Love letters
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Don’t listen to writing advice (A love letter)

One day this week, I rose at 5 AM.  I worked for an hour and a half—nailed the organization of a book project—and then drove to my son’s house for emergency babysitting duty at 6:30. By 9 AM that morning I’d knocked a big item off my to-do list, watched George, eaten breakfast and done the crossword, showered and gotten ready for the rest of the day.

I love getting up early. It’s when I get my best writing done, and over the years my brain and body have adjusted to this and cooperate by waking me with the dawn, or before, naturally.  Rising early works for me.  But I’m donesies by dinner—I’ll do no work requiring energetic thought after 7, and by 9 I’ll be dozing in front of the TV.

So if you asked me to advise you on the best schedule for productivity, I would enthusiastically endorse waking early, telling you that by creating time to do what’s most important to you first, you set yourself up for success the whole day.

But consider my friend Robin.  She gets her best work done starting about the time I’m dozing off. By midnight, she’s in full work mode, often staying up until 2 or 3 AM. And I know not to text her first thing in the morning, because she sleeps in until 10 or 11.

If you asked Robin the secret to productivity, she’d tell you to stay up late.

My point, which I’m sure you’re already gotten, is that what works for me may not work for you. This goes for how your schedule your days, how you live your life, and yes, how you write. We are all different, thank God.

There are a ton of experts online and elsewhere who want to tell you how to write and when to do it. I’m one of them!  Many will try to convince you that their way is the only way. But don’t listen to us. You know best what works for you.

And, here’s the caveat to this: you are responsible for figuring out what works best, for following your own path.  And that’s not as easy as it sounds, and its where we “experts” come in. Read what we have to say, absorb it, put our brilliant advice to use and see how it works.

Experts can help light many ways, but only you can figure out what way is best. Knowing yourself is a lifelong pursuit.

Please do feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you’ve taught yourself!

0 thoughts on “Don’t listen to writing advice (A love letter)

  1. jamie from Nashville

    Charlotte, thank you for your constant inspiration. My “night owl” tendencies shifted on me recently, which has thrown me hard! I’m still trying to get my “habit” back, but waking (and I mean WAKING) at 5-6am totally confuses me… I guess this is something that happens as we age? I went through a very serious health issue for the last few years that is now corrected – maybe this is the reason? But, I have no doubt, I will figure this out! Just have to say, having the urge to clean house immediately upon waking, usually before sunrise, is so strange for me! As for my writing, that has suffered greatly, probably because I keep trying to start after dinner, my former habit. It seems attempting “butt in chair” when I first wake will be my next challenge. Thanks, again! Happy writing…

    1. Charlotte Rains Dixon

      Welcome to my world! I wake without alarms at 5 or 5:30 and I’ve grown to love it. Like you, I used to be a night owl. It was having kids that turned me around…it is a bit disconcerting when it first starts to happen. But if you go with it, I think you’ll start to like it. And yes, if you can get your butt to the chair first thing, it is the best time for writing! I actually read somewhere (can’t remember where, of course) that your brain is at its best when you first wake up. Mine does need coffee as I write, I will admit.

      Thanks for commenting and happy writing to you, too!

  2. Jenni Gainsborough

    I spent a fascinating day at Portland Wordstock yesterday listening to several writers talk about their process and when they wrote. They certainly supported what you are saying here. None of them shared the same writing habits and yet all were successful in getting words on paper. There is still hope for those of us who cannot write in the morning however early they get up!

    1. Charlotte Rains Dixon

      I love that everyone you heard had different writing habits! When I first started coaching and teaching I was much more dogmatic about what I thought was the right way to write. But since then I’ve realized that everyone really does have their own process. The trick is, of course, figuring out what it is and then following it. I completely missed Wordstock this year. Glad you enjoyed it.

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