleashed upon the page, and the atmosphere becomes one where great writing is unstoppable and without hindrance.
It’s up to the individual writer to identify environmental elements that most empower the late-night writing process. Some prefer soft music while others surround themselves with portraits or artwork, whatever it takes to bring the muse alive and to keep her singing through the night.
Writing after dark is a creative event that all writers should make available to themselves from time to time. After all, the daylight brings its own set of troubles, so let the troubles of the night happen on the page.