Tag Archives: coffee

The inconvenience of deadlines

I am getting ready to fly to Boston on Wednesday for a Creative Writing masters program residency at Goddard College, and boy is my plate full!  I have to finish editing part of a manuscript for a “hopeful” book, write two articles for a newspaper and a magazine, knock out a press release, pack and find time to sleep.  While I seriously appreciate the work, these current deadlines are most inconvenient!

So, what do you do when you are running out of time, but have immediate deadlines to meet?  Perhaps making a 1,2, 3 list would be a good idea.  You know the deal. It might look something like this:

  1. Wake-up
  2. Coffee
  3. Take a walk (fresh air always stimulates my mind)
  4. Make a protein shake (protein is good for the brain)
  5. Shower (I cannot work dirty and/or sweaty)
  6. Organize your desk
  7. Organize your notes
  8. Start writing (the process could vary)
  9. Lunch (don’t skip meals, it’s unhealthy)
  10. Back to the grind
  11. Break (take another mini-walk or mini-nap… it can be very rejuvenating)
  12. More coffee
  13. Write
  14. Write
  15. Write
  16. Keep writing

You get the picture… However, sometimes even with the best intentions and organizational skills, it doesn’t play out that way. So far, my day has gone something like this:

  1. Woke up at 4:30 (tossing and turning)
  2. Fell back to sleep around 6 am
  3. Rose at 8 (an hour later than usual)
  4. Got a phone call, then dealt with a rodent of unusual size
  5. Decided to shower
  6. Forgot to make coffee
  7. Drank a protein shake
  8. Made some green tea
  9. Noticed it was 11:20 am, and began to panic.
  10. 11:40 another phone call
  11. 12:14 someone befriended me on Facebook
  12. 12:30 ate lunch
  13. etc., etc.

By the time 3:00 rolled around (it’s now 4:14), I had still not done much of anything.

So, even with the best intentions, and plans for the most productive and organized day, we are subject to interruptions of all kinds and sometimes–just sometimes…it’s inconvenient to have deadlines!  🙂

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Why did I do it?

It’s been a long day.  In fact, it seems to be getting longer, given the fact it is approaching 3 am.  I am not really a night owl by nature, but sometimes it just happens, you know?

It began with a large cup of coffee and ended with a glass of California red wine, which would have been fine, if I hadn’t had the other 5 cups of coffee spread throughout the day.  Why did I do it?  Most likely the motivation was, “energy,” but now I am sleepless in Carmel.

Of course, writers are notorious for being big coffee drinkers and staying up into the wee hours of the morning, squeezing every drop of creative juice from their head to the paper (in this case computer).  It’s moments like this that make me realize why so many writer’s end up working freelance.  Certainly the restrictions of needing normal sleep hours are just too much for their creative masterminds.  These nocturnes, day sleepers, diurnally challenged word crafters that seem to get by on little-to-no sleep are not recognized as unique segments of society.  In fact, while no one would admit to discriminating against night owls, it is certain that such partisanship exists, especially in the office place.

However unjust and unfair it seems though… in order to be fair… I must admit that good sleep helps to produce good work.  For example, it is doubtful that a news columnist for a prominent paper is going to be able to pump out article after article, meeting every deadline on 2-3 hours sleep a night.

Here are some interesting facts:

Research by Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders Center found that people who slept eight hours and then claimed they were “well rested” actually performed better and were more alert if they slept another two hours. That figures. Until the invention of the lightbulb (damn you, Edison!), the average person slumbered 10 hours a night.

2 // Night owls are more creative.
Artists, writers, and coders typically fire on all cylinders by crashing near dawn and awakening at the crack of noon. In one study, “evening people” almost universally slam-dunked a standardized creativity test. Their early-bird brethren struggled for passing scores.

3 // Rising early is stressful.
The stress hormone cortisol peaks in your blood around 7 am. So if you get up then, you may experience tension. Grab some extra Zs! You’ll wake up feeling less like Bert, more like Ernie.

Read More http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/17-01/st_3st#ixzz0rfYz6vDd

However, despite my current plight, I really am more of a morning person.  My biological time clock functions much better early on.  Even though I have no problem getting up in the morning when I stay up late, it is certain my ability to think sharply will be dulled somewhat.

(Next morning at the office) “Oh, um, it’s Thursday, but Barney thinks it’s Friday… so we won’t tell him… just keep that going.”

Night owls generally have a different idea about there propensity to “stay up” all night.

“I really haven’t got time to be tired…No matter what hour it is.”

“I really never get tired unless I stop and make time for it.”

“Sometimes I purposely stay up late, just so I can have my morning coffee before bed.”

“Sleep is like the unicorn–it’s rumored to exist, but I doubt that I will see any.”

So, if you are a coffee drinker and a writer, this is a bad combination.  Instead of drinking coffee during the day, you may want to take another tack.  On the other hand, if you are a night owl then take solace, because new research suggests that night owls are more likely to be creative thinkers. Scientists can’t yet fully explain why evening types appear to be more creative, but they suggest it could be an adaptation to living outside the norm. Hans Van Dongen, associate research professor at the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, helped to discover the biological explanation behind morning and evening types.  He and his colleagues found that a small group of brain cells, called suprachiasmatic nuclei, emit signals to the body that synchronise the time of day. This biological clock runs two hours ahead in morning types and two hours later in evening types.

“One could reasonably envision a link between the personality trait of extroversion and the finding of creativity,” Van Dongen says.

So, if you happen to be a writer and a night owl, don’t blame it on the coffee, but blame it on your brain!!!


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Creative overload: What’s a writer to do?

Well, it has been a night of back and forth… Perhaps it’s creative confusion… No, that’s not it… I think it’s more like over-stimulation, but I assure you, it’s not from coffee (I haven’t had any coffee today).  It is from too many writing projects. Flitting between hard-core news, to travel journalism, with a press release or two thrown into the pot, and then at night juggling a children’s novel and 2 feature films.  I am definitely on creative overload!

So, the question arises…”What does a writer do when they are juggling too many projects at once?”  I do have a few suggestions, however, I would like to take a momentary detour.

Recently I read an article that addressed this very thing, only the author was of the opinion that juggling too many projects or ideas is just another form of procrastination, which in her opinion is another term for writer’s block!  While I do believe with some people that can be the case, it is not the situation with me.

So, back to my original question.  Sometimes writers have very little work, and more free time to work on personal writing projects, and that is always fun, but that is not always the case.  In fact, when there is an excessive amount of projects to complete, it is wise to make a list, check it twice, and… no, wait… that’s been written… 🙂  It is a good idea to have a checklist, and start your writing day in the morning, and establish normal work hours, with a schedule and deadlines to meet.  In the same way you would have to meet deadlines if you were working for corporate America, it is paramount that you stick to a routine.

Keep in mind, that the majority of writers are not bereft of things to say.  In fact, it is pretty common for writers to have far too many opinions, story ideas, projects in the fire (or spread out all over the desk), and the temptation to be overly-stimulated into the wee hours of the morning.  This is where personal discipline becomes a useful tool, and getting good sleep, implementing some form of physical exercise to give oxygen to the brain.  It really is all about organization, structure and discipline.  OUCH!  Those are words many of us do not like to hear.

I would love to  say that I faithfully stick to this regiment.  I do try, but sometimes, it is a challenge.

Regiment as follows:

  • Early to bed, early to rise (except for tonight… it’s approaching 1 am)!
  • Go out for a brisk walk or jog in the fresh morning air.  There is something about taking in oxygen that aids to concentration immensely.

While I am on this topic, it is a known fact that children need fresh air to help them concentrate.  Do you think just because you have whiskers or wear lipstick that the need for fresh air changes for adults?  Au contraire.

Other ways to improve concentration are:

  • Do breathing exercise at regular intervals ,take in fresh air, enjoy a time practicing yoga or some form of meditation.
  • Avoid eating unhealthy foods, things with high sugar content (You will end up feeling drugged).
  • Keep some form of snack readily available like:  Raw nuts, cut up veggies, fruit slices, and/or other forms of protein, which will increase your energy.
  • Take breaks.  Everyone needs to take a few minutes during the course of the day, especially if you are stuck in front of a computer.  This is a great time to take in more oxygen.  In fact, I call them “air breaks.”  Stepping outside for a bit of O2 does wonders for concentration.  
  • Write down a daily list of reasonable goals.  Goals that can be achieved during the course of a work day.
  • While passion and inspiration is at the heart of every creative writer, there is some amount of organization that is needed for productivity.  Utilizing an over-sized bulletin-board is a great way to sort through various projects, especially if you are under any type of deadline.  Not everyone can plow through their computer files loaded with projects, but having a dry erase board with various colored ink can really help a lot.
  • Sometimes, it is advantageous to make up a dead line if you don’t actually have one.  This is particularly good for the writer who really does have way too many projects, and will help him/her actually finish some things!

I do not recommend post-it notes. Those little sticky notes can pose a serious problem for the over-zealous, stimulated writer.

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