Our environment influences us, no doubt. It changes our mood, our attention span and our train of thought. I’ve come to find (without too much surprise) that it has a direct influence on my writing.
I’ve spoken before about atmosphere and writing – with respect to music and background noise in particular. But location isn’t the only thing that changes the way we write. For me, time of day is extremely important. Depending on whether or not I can see the sun shining, how long it’s been since I’ve slept, the knowledge of what’s going on in the outside world… all of those things can play a role. In my experience it really depends on the type of material I’m writing, but knowing the right time to write can be just as important as finding the correct place. Let’s start at the beginning.
Mornings are damn productive. Get up and go. My preferred method? Empty stomach, lots of coffee, empty cafe. For some reason I do my best long prose writing in the mornings. This is when my novels get a boost. It’s a great time for brainstorming and even better for a high word count in a short amount of time. Mornings seem to be a great time to express a lot of emotion and thought without over thinking things. It’s easy to get into a flow. My favorite time of day for poetry.
This is prime dialogue time. I’ve had my coffee, I’ve had something to eat. People are moving, talking, commuting all around. This is when I can really focus on word choice and character building, making conversation-writing a dream. In the morning I let my imagination run wild with ideas, and in the afternoon it all comes together. Not a good time for poetry, I’ve found. Stream of consciousness is much more predictable (and less interesting). I love writing fantasy in the afternoons, as this is when I do my best technical thinking and problem solving.
For me, this is the least productive time of day. In the evenings I enjoy reading other people’s works, watching movies, listening to music. It’s nearly impossible for me to focus on my own writing in the evening, unless I’m especially inspired or have found the perfect location. This is when my mind is on other things.
This, my friends, is where the horror happens. After-dark writing produces an atmosphere that I just can’t seem to tap into at other times of the day. Emotions are easy to unlock, settings become much more vivid in my mind and – perhaps most importantly – I’m tired. This is when the thoughts that come at the end of a long day – thoughts that we tend to push out of our minds in the lighter hours – start to creep into full view. If I dim the lights and turn my back to an open door and start typing, I can really unsettle myself at times. When I start glancing over my shoulder and double checking to make sure the door is locked, now I’m in prime terror territory. Poems and short stories thrive here.
Of course, this is just my experience. You may find that your right times for writing are totally different. Whatever the case, try out different things. If you’re stuck in a rut or running out of ideas, leave it for later. Get up early the next morning and try again. Have a go after supper. If that’s not your thing, wait until the lights go out and try again. Style is a tricky beast to master, but experimentation will help you figure it out. And if it doesn’t work? Try again later.