Back in my university years, between classes, working, socializing, sleeping, watching music videos on Muchmusic and trying to get all my assignments done, there were times that there simply didn’t seem to be enough hours in a day. To try to make ends meet time-wise, I would occasionally revert to the old stand-by: the all-nighter.
I did not do it often, but I do recall the ceremony behind it, ensuring I had all the supplies I needed to make it through the night: coffee, cigarettes, snacks, plenty of good music, typewriter ribbon cartridges and typing paper (because of course, typewriter supplies never ran out during store hours). I did not usually go to caffeine tablets on top of that because they just made me so jittery I couldn’t read my own writing. Red Bull had not been invented yet so we made do with the above even though it was not the healthiest of combinations by any stretch of the imagination. And for the record, I quit smoking around 1990-91.
I do not want to over-romanticize the all-nighters of 1986, but there was something magical about the peace and solitude of the middle of the night, clickity-clacking on my Mom’s typewriter in my man cave, and producing some quality essays that earned me some decent marks.
I recall those smoke-filled nights, with a gentle breeze wafting through the window, expanding my musical horizons listening to all kinds of classical, jazz, rock, pop and instrumental artists like Kitaro and Tangerine Dream.
I even remember a couple of quick runs to the 24 hour grocery store around the corner to pick up more snacks, only to find that I could sing “All By Myself” at the top of my lungs in aisle 7 and really mean it. (I tried it once, it was most liberating.)
It did not matter whether I completed my work at 3:00, 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., all I remember is the euphoric sensation of completing a creative work when the rest of the world was still sleeping. It hooked me in like a crocheted doily.
The all-nighter was a temporary solution to a temporary problem, reclaiming an extra 8 hours to get caught up on my assignments. It was somewhat effective, even though I would pay for it in the days that followed in the form of mild fatigue and headaches. But at 21, you brush it off, take a “disco nap” and then go hang out with your friends until the wee hours of the next morning. I miss those days where the energy seemed almost limitless.
Today, I am still plagued with times when the little narrator voice just won’t slow down. I am certainly not complaining as I have lived through my share of dry spells and variations on writer’s block.
But those times of literary abundance are when I wonder if a “writer all-nighter” would be a viable solution to download the ideas from my head, my scraps of paper and my notebooks and capture them in some organized fashion.
I often wonder if sacrificing just one night’s sleep here and there would be the magic bullet to get caught up. How wonderful it would be to have a collection of blog posts all finalized, loaded up and ready to go, and I can concentrate on other writing projects or explore other blog post topics.
I know I have been trying to not inflict too much pressure on myself because after all, it is a hobby and a rehearsal for my retirement. However when the ideas are flowing like Niagara Falls but primary life commitments are already keeping me busy, can I sacrifice 8 hours’ sleep? At what price? Would a writer all-nighter be more beneficial or would the days that follow become a hot mess?
The sad reality is that as I got older and more entrenched in my work routine and schedule, it became increasingly clear that I was always more of an early bird than a night owl, regardless of what my body clock said when I was 21.
Waking up early, fresh from a good night’s sleep, sipping my coffee and letting my brain download ideas first thing in the morning is more my style and my natural rhythm.
I have to admit that the writer all-nighter is on my bucket list of something I might like to try (again) but with no real expectations.
Until that time, I think the answer is simply to adapt to whatever time is available in my waking hours (especially on weekends and days off) and make the best use of that time, striking the right balance between the domestic must-dos and the creative must-dos.
How about you, fellow writers and artists? Are all-nighters part of your routine?
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Have a great day,