Hello! This may seem like a silly question, but what do you do when you hit a really good writing streak and realize it is very late at night (or day, depending), you should be in bed, but you really want to finish work on this section/chapter/whatever? Do you tend to opt for sleep or do you stay up and just work while the words are coming?
By and large, I’ll keep going for as long as I can.
This tendency is partly sheer stubbornness, and partly secondary to my age. Over the last decade or so I’ve noticed that I can no longer absolutely guarantee that if I drop the smart idea I’m exploiting right now in a given piece of prose and go to bed, I’ll be able to pick it up at the same place either cognitively or emotionally the next morning. So if I’m working late, I prefer to handle a given interaction or closely associated set of interactions all at once, finish them, and then close the writing session and go fall over. If that means that I have to turn my stomach a little acid by exploiting the coffee pot, then so be it.
There is a sort of halfway-house situation where I’ll pause for a moment as I feel the weariness catching up with me, and make fairly detailed notes on what I mean to do with a particular piece of business when I start work again. But there are also moments where I’ll find myself suspecting that I’m spending more time on the notes that I would’ve spent actually writing the prose, and at that point I just throw my hands in the air and say “oh, what the fuck,” and write the prose passage.
Also: there have been moments when I’ve been aware that being tired has sometimes helped me cut through to the heart of a piece of emotional business or character detail that I might not so quickly have found my way to otherwise. But I’ve also found that, for me, trying to exploit this situation on purpose almost always fails. The line between being just tired enough that the interior barriers to understanding what you’re trying to do with the character collapse briefly, and being a shade too tired, so that you grab the wrong end of a conversation or interaction, is very fine. And then there’s being much too tired, at which point everything pretty much becomes useless. I have occasionally had to push through that state to the “dead-tired-but-getting-a-brief-second-wind” state – often in TV work where the producer is under the gun for some reason and has said “We need this NOW” and there’s no recourse – but I really, really hate that, and it routinely takes me a day or so to recover.
The only thing to add to this is that I am one of those relentlessly diurnal people who really hates working after midnight. The times I had to work night shift while I was nursing were often fascinating, but physically were torture for me. Everybody who knows me also knows that I “turn into a pumpkin at midnight” – in fact there are probably pumpkins a lot more responsive after midnight than I am – and it takes preparation or something really exciting going on to keep me up late.
Hope this helps…
(originally posted at Tumblr: http://dduane.tumblr.com/post/100902505166/hello-this-may-seem-like-a-silly-question-but