This is a guest entry written by Amy Parmenter, an award-winning journalist and longtime reporter for both CBS radio and NBC TV
If you make a living as a writer or hope to make a living as a writer, sooner or later you will have to write when you are tired and your muse is M.I.A.
In fact, you may find yourself writing when you are tired more often than when you are inspired. And that, in and of itself is enough to make some writers put down the pen and pick up excuses. Don’t do it.
As a reporter facing a daily deadline, meeting a deadline for my blog, or even a deadline for a guest post like this one, sometimes I have no choice but to write when I’m dead tired. Here are some thoughts and suggestions that might help you get going when you’d rather be going to bed.
1. Nobody is going to die.
The truth of the matter is most Americans do not get enough sleep so many people go to work overtired. In fact, I can only sleep at night hoping this does NOT apply to truck drivers or surgeons, but chances are it does. Fortunately, I am neither, so the first step in writing when you are tired is accepting the fact that if your work is not your very best that day, no one is going to die. Whew.
2. Let go of the fear.
The absolutely hardest thing about writing when you’re tired is overcoming the fear that something you write will not be good enough. Maybe it won’t be good enough for your boss, maybe it won’t be good enough for your readers but what you really fear is that it won’t be good enough for you. You’re afraid what you write won’t be your best and – here’s a newsflash – you may be right! There are two reasons you need to get over this.
— You may be wrong. That’s right. Just as easily as what you write when you’re tired may not be good, it could also be better than what you expect. You may be surprised by what you are able to write when forced to do so. Getting started writing when you are tired is the most difficult step but sometimes, once you get going, the end result may seem more inspired than tired.
— You may be right. Worst case scenario, the work you do that day may not be your best. So? While we would all like to write Pulitzer Prize winning entries on a daily basis, it’s not going to happen – not even for those who have won the Pulitzer Prize! If you are a good writer capable of meeting deadlines, chances are your best stuff will be recognized as such and everything else will be forgotten.
3. Consider the alternatives.
You really only have two options when you are tired. Write or don’t write.
If you consistently choose not to write when you are tired then chances are you will not be able to earn a living writing. If this is okay with you, then enjoy your nap! But, if writing is at the heart of what you do or what you would like to do for a living, then you have no choice but to write when you’re tired. What you will learn over time is that writing with less energy can also mean writing with less interference. Creativity can come from your heart instead of your head and the end result is often a pleasant surprise.
4. Change your environment.
Go to a coffeehouse, a library, the park – anywhere but your desk. Just get up and get out. Sometimes a change of scenery can awaken your senses and your sensibilities enough to jump start the writing process.
5. Get away from the computer
Too many distractions. I don’t think I need to say much more than that.
Try writing in a notebook or on a legal pad instead. (It won’t kill you and may even inspire you.) It will be easy enough to transcribe online once you’ve finished.
6. Take a nap.
No kidding. While this advice may seem counterintuitive, chances are when you are tired you will waste lots of time doing anything BUT writing. So, instead of spending half an hour responding to unimportant emails, allow yourself the luxury of a 30 minute nap. Make a personal commitment to begin writing as soon as you wake up. Then turn off the phone, clear your head and sleep without apology.
Then I got up and wrote this post.
Amy Parmenter is an award-winning journalist and longtime reporter for both CBS radio and NBC TV. She also publishes her own blog, The ParmFarm – where ‘the sharing of ideas and experiences cultivates personal and professional growth’. (www.ParmFarm.com) You can also follow her on Twitter @ParmFarm.