The Creative Process

I’m sure the creative process evinces itself in various ways among writers. For me it’s an early morning phenomenon. Every morning when I wake (around 5 – 5.30am) my mind automatically diverts to the book I’m working on and dives straight into the task of solving plot problems. It does this without me asking and is quite remarkable in the way it can hold and dissect several novels in a series at once.

Interestingly, once I sit in front of the computer, after breakfast, dishes, lunches, ironing blahdeblah, that spontaneous ability has vanished and I’m back to labouring over small sections and writing things in my scrap book to remember them.

As I get to the end of a final polish on a book, I will actually wake up with word subsitituions for page 102 or 375 on the tip of my cranial lips. If I don’t write them in a notebook straight away, they’re gone by official work time.

I find this absolutly fascinating. What does it mean about my early morning brain chemistry? Or my dreams?

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  1. 1. S.C. Butler

    I can’t answer your questions about brain chemistry or dreams, but the same thing happens to me. Only with me, it’s usually sometime between one and two in the morning.

  2. 2. Marianne de Pierres

    Hi there,

    do you get back to sleep afterwards?


  3. 3. Satima Flavell

    Marianne, I think I’ve posted about this before over on Ripping Ozzie Reads, but as I am a born-again disciple of Robert Olen Butler I shall take this opportunity to do a bit more proselytizing:-)

    In his book “From Where you Dream”, Butler, a well-published American author and academic, insists that the unconscious is close to the surface in the morning, before we start interacting with others or getting involved in the duties of the day. His doctrine is “put as little between rising and writing as possible”. To be really effective, he says, we should pretty much roll out of bed and start writing.

    I know this isn’t usually possible for someone with a family to deal with, but even then, Butler would suggest you get up an hour earlier and instruct the household that you’re not to be disturbed until whatever time you feel appropriate. Do nothing more strenuous than visiting the bathroom and making coffee, if you must.

    I’ve been doing this for about six months now and I’m astonished at the difference it’s made to my writing. Characters, situations, solutions to problems – they are all there, close to the surface, waiting to be tapped. Butler’s book is well worth a read as he has some useful exercises as well – but be prepared for his scathing opinion of genre writers. (He’s a Literary author, of course!)

  4. 4. Marianne de Pierres

    Hey Satima,

    acutally I think you talked about it on my Marianne Delacourt blog. I vow I’m going to try it soon. Do you think I would pick the book up in the library or is it best purchased on the Internet?


  5. 5. Satima Flavell

    I borrow my friend Annalou’s copy or I’d offer to lend it to you:-) It’s published in the States but the State Library Service might be able to track a copy down. Failing that, it’s the dreaded Amazon, I guess:-(

  6. 6. Marianne de Pierres

    Thanks anyway Satima. I’ll look around for it.

  7. 7. Nathanael Green

    Marianne and Satima,

    Thanks so much for the post and the book recommendation; I’m definitely going to look for that.

    I’ve actually found that my best writing time is between about 2pm and 4pm (shame that the day job gets in the way. ;-) , but I’ve never been a morning person. I can’t be the only afternoon writer out there?

    Maybe Mr. Butler can help me change my ways.


  8. 8. Megs

    I’m an afternoon writer too. :)

  9. 9. Marianne de Pierres

    Must be frustrating to be a pm writer when you’re holding down day jobs. Does that mean you write in the evenings?

  10. 10. Nathanael Green

    To be perfectly honest, holding down a day job means that I try to sneak in writing any time I have 15 minutes alone. Lunch break, evenings, occasionally in the morning if I can haul my carcass out of bed earlier than necessary. ;-)

  11. 11. S.C. Butler

    Actually, it’s all I can do to wake up long enough to write my early AM ideas down. I don’t actually write then. The real work is done in the afternoon, if I’m lucky enough to be able to decipher what I wrote in the dark post-midnight.

  12. 12. Marianne de Pierres

    Yes – always a problem to decipher dream talk. :)

  13. 13. Kelly McCullough

    I am totally incapable of creative efforts first thing in the morning. Before I’ve caffeinated and gotten some exercise in, I can’t even string together a sentence, much less hope to work on the book. I have to suspect that (Dr.?) Robert Olen Butler is a morning person of the sort who can’t understand why everybody else isn’t one as well. I do quite often wake from dream and write, but it’s invariably at 2-3 in the morning and generally followed by my returning to bed for several hours.

  14. 14. Marianne de Pierres

    Hi Kelley,

    my middle son is the same. Incapable of speech until food has done its job. I learned early on not to make bright, cheery breakfast conversation and let him come to me when he is ready to speak.


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