Today Dina Santorelli is joining me to share a wonderful post about her night-time writing habits! Dina is a freelance writer and editor, and I’m thrilled to have her on the blog!
by Dina Santorelli
I like to write at night, in the middle of the night, when the world is asleep or heading in that direction. I set my alarm for 2 or 3 a.m. and force myself to rise and scoot downstairs to my laptop, ready and waiting.
Sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes all I want to do is sleep, lie there under the blankets like normal people, safe from the cold of the winter or the busyness of life, safe from the failure to write even a single decent word. And I’ll hit the snooze button just to prolong the tension, like a good thriller writer should – just another 10 minutes before I find out I’ll never write another sentence again. But then the worries come that I might snooze the years away, open my eyes to find that I’m 60 years old, my dream a distant memory, and I remind myself that the time is now, that books don’t get written by sleeping authors, and that usually is enough to do the trick.
As luck would have it, my husband isn’t normal either. A volunteer fireman and EMT, he gets up at all hours and drags himself out the front door to save people. On many occasions, he’ll walk back in the house an hour later only to go back out again for another call. It’s like living with a superhero. I figure the least I can do is drag myself out of bed to do something completely selfish like write a book.
My daylight hours are filled with chaos – children, errands, housework and freelance writing, the kind that helps pay the bills. Sometimes, especially when I’m writing 1,000 words per day, which is how I finished writing my first novel, Baby Grand, my writing time will spill over from the night into the day and then into the night again, one big writing session interrupted only by sleep and hungry stomachs, both my children’s and mine.
But it’s at night that I tend to thrive, when I can focus, when the quiet is such that my imagination comes alive, and I’m able to take a step back from my life and write with an objectivity that seems to become lost in the sun. Images appear clearer, sharper, as if the projector in my mind is better seen when there’s darkness around me, letting me focus on every frame.
Writing at night also makes me feel alone, which is pretty tricky when you live in a modest home filled with five people and space is at a premium. When I’m stuck on or need to work through a scene, I’ll roam the house like a ghost, listening to the floor creak underfoot, or I’ll stare at the frost on the windowpanes or listen to the raindrops on the kitchen skylight or watch the passing headlights of a lone automobile stretch across my ceiling, as if this were all being done especially for me.
And then, sure enough, after an hour or two of this, of writing, or trying to, my eyes will begin to droop, my head tilt to the side, and I’ll know it’s time to crawl back to bed and sleep just a little more. And I do, because I know, am satisfied, that I’m that much closer to the elusive light at the end of the tunnel.
About Dina Santorelli
Dina Santorelli is a freelance writer and editor who has written for many publications, including Newsday, First For Women and Decorating Spaces. She is co-author of the well-received Good Girls Don’t Get Fat (Harlequin, 2010) and currently serves as executive editor of Salute and Family magazines. Her first novel, Baby Grand, is represented by The Stonesong Press in New York. Dina also blogs about her novel’s road to publication as well as the writing life at Making Baby Grand.
- Making Baby Grand: Meet Dina Santorelli
- The Dog Ate My Novel: Baby Grand: Interview With Dina Santorelli
Thanks so much for the opportunity, Terri!!
As a writer, it’s so important to recognize your most productive time(s) of the day and then make sure you work your schedule to take advantage. Dina’s a great example of someone who is productive and prolific as a result.
Thank you, Iyna!
I'm so impressed with Dina's dedication. A full, busy life, with kids, husband, "paying" writing work, and she makes sure to include the time to write what moves her. I so look forward to reading her novel!
Kudos Dina, for recognizing your most productive hours and using them wisely. What a wonderful description of your writing process. It is interesting to note how differently each writer works – my procedure is nothing at all like yours – it just reinforces that there is no one "right" way to create.
Exactly right, Liz! Everyone's process is different and valid, which is one of the things I find exciting about writing. Thanks for commenting!
Wonderfully put and something many writers can relate to. It proves there's no excuse for not writing. You have to make time for it even if it means joining the night owls club. Kudos to you Dina!
Both I and the bags under my eyes thank you, Jamie! :)
You get up, write and go back to bed? Amazing!
I love writing at night as well.
I've got a bluetooth headset so I can listen to music without disturbing others. Since its wireless, I can wander the house and still listen (especially to the kitchen to get another dose of caffeine or snack.)
I also have a houseful (eleven), so I have to be quiet. If I awaken any, they like to visit to see how my writing is progressing.
But where you are getting up at 2 or 3:00 am, that's about the time I'm heading to bed.
What's the status of Baby Grand? Are you published yet?
Hey, Dax! Status on BABY GRAND… Well, right now, I just reread Chapter 4 for the umpteenth time. Talk about being stuck on a chapter! Actually, I think I've got it where I want it now. I'm doing one more read-through of the novel, and then it's back to Novel #2, which I started diligently in May and have neglected over the past few weeks. :) Thanks for commenting!
Dina, you are every writer's superhero.
Awww, Robin! :)
Dina, What a wonderful article! I love the way you describe your quiet time at night and it's obvious that you're more connected to that inner peace at those hours. Bravo for taking the time out of your ever-busy day to write for your readers.
Hmmm… I never thought of it as inner peace, since my mind is bouncing around with ideas at all hours. But at night it's "outer" peace, for sure. :) Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda!
I admire your drive and motivation. Me? I'm in bed by 9:30 or 10:00 every night and then I'm done until the next day. I am usually so tired that I cannot function much later, so I give you so much credit for your self-discipline. Good for you!
Thanks, Emily! Trust me, there are some days when, try as I might, I can't make it out from under the covers. :)
You inspire me. I bet your characters are so happy to see you night after night, especially if they’re stuck in a precarious situation. “Pull the trigger, shoot…. just let me shoot the gun,” your protagonist says. “For God sake’s free me, write the scene. I need a bar stool to sit on while I’m writing out my last confession here at the local tavern.” As your head lolls to one side, eyes drooped closed, your protagonist winds down like when a Pac Man kill. Game Over — just for tonight.
“No, wake up Dina, and get me out of here.” But, alas they have to wait until 2 am the next morning till you show up again and the great dream of fiction cloud descends on your house.
You show up for them and let ’em leap off the page and into readers’ hearts. I can’t wait to read both and have you sign both first editions.
Mary Ellen! Thank you for your kind words, although I imagine sometimes my characters are more like, "Snap out of it, woman! Keep those damn eyes open!" :)
Dina, I love how in the middle night you find your time to wonder. It's what creative people need to do! Yet with all the demands of everyday life, that experience can be the first to go. I think it's something we all struggle with. Very motivating!
Thank YOU, Dina. I enjoyed this post immensely and can totally relate.
Thank you again, Dina. I think it's clear from the comments that you inspire many writers, and I humbly number among them. You're welcome on my blog any time :-)
I love writing at night, so peaceful. Night time induces creativity in me, as soon as I hit the pillow, ideas flow…even if sometimes I wish I could just go to sleep.
I'm exactly the same way, Elle. I sometimes wish those ideas would flow as freely during my waking hours when I'm articulate enough to write!
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Wow! Nice post! I absolutely love the personality yet professionalism that you have in your writing. I agree with you. I am a night writer also and so many times I try to fight the urge to write so I can sleep. What keeps me up is the fear that I may have a great idea that will never come again. Usually, that's what causes me to fight the sleep and I find myself writing until the early hours of the morning. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Ashley (fellow night writer)! Keep up the fight! :)
I get how being distraction-free fosters your creativity, Dina, and relate very much to the feeling of satisfaction you get once you go back to sleep. Great idea–one I may consider putting to good use, especially since I miss the mornings when I didn't have to get kids up until 7:30 to get them ready for school. My elder child will START school at that same AM marker this year. More quiet AM time gone for mom.
Thanks for a lyrically-beautiful post!
Joanna, thank you so much for your kind words! Hey, if the night hours of the AM have been taken up — and many times they are for me as well — there are always those night hours of the PM. 10 p.m, 11 p.m… They work just as well sometimes. :) Best of luck to you!!