I started thinking about this earlier today as I was reviewing my NaNoWriMo progress so far. Seven days, seventeen thousand and seven words as of this morning. Most of that writing coming between 4:00 and 5:00 AM. Preparing scenes ahead of time has allowed the work to go quickly and relatively smoothly, so that’s something I intend to add to my list of “Jeff’s writing techniques.”
I’ve told many people that I get up at 3:30 most days to write. I often mock myself for doing it, too, because yeah, it’s a bit ridiculous. But there’s an undeniable streak of pride about it. I have to own that. There is a part of me that knows I mention it to others because I want to impress them. As much as we change as we age, we sometimes don’t really change much at all. I’m still the nerd trying to impress the cool kids with how cool I am.
But getting up at 3:30 isn’t actually cool. 3:30 is, in fact, complete bullshit.
It’s a terrible time of day for someone to be getting up. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s lonely. A 3:30 in the morning writing schedule means you’re going to sleep around 8:30 if you want to get any decent amount of rest. It means you’re missing out on doing things with friends and experiencing the world. And if you do go out and do things, it means you’re exhausted the next day (assuming you stick to your plan, which I do).
3:30 is also a great way for me to feed my introversion and stay within myself. Sorry, can’t come out tonight, I’ve got to get up at 3:30. Darn! The rest of you introverts will understand how that’s both a curse AND a blessing.
But, despite all those negatives, it works for me. It provides me with the free and clear time I need to devote to writing. Whether that’s getting new words down, editing an older story, submitting or querying, this is my business time. This is the time set aside to become a better writer. To build some sort of career around this dream. To connect with that part of myself that I pushed aside for twenty years.
More importantly, I realized today that by getting up at 3:30 I was SHAMING myself into writing. Because 3:30 is bullshit, and who is going to get up at a bullshit hour and NOT do the thing they are getting up for? If I didn’t write, I’d be getting up super, ridiculously early for absolutely no reason at all (and on the days I decide to take “off” from writing, I feel weirdly out of sorts, and I think this is why). So I have to write, because I got up at a bullshit hour so I could write. It forces me to produce, or I’ve wasted my own damned time.
Don’t be like me, my dear friends. Don’t get up at a bullshit hour to shame yourself into writing. But do find your OWN bullshit reasons to make yourself productive. Whether it’s going to a coffee shop to write. Or carving out a space at lunch to write. Or putting words down because your significant other really wants to read your stories. Or investing in fountain pens so you can write in long hand. Find reasons to make that dream happen. Find reasons to set goals for yourself, and then find the ways and means of making those goals reality. Whatever that takes.
So yes, 3:30 in the morning is complete and utter bullshit. And it’s what’s made me a writer. Made me a better writer. Made me a motivated writer.
3:30 is bullshit, and I absolutely love it. It works for me. You do the bullshit that works for you, because we want and deserve your stories.