Writing Pitfalls – Sleeping on the Job


If you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself writing late at night. If I’m on a roll I find it hard to stop because I’ll lose the train of thought or idea so I just run with it. The only problem is that sometimes you’ll be half-asleep when you’re writing which brings its own problems.

The only time I never write is in the morning!

The owl, king of the night in the cosmovitral

Image via Wikipedia

I tried (for a long while) to change these habits but what followed was a long period of exhaustion and the realisation that I’m just a night person.

I’m more awake, more alert and more creative after dinner-time.

I find no issue with that but the rest of the world seems to work in a different timezone.

Sometimes I’ll be writing for so long that I start missing things. Plenty of times I’ve come across missed words or even half a sentence that suddenly stops short. I think I’ve written it but I haven’t. Oddly enough, I still remember what words are missing and stare at the page as if someone has stolen them, thinking `I’m sure I wrote that sentence. Where is it?’

So how do you deal with this pitfall?

1. Avoid uncreative words like `productive’ and `motivated’ – If you’re a storyteller or poet stick to thinking like one. It’s not an olympic race. Try to avoid thinking of it as such and more ideas will crop up.

2. Accept your strengthsIf you’re a good novelist but hate writing short stories that’s fine. Only write one if you want to write one or fancy entering a competition or something. Don’t do it because you think you should. Some people argue that writing short stories is good practise for writing novels. I actually find writing shorter stories harder than writing novels because you have to condense everything into such a small space. Personally I don’t think they are the same at all and it’s very possible to be capable of doing one better than the other.

3. Write when you would normally write – If you’ve been writing for a long time, then you will probably not even think about when you write, it’s just something you do. Keep it that way! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you should be doing it every day if you don’t want to. Some people need breathers in between writing sessions, while they think up the next scene. Similarly if you can’t stay awake late but are fresh as a daisy in the morning then follow your instinct. We have to be careful not to let laziness creep in when using words like `write when you feel like it’.

It doesn’t mean that you won’t need to put the work in but that you should follow your natural writing instinct. If you have a sudden strong desire to write a story then follow it! If you have never done any writing before then you will have to try to learn to follow your writing instinct. I call it an urge or an itch. Sometimes it creeps up on you and you just have an intense urge to write something. Other times it disappears for ages and you miss it like crazy.

Sleeping Beauty by Edward Frederick Brewtnall

Image via Wikipedia

4. Don’t try to change your natural sleeping pattern – Some people are Morning Larks, some people aren’t extreme in either way (Hummingbirds) and some people are Night Owls. I’m the latter. I always have been and no amount of trying to force it to change works. When I don’t follow my natural pattern, I’m exhausted.

Please remember to take refreshments and bathroom breaks during long writing/revision sessions. It doesn’t matter if you are getting up and down every so often as long as when you sit back down you are still getting down to work. Plus it’s better for your legs!

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9 thoughts on “Writing Pitfalls – Sleeping on the Job

  1. Wow, I love this post! I’m more of a morning owl, though I can get a fair bit of work done at nights before I start to get fuzzy and end up with half-finished sentences and scrambled words that might serve better for breakfast than a written work. Anyway, I really like the tips you gave in this post, and I’ll definitely be trying them out! Thanks. 🙂

    • Thanks Kim 🙂 I’m glad you liked it. I can’t the amount of times I’ve found half-finished sentences. I’m always amazed the rest of the sentence is still in my head. If I tried to do that consciously I’d forget it in a second.

  2. This is nice. Thanks for this. It sure helps! I like your use of birds to describe writers in their most creative or juicy hours to write down their thoughts. ‘actually googled sleeping patterns of the humming bird, the lark and the owl and found this link most helpful so far re http://www.nasw.org/users/llamberg/larkowl.htm — ‘guess i’m more of the morning lark… can be a hummingbird actually shift from a lark to an owl but then only sometimes. 😉

  3. Pingback: The Moon Calls me | No point fighting it | Wrestling the Muse

  4. Great post 🙂
    Yes….I have realised there is no way I can turn myself into a lark…I just have to embrace the night. Believe me, I tried retraining myself and it just didn’t work. Instead I was exhausted, groggy, moody and stressed. I was also not all that creative or inspired and I still ended up being dragged away at 3am every morning with a new idea or new character. So now I am standing up for the rights of night owls everywhere. Great to meet a fellow night owl. 🙂 – Kim

  5. Pingback: Spending Quality Time With Those Troublesome Characters | L.M. Gil, Author's Blog

  6. Pingback: The Moon Calls me | No point fighting it | Kim Koning

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