The Early Bird Catches The Word

Actual cartoon representation of Heather B. Costa

Actual cartoon representation of Heather B. Costa

Since the start of the year, I have been attempting to write every day (those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I have now surpassed laboring this point and am fast approaching the realms of beating you all into submission with my incessant squawking about it). Hey, I’m a bird (at least for the purposes of this post I am), what did you expect?

One of the most interesting things I learned during those torturous four and a half weeks was that there were clear differences in the quality and quantity of my work depending on what time of the day I wrote. When I first began writing (approx eighteen months ago), I predominantly wrote at night (mainly because this was the only free time that I had). At first I thought it suited me to crank out the laptop when other normal, more sane people were sleeping. As my love for the written word grew, I found myself writing whenever and wherever I could: mornings, afternoons, lunch breaks, early hours of the morning etc….

It soon became obvious that writing in the mornings or early afternoons was much easier for me. I felt mentally refreshed and physically capable of sitting at the computer typing than I did after a long, hard day at work. My current profession is a physical one by nature, but not only that, it is emotionally tiring and mentally draining. Slumping on my couch at the end of the day was about all I could manage most of the time.

Because I found myself reluctant to write at night I found my writing time as a whole curtailed because of it. Now it was a case of squeezing in as much writing as I could on the days in which I had mornings or afternoons free. This meant that sometimes I was not actively writing for upwards of a week at a time. Imagine having to hold your breath continuously – this is how my protracted absences from writing felt. On the days that I was free I felt compelled to sit down ALL day to write, hoping to catch up on those missed opportunities that had slipped through my fingers.

When you set yourself a challenge in which it is imperative that you write every day (as well as having a full-time job), spare time is of the essence. Only one day out of the month of January did I write at night and guess what?

I hated it!

The words were slow, my writing turgid, and the eight hundred or so words that I did manage were likely some of my worst. ‘I won’t do that again’, I though to myself with a triumphant laugh. Until I realised how hectic my schedule was for the coming week….. There was barely a gap for me to catch my breath let alone getting any significant writing done. This had left me with only one option; a thought so scary that I was unsure I could contemplate it without screaming the house down…..

Getting up early!!

Yes, I really am this cute. I just haven't had a shave yet....

Yes, I really am this cute. I just haven’t had a shave yet….

The thought horrified me. Could I really give up a precious hour or two of my beauty sleep in order to maintain the sanctity of my writing challenge? I’ll be the first to admit that I like my bed. No, scrap that…..I LOVE MY BED. The duvet and I have been soul mates for as long as I can remember. There has never been a day when he and I haven’t met and fallen into a deep and contented sleep in each others arms. Like a lioness protecting her cubs, I guard my sleeping hours fiercely. Could I ever really contemplate shortening my resting period?

Well, if I wanted to stand a chance of completing the challenge then I had to. As much as it went against every fiber of my being, I bit the bullet and got up early (and it was still dark outside, too). Much to my surprise, I found the simple joy of accomplishing my daily word count overrode the feelings of grief and loss at my shortened sleep cycle. Even better, the words came free and easy to me. The only downside was that I was up so early and deprived of sleep that I looked like something out of a Gremlins movie.

A fully-rested Heather B. Costa

A fully-rested Heather B. Costa

Early-morning, word count-crazed Heather B. Costa (sans makeup)

Maybe there is some truth the title of this post. Maybe the early bird really does catch the word or maybe it’s just me. What do you guys think?


Filed under Starting out

16 responses to “The Early Bird Catches The Word

  1. I’m definitely the second ‘early-morning’ photo. A mega gremlin. I have never done mornings well. My whole family can tell you that. I used to come out of my bedroom bent over and white as a ghost. I’ve also never been able to sleep early. Even if I try to will myself to do so. Even with two little kids that wake up early. I’m still not asleep until after midnight. The horrible thing for me lately, since I’ve just started writing and all, is that right at bedtime I’ll get a line for a poem or a thought for something that I need to write out in order to not lose. Well, so much for falling asleep right away.
    Good on you for fulfilling your challenge and sticking to it.

    • I am not that much of an early morning person myself but for as long as I can remember I have never stayed in bed past 8 am (unless very sick). It grates on me if I have to get up earlier than that but the challenge dictated that I dragged my weary carcass out of bed early on certain days.

      As for getting ideas at bedtime, I always keep a small notebook on the nightstand for when inspiration strikes. I jot a few notes down before closing my eyes for the night.

      Glutton for punishment that I am, I have racked up 37 days writing in a row and 59,000 words πŸ™‚

      Heather xxx

      • Wow, that’s a lot of words. Good for you though. Congratulations. Yes, I think I’m going to start keeping note paper by my bed. Last night I had to get out of my bed and use my cell phone for light to head over to my desk and jot my thoughts down.
        I share your feelings about sleeping in. I used to be able to sleep until super late when I was a teenager. However, once I got into my 30s I couldn’t handle sleeping in. I felt like I was losing out on my day.

      • I don’t know why I feel compelled to keep writing every day (even though the challenge is over), I guess I’ve just formed a habit about it now πŸ™‚

        Having a notebook or some paper next to your bed is a good idea and is much easier than stumbling through the dark trying to make it to the desk!

        Having a writing pad by your bed equals far less broken toes! πŸ˜†

        Heather xxx

      • Interesting how you mentioned that you’ve formed a habit now. I’ve heard it said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. And you’ve gone more than 21 days writing daily.

        By the way, are you writing a book or are you writing on different topics daily?

      • If I manage to get any done today, it will be my 39th day in a row!! I think it has turned into a habit now and I find my brain switching much easier to ‘creative’ mode and the words flowing more easily.

        I have been working on a variety of projects since Jan 1st, the main one being something that would not be able to send to publishers. I also have a number of ideas/short stories that I am working on as well as essays and the like for my profession. I am nearing completion on the main project and that will leave me much more time to devote to works that I could send to publishers or story competitions.

        I think it helps me to have a number of projects on the go so that my ideas for each subject/story can stay fresh. I am also considering posting some of my work essays on my blog in regards to autism and learning disabilities in the near future.

        Heather xxxx

      • Sounds wonderful. I’m looking forward to reading your work. I also am a person that likes to have various things going at once. It’s difficult to stay just on one. And I also have many more that pop up in my head that I have to jot down to not forget about for some time in the future.

  2. I’ve tried early, and it works best for me. Too many distractions around the rest of the time.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog post, it is very much appreciated.

      Having written at all times of the day and night, I feel confident that I do my best work when feeling fresh and rested and this usually means writing in the mornings or early afternoons. It’s horses for courses at the end of the day, each writer knows what works best for them πŸ™‚

      Heather xxxx

  3. I am not a great morning person either, but, I too find that I work best early lately. I think sticking to just one part of the day to write is hard. I agree, write when you can and when you feel inspired. Also, I just love the Gremlins and your use of them in this post πŸ™‚

  4. I’m glad that you liked the use of Gremlins to emphasise just how rough and sleep-deprived i felt at times during January!

    The challenge did make me more aware of making the most of my free time during each day and how to use it to maximum effect. Also, it gave me a good excuse to compare my early morning visage to that of a Gremlin…

    Heather xxx

  5. My husband pretty much hates you at this point. When he heard the loud THWACK as my kneecap connected with the table next to the bed at 4:15 this morning, he sat up in the darkness and grumbled, “What the hell?” I said, “Go back to sleep, just me trying to get some lousy word count in while the rest of the sane world is sleeping.” He replied: “Oh no… it’s that Heather person, again, isn’t it?” I smiled. “Uh huh!”

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