Writing Before Dawn

A question that often comes up for writers, especially those with full-time jobs, is “When do you find time to write?”  More often than you’d think, the answer involves getting up one or two hours early and locking oneself in one’s home office (which is sometimes just a commandeered closet) and tapping away first thing every day.

I am not, as the saying goes, “a morning person.”

As much as I love writing, I need my sleep and I’m terrible at going to bed early.  Give me more time curling up under my blankets and hitting the snooze alarm!  If I’m going to steal extra time in my regular routine for writing, it is not that time.

But what if it were only for a month or two?  Yeah, sure, I’ll give it a try.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks: getting up just a little earlier, and free-writing for exactly 30 minutes.  At this time of year, that means getting up in the dark.  There’s no trace of dawn against the window-blinds yet.  There are no birds singing outside my window, and even the cats aren’t yet begging for their breakfast.

It’s been a strange experience, but so long as I get a decent amount of sleep to off-set my shifted schedule, it’s actually been both relaxing and enjoyable.  Sometimes my little free-writes read more like journal entries, sometimes I note the last fading details of a dream, but other times I find myself typing out half-formed ideas for stories.  I don’t get very far in thirty minutes, but it’s something:  a seed that can become something more, if I turn it over a bit, if I plant it and nurture it patiently.

There’s a weird mystery to writing before dawn:  the darkness, the quiet, and my brain still wrapped up in a sleepy haze.  Digging little nuggets out of the dark earth of my subconscious, which is still loose from being upturned and dug through in my dreams.  Mostly these story-nuggets move like fairy tales.  Mysterious witches make cryptic requests.  Castles and towers rise from mist-bound forests, while shapechangers lurk in deceptively comfortable cottages.  Heroes and heroines are bound by strange rules: you must wear a black coat when you leave, you must travel with a gray dog.

The timer goes off after thirty minutes.  I get up, wash my face, eat breakfast, feed the cats if my husband hasn’t already.  I get ready to face the rest of the day.  The stories slip away like dreams, and I think of other, far more mundane things.  By the time I reach the bus stop, with neither black coat nor gray dog, I will have forgotten most of what I’ve written only an hour beforehand.

But I will have written it.  The seeds are still there, in my pocket.  Ready to be planted.

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