Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation. Darkness stirs and wakes imagination. —The Music of the Night, Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber
I’m the worst night owl you’ll ever know. My workday is distinctly off kilter from most of the rest of the world. Unless I have an appointment or I’m traveling, I sleep from about 3 a.m. until 11 a.m. (with a brief awake time to get my daughter off to school). As the rest of the folks in my time zone prepare to eat their midday meal, I’m grabbing a light breakfast, followed quickly by lunch. As a rule, I spend my afternoon hours conducting the business of being an author. I write blog posts, answer emails, make phone calls, and spend entirely too much time on social media. I make a chauffeur run to retrieve my teenager from her activities at some point before eating a late dinner with my family.
In the evening, my husband and I relax on the sofas, the TV playing in the background. We watch a few shows together, but I’m usually paying half attention; I’m easily distracted, by texts or conversations with kids, or more social media.
These distractions, I suspect, are why my real work starts much later.
As the house begins to quiet again, so does the Internet. The dogs get one last trip outside. My daughter settles into bed. My husband follows his routine, readying his clothes for work, reading for a while. Then, little by little, the house falls asleep.
Except for me.
I’m waking up. Well, my body has been awake for hours. But my writing brain has been slumbering, sometimes peacefully, sometimes restlessly—depending on the state of my work-in-progress. And this quieting of the house serves as an alarm clock for my mind.
In the dark, in the quiet, there are no distractions. The gentle hum of the refrigerator and snoring dogs serve as a soothing soundtrack.
I open my manuscript, and if I’m paying attention, the words flow like the Milky Way through the navy depths of the sky.
Not surprisingly, the nighttime scenes I write tend to be my favorites. Even now, when I visualize Isabelle and Robert in Calling Me Home, my mind goes straight to the scenes set at dusk or at night—when they were alone, when they were simply two teenagers in love.
If technology were not such a large part of everyday life for me, or for authors in general these days, would I still be a night owl? Would I still find the hours between 11 p.m. and three a.m. the best for creating?
I suspect I’d answer yes to both questions. For like the Phantom of the Opera, my imagination stirs in the darkness, and the other worlds I occupy come into sharp focus.
When is your brain most alert? When do you get your best work done?