Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ante-Meridional Arrogance - or - The Tyranny of the Lark

I read writing blogs. How to Write. How to Edit. How to Solve All your Writing Dilemmas.

I do get some useful hints. But I have to complain about one thing. 

There is a conspiracy against night-people. 

Over and over I read how the best time for writing is early in the morning. 

The house is quiet. Everyone is asleep. The day hasn't begun. My mind is relaxed.

Yeah, my mind is relaxed at 7 am, too. Soundly relaxed. 

There is no inherent reason why getting up early is more virtuous or more productive than staying up late. 

Point by point from the above:

'The best time for writing'. No. When I'm up at night, my mind is more focused, my thoughts cooperate, words come easily. Editing works better, perhaps, during the daylight hours, but not writing. 

'Everyone is asleep'. This is more problematic. If at all possible, everyone in my family  is asleep in the morning. Including me. And we are all awake at night. But we are all working at our desks, not bothering anyone. Students, teachers, writers, you see.

'The day hasn't begun'. When I wake up, I'm thinking about everything I have to do that day. The to-do list looms large in my mind, thwarting my writing compulsion. I have to get that list cleared before I can focus on my work. At night, it's done, or it is to do in the nebulous, far off tomorrow. Night time is off-time. 

'My mind is relaxed'. As above, my mind is very relaxed in the morning. Foggily, dazedly, dreamily relaxed. I do occasionally wake up with an idea. I jot it down in my handy bedside notebook, and go back to dream some more. Often the process repeats several times, and when I wake, entire scenes have become clear. I've even got an outline for an entire novel that came in those blissful wake, doze, write, dream cycles.

Why do morning people insist they are superior? Arrogant, boastful, condemning. Totally unable to see what is so apparent to night people: it doesn't matter when you do your work. It matters only that it gets done. You criticize me for sleeping until 10. Shall I then criticize you for being asleep at midnight? I could, with equal justification.

We should start a campaign. Let us call all those sanctimonious morning people at midnight, and ask why they aren't being productive. “You're wasting the day!” we could exclaim, horror filling our voices. “You're wasting your life!”

No, alas, the justification is not equal. Along with the rampaging extroverts (of whom I shall write another day) our world is run by morning people. But listen up, folks. We've had indoor light for millennia. Since the days our ancestors first built fires to light the darkness, we've been able to stay up late. And what do people do when they stay up late around a campfire? 

They Tell Stories.

Stories and night are a natural partnership.

One final note. People who wake early are known as Larks. People who stay up are Night Owls. 

Which bird is associated with wisdom?

Further reading:

AL Kennedy did a magnificent, marvelous post on the ideal writing day: 

In the interest of proving I lack bias, I shall also include:   The first entry is on night owls and intelligence. But note – they include my caveat, that it's most likely not the late hours, but the high stress that's causing the negative effects. And as for interrupted sleep, well, if those blasted early birds would just leave us alone....

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