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Sleep Alternatives

AN-112am“When do you find time to write?” This was a question I used to get a lot in the old days, and to which I’d crafted a reasonably good –– if over-simplistic –– answer: “Between midnight and 2:00 AM.”

That reply was rooted in the truth. For quite a few years (particularly as a student) I’d do a lot of writing in the middle of the night, then get to bed by 2:30 for a 7:30 rise. Over the years, that routine has changed; as different school and work scenarios improved the flexibility of my schedule, I started to learn the delight of drafting by daylight (though when the weather’s good, that might not be so fun). I also started trying to get more than five hours sleep, so the frequency of late-night writing dropped off.

Lately, though, nights have become useful drafting time again. This past weekend was a busy one –– plenty to do on Saturday, so I waited until after 11:00 PM to consider pausing to write. From midnight to 1:00 AM on Sunday, I therefore hit the keyboard –– a solid turn of around 3,000 words on Snapdragon, the first novella for the next season of Champions. After that, I hopped onto my trusty NordicTrack (one of the classic models, which is a hell of a good workout). Still managed to be lights-out by 2:30, and then up for 8:30 on Sunday morning –– six hours of rest, and all was well.

I don’t know if this whole scheme was healthy, but it’s certainly useful. Late night writing sessions are immune to busy days… and they also seem to be more productive than parcels of time stolen throughout the sunnier hours. My theory –– which is completely based in speculation, as I know nothing about the science of the brain –– is that my writing process and my dreaming process are actually very similar. In both cases, my subconscious is being asked to escape the boundaries of reality… the difference when writing is that it’s plugged into a keyboard, and whatever happens is described in prose.

If writing is like a waking dream with some structure applied, then doing it in the middle of the night makes a certain sense… and it also explains how a fool like me has managed to run up a word count north of two million over the past fifteen years. I’ve been doing the same thing as everyone else in the world: dreaming through the night. I just found a hack that let me interface with a keyboard while it was happening, so I have record of the imaginings. Pretty sneaky.

So if you’re having trouble breaking through some creative barriers, give the middle of the night a chance. Your brain will automatically want to be inventive in those hours. Don’t fight it… learn to collaborate with your subconscious, and it’ll make you look at lot smarter than you are. Trust me, that’s the only reason I’m here!

And if all else fails, and you can’t sleep, just exercise. That’s good for you too.


If you can’t write, why not exercise in the middle of the night? Or am I just weird?