The Ominous Hour: A Writer's Moment
The hour between dream and achievement.
Ask any writer in the world their favourite hour to work, and they'll probably tell you something ludicrous like between two and three in the morning. Or, something along those lines, anyway. Because, honestly, our finest time to crack knuckles and shovel bucketfuls of creativity out is usually when the sun has long set and the vast population of the world has tucked themselves in for bed.
It's funny, how it all works, really. It's rather odd how we suddenly feel the urge to do something productive when the day should technically be long over. It's curious, just playing the puppet to our own intriguing imagination sometimes. And often we find ourselves just going along for the ride and simply acting on behalf of the backseat driver in a little thing known as our minds.
Say, you might just be a writer. Or perhaps you're not. Either way, it's safe to say we've all had that sudden jolt in the dead of night with something we quickly feel the urge to jot down. A plot, a poem, a reason not to go to work the next morning. It's all there. There's no denying that, is there? Because strangely, our minds work in the most peculiar ways; especially at night when we should be switching off and shelving our bodies for a while.
There's something about working late as a writer. There's something special about it that you just wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. Say, even if you were granted solitude in your own cubicle in a breezy office block during the day. That wouldn't even compare to the likes of a warm and welcoming touch of a home study during the darkest of nights when the world is at rest.
There's an ambience in the air; a shimmer of passion, perhaps. There's an isolation that doesn't quite feel lonely enough to affect you so long as you keep your eyes on the story and your heart on the audience. It's that passion that allows the words to flow effortlessly without the world hammering down on you from close quarters. It's having the ability to write aimlessly without knowing the route but being able to feel the endgame in sight. It's being handed just a few short hours to do with as you please before the reality of daylight comes crushing back down upon you.
Baby shark screaming through your ear for the billionth encore. The endless flows of traffic pouring abruptly through the cracks of the window. The flickering of lights, popping and sizzling ten times over. The pleas for help from a relative, the cries from a child, the noise from the daytime. Everything is always there, trying so frustratingly hard to distract us from our work. But, at that certain hour, between two and three in the morning; that's when it's just you and your passion. It's you and your work and nothing else comes close to tearing it away from you. Just for a while, at least.
It's the time we, as creators, go to work and produce something special for the waking world to witness someday. It's the few short moments, we as night owls, can create something beautiful for the next day to enjoy.
There's no doubt every writer has a special way of unclasping themselves from the beckon of daytime chores and entering the dark hour alone and with a fresh glimpse of motivation. For me, that comes in the form of two cups of coffee, a Ludovico Einaudi playlist, and a blank word document. That's where my writing commences, and the words begin to flow until the playlist dies out and the glisten of sunrise creeps just a few inches above the faraway hills.
A writer can often dabble in various work patterns; sometimes for a few minutes just to tweak a line or phrase, and other times for hours and hours until the words barely even make much sense anymore. But chances are you'll never find a writer who hasn't sacrificed their soul to the graveyard shift at all. Because, honestly, we've all been there at one point or another.
You'll often see workaholics up late; crunching numbers or plotting schemes for a new business venture. And us writers are right up there with them; amongst the late night banshees and crying wolves alike.
I guess, that's usually why we might often seem distant or spacey to some. But, really, we're not rude. We're just tired.
Some of us work late because we have no other choice. Some of us work 'til dawn because we prefer it over trying so desperately hard to block out the white noise of the commotion that goes on around us each day. TV, Netflix, Facebook popups, email notifications, kids, spouses, friends—they're all around us every single day; snatching our attention and guiding us away from the infamous keyboard and notepad mound.
So, if you were ever wondering why we write late, that's it. We write late because we are finally able to bask beneath our own imaginations and allow the creative juices to flow without interruption or mental distraction. We can do what we love in our own tiny bubbles without having anybody bother us or tell us what we can and can't do.
In those moments, we are free.
Sure, the feeling of being watched begins to sink in after the fourth cup of coffee and the sleep begins to fill our eyelids. But, after you've encountered the boogeyman one too many times, you'll come to learn that the scariest thing in the room is the grammar Nazi sitting over your shoulder for the duration of your workflow. That, or the fact that time can often move faster than we anticipate, and that chances are 'one more paragraph before bed' can quite easily result in seeing the sunrise before finally accepting the outcome of the words.
It's funny; having that feeling of anxiety in the dead of night when working alone. Oh, but it's there, alright; with every single writer who takes the plunge and delves into the midnight mission to crunch words for psychological merit. But really, it is just the sleep deprivation tugging at our cores and urging for us to put down the pen and cave into our beds.
Now, I won't spiral this story into some sort of paranormal phenomenon, because as a storyteller I'd more than likely exaggerate the truth. But, at times, I have indeed felt my fair share of wintery cold grips on the collar or scurry of footsteps during the eeriest of writing moments. But, again, I put that all down to the concoction of isolation, lack of sleep, and a whole heap of wondrous imagination. Because, really, there's nothing there but a warm room and the glowing light from a computer monitor. And honestly, it'd take more than a ghost stalking at my heels to make me walk away from a half-finished story, anyway.
But, we've all felt it; writer or not. We've all had that rather ominous hour or two where everything seems to worry us and make our skin crawl with make-believe fear. In fact, even now as I write these words at two o'clock, I quiver at the sudden hiss of the living room air freshener and squeal at the creaking floorboards from the next-door-neighbour getting up for the bathroom. But that's just it. It's all in our heads and usually exaggerated due to the amount of overtime our brains have slumped through over a twenty-hour shift. So, we can't put it down as being paranormal or remotely supernatural. Because, truthfully, it's just our own faults for not choosing to have normal sleeping patterns.
But, we sort of like it. Most of the time, anyway.
So, would I recommend working the ominous hour or two to intrigued and aspiring writers alike? Well, honestly, I'd have to say yes. But that is more easier said than done when it comes down to it. Because, to be fair, working late isn't something every person can just commit to without hesitation.
Say, if I asked my wife to stay up until three o'clock tomorrow morning, she'd probably laugh it off and call me an idiot. But that's just her. And, honestly, she isn't a late-night person at all. In fact, she's not even a morning person. She's just not a person, to be honest. I don't even know what she is, but I love her. The point is—not everybody can do it. You have to adjust in your own time. So don't expect to suddenly work a ten hour shift at your day job and then expect for a quick cup of coffee to set you up for a six hour writing session. Because if that were possible, chances are we'd all be bestselling authors.
Anyway, I'd have to say one thing before deciding to assert yourself for the long and gruelling hours of the night. And that is, make sure you balance your daytime life with your nighttime life. By that, I mean, don't forget about your responsibilities during the day.
If you need to do something tomorrow morning, just don't use 'writing late' as an excuse to sleep in and miss your first commitment. And if you need something arranged the next day, then always consider leaving the upcoming graveyard shift another day or two until the following days schedule seems a little slimmer.
Then, once you have your priorities in order and eventually sell your soul to the devil, you're pretty much set. Then, you're more than welcome to work for however long you like. Just don't expect to survive without sleep. You do actually need it.
Give yourself a target, and reach it. Don't stretch it out like a lot of us tend to do. Just call it a day and go to bed. It's not worth waking up feeling awful over, believe me.
Which reminds me. I have to walk my daughter to school in an hour.
Good night, my friends. Or, should I say, good morning?
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