Unless you are one of those mythical full time writers, chances are you’re doing a lot of your writing tired. Whether it’s after a long day’s work, or after a short night’s sleep, fitting writing into the workaday life can be tricky. Especially when you find yourself with one of those rare multi-hour blocks of time, but too tired to do work on the project you blocked out the time for.
This is the situation I find myself in at the moment. I’m sitting here in the empty sanctuary of my church with some time blocked out to work on Dust, snippets of which you may remember from a while ago on the blog. But I find myself with enough energy to work on a blog post, but not enough for new fictional composition, at least not without a little warm up.
This got me to thinking about some of the pragmatic choices authors have to make with their time, and how much energy it takes to do all the forms of writing I do in a given week. Here’s my hierarchy from “requires most energy” to “I could do this in my sleep, and have on occassion.”
(Most Energy) – 1st Draft Revision – Whether it’s picking apart sentences word by word, or re-crafting and rearranging entire scenes, revision is harder than creation. You have to keep all of the threads of the book in your head, and think about what a change made to the beginning will do the end of the book. It’s detail oriented, and can’t be done in the short bursts of regular writing, at least mostly. And 1st draft revision is when the book is most in need of retooling (in theory).
(More Energy) – Clean Rough Drafts – I’ve taken both approaches to the first draft of a story. Clean rough drafts are written with the editor in mind. You try to create less mistakes for later on by keeping an eye on bad grammar habits, and re-reading past work to make corrections as you go, and to keep consistent. This is probably more where I’m at right now with fiction composition, which is probably why I feel too tired to do it most of the time. The flurry requires less energy, but requires more clean up which is in itself a high energy task.
(Moderate Energy) – Flurry Rough Drafts – Writing 1000 words in an hour can be taxing, especially if you haven’t built up to it, but momentum tends to carry you forward till you reach your goal. And it’s the kind of writing that makes you feel really good about getting a lot done, until you go back and read it.
(Less Energy) – Blog Posts – I don’t know if it’s repetition, or the fact that I’m often just writing about what’s happened during my day, or what I’ve been thinking about but a good 400 – 600 word blog post is pretty much second nature to me at this point. If I did it every day it might be tiring, but my “Daily Show” schedule works for me, keeping me always in writing practice and in contact with all of you, while not taking too much away from other projects.
(Low Energy) – Technical Writing – Technical writing has very nearly put me to sleep on a few occasions, but since it’s done during the day, no matter what my baseline level of energy, I can always chemically enhance it with a little coffee. At night when I’m working I don’t like to drink coffee, because it’ll affect my sleep and negatively affect my energy for the next day.
(No Energy) – Repetitive Computer Tasks + Programming – I could write code any time of day, and have. The logical part of my brain must be my default setting, because I can write a fractal program till 2 in the morning, but whenever I do creative work that late, it can get really weird (which sometimes is a good thing since being tired can lower inhibitions, but that’s a whole other discussion).
I guess the point of this is that you have to take good care of yourself so you have the energy you want to write. But you also need to know where your energies are best spent. Maybe you only have blog posts in you tonight, but that will free up more energetic time for creative work later.
What’s hard to write when you are tired?