Craft Matters: Timing is everything. Or is it?

We whirl through our days amidst commitments internally- and externally-imposed; some weeks we have to squeeze in our writing while waiting for the doctor, the oil change, the vet and yes that is my upcoming week.

But today I read this terrific post by Noa Kageyama, whose equally terrific blog, The Bulletproof Musician, frequently addresses matters of effective practice and discipline that applies to all of us aiming for artistry. This one looks at a study that examined how efficient learning is when it’s done at night rather than in the morning.

Don’t mess with my morning mojo, my writing muse whispered. You can’t write after three in the afternoon! I will not watch the sunset with you! 

No matter how gorgeous the sunset, my muse thinks evenings are Not a Good Time to Write. I'm going to see if she's right.

No matter how gorgeous the sunset, my muse thinks evenings are Not a Good Time to Write. Is she right?

 But the *evidence* shows that people learn and remember their learning more efficiently and effectively if they tackle it in the evening, go to bed, and then practice again in the morning. Huh. Is my muse really so special that she will be exempt from evidence-based research? Actually, is this really about my muse, that elusive spark of inspiration, or is this about the simple learning and practicing of craft?

I think it’s the latter. If I want to get the compound-complex sentence down cold (my current craft focus, inspired by David Foster Wallace’s jaw-dropping application of basic grammatical tenets), I need to learn its form and practice it.

Although I’d like to think I’m very special, I suspect that I’m no more special than anyone else when it comes to my grey matter. So based on Kageyama’s post, I am going to ignore my muse and set up some evening craft reading-learning-practicing exercise sessions for myself, followed by next-morning follow-up craft reading-learning-practicing exercise sessions.

I’ll let you know how it goes in about a month–and if you have any experiences with how you’ve learned specific writing craft, tell us all about it in comments below!

5 responses to “Craft Matters: Timing is everything. Or is it?

  1. This was a very useful post. I’ve had trouble lately writing mornings because my head is fuzzy. By afternoon, evening, I’m in much better shape. Night time writing sounds right. Thank you!!!

    • Let me know how it goes! So far I’m batting a thousand in NOT writing in the evenings. Road to hell, best intentions paving thereof, etc.

  2. Thanks for this. I wonder if working on activities related to the WIP in the evening would work as well as actually writing? Editing/researching/brainstorming/plotting–in other words, keeping the pump primed, and fueling the subconscious during sleep, in order to have effective morning writing.

    • YES — I am finding that doing craft work, in the strictest sense, is incredibly inefficient for me in the evenings, so I’ve been re-reading paragraphs/scenes I want to revise, jotting notes, and then sleeping on it and taking it up first thing in the AM. Dunno if this is yielding any better revisions, but it is keeping me immersed in and connected to my story more than usual. Onward!

  3. Pingback: Focus: Writing and Engaging | the Art of Practice

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