Writing and the 6 a.m. brain

Southern California dawn; credit: Jessie Eastland  

Every writer has a different time of day that works for creative writing.

As I retool my novel and prepare to cast it back into the marketplace, I realize why working early in the morning has been the best choice for me.

As the day progresses, bad things happen to my brain.

My thoughts become too logical, too careful, too focused on making everything precise and accurate.

Accuracy isn't always at the heart of the best creative writing. In the early morning, while this critical side is still groggy, my creative side has a chance to work unhindered … at least for a little while.

Here's a small example of what I mean. Something written in the afternoon:

I lost my footing and fell down the steps into the cellar.

… and the same thing rewritten at 6 a.m.:

I stumbled down the stairs.

You're probably thinking, "Huh?"  It might not be a big revelation to anyone else, but it is to me.

The first version is too overwritten, especially for the place where it occurs in my story. What I needed was something much briefer, but I just couldn't see it. My brain was too concerned about prepositions, about specific locations, and too smitten with the idea of losing one's footing instead of a simpler expression. Most people stumble. Or fall. (I don't think anyone's lost their footing since 1875.)

The simpler version arrived the next day … in the morning.

A.L. Kennedy has written frequently about the daily challenges to writing well, and a column of hers that's my favorite is called "The chaos of writing." It appeared a few years ago in The Guardian. Lovely stuff, my friends.

Early morning's my best time, what's yours? Or does it matter?