Honor Your Quirks—Especially if They Work!

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice, The Writing Life by on November 4, 2014 • views: 855

creative quirksI hate morning people.

Not literally, of course.

In fact, as long as they don’t bother me, I don’t mind them at all. But every once in awhile, if I spend time with friends or family, I’m reminded how very violent I can get if people bother me in the morning.

Mornings Give Us Creative Gifts

First of all, I’m a night owl. I can stay up ’til all hours of the night, until 5:00 a.m. sometimes, particularly if I’m working on a project and my focus is good.

So I tend to sleep later in the morning. People who are up and at ’em at 7:30 a.m., particularly if they expect me to do the same, are likely to see the grouchy side of my personality.

More importantly, however, there’s a time in the morning that’s magical for me. It’s that time between sleep and awake, that fuzzy stirring time when I’m traveling between the dream world and the real one.

It’s on those short journeys that I get my best ideas. As long as I’m allowed to wake up gradually and naturally, I can expect to retrieve solutions to current problems in my life, and more often, I receive plot and character ideas for whatever piece of writing I’m working on at the time.

They come to me like gifts wrapped in the ether of the in between.

Wake Up with Plot Solutions

I remember one time, for example, when I’d been working on a new novel. I had a general idea of where it was going, I had all my characters in place, and I’d already drafted up to chapter nine, but I wasn’t sure how the plot was going to play out.

I kept thinking about it and thinking about it, but it wasn’t coming to me. In my frustration I was stalling a bit in my progress, so I started to do what has always worked for me in the past—pose the question in my head right before sleep.

Within two days, I woke up with the answer. We’re not talking just a little hint, here. We’re talking the plot for the entire novel, coming to me like a movie while my eyes were still closed but my body was starting to wake up.

I grabbed my notebook (that I always keep by my bed for such occasions) and started writing furiously, as I knew if I didn’t get it all down right then it would vanish, like the memories of dreams by the light of the sun.

I would scratch all over the paper, lay back down, let the movie play a little further in my head, and scratch some more, until I’d recorded the entire thing.

When I finally finished, I allowed myself to come fully awake, and celebrated my accomplishment the rest of the day. For me, it’s like magic.

And if anyone had been there yelling at me to get up during that precious time, I would have lost it all.

Others May Tease You for Your Creative Quirks

I’ve been teased over the years for the way I treasure my morning time.

Most people don’t get it. My schedule is too weird for them.

Used to be that I bowed to their opinions, and tried to wake up faster, or earlier, or whatever the requirement was. But it never worked. All it did is leave me tired and grouchy—with a mind empty of ideas.

I’ve since learned that our little quirks—particularly how they relate to our creativity—are really important to accomplishing our goals.

“It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of thinking,” writes Christy Matta, MA, at PsychCentral. “But seriousness, moderation and restraint can leave us disconnected from those oddities of our personality that make us unique and that spur us to think outside the box.”

I also found out that other writers have the same quirk that I do, in that their ideas come to them overnight.

“I’ve had many instances of waking up after a good night’s sleep with the answer to a question that had been bedeviling me the day before,” writes thriller novelist Ed Gaffney, “such as how to increase the tension in one section of the book, how to create an effective relationship between a character and the reader without slowing down the pace of the narrative, and even how to end a book. I strongly believe that those experiences were not coincidences. I believe that my subconscious mind was working while I was asleep.”

Be Your Quirky Self

“One of the best ways I know of to help you stand out from the people around you and that’s guaranteed to work for you,” says Cori Padgett of Inked Write Media, “is to be… well, yourself. Or rather, your quirky self.”

Whatever your quirks, don’t let anyone take them away from you—especially if they enhance your work. I know that especially after this last experience, I’m going to continue to honor my magical mornings—and if anyone dares to come bounding into my room shouting wake-up calls, well…I’ve got weapons for that.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    I know exactly what you mean about that time between sleep and wakefulness! I don’t get story ideas then, necessarily, but the most fascinating “movies” play out. I want to cry when something interrupts!

    My quirk as a writer is probably more laziness than a true quirk- I just don’t write unless I feel like it. When I feel like it, the world disappears and I eat, sleep and breathe writing until I’m done. Then the inspiration goes away and I don’t know when I’ll see it again. I know why people invented the concept of a muse visiting you then leaving. The muse in my case is just a feeling I want to capture (because I write poetry). I don’t know what I would do if I had to make a living writing! I guess I’d learn to write whether or not I felt like it.

  2. Tui Snider says:

    Great advice!

    As a connoisseur of quirkiness, I wholeheartedly agree (I research and write about quirky, offbeat and overlooked things.) And, like you, I’m a big fan of that hynogogic state between waking and sleep. It’s chock full of ideas.

    Good for you for knowing what works best for you and sticking with it.

    ~Tui, dropping by from #WWWblogs on Twitter!

    • Colleen says:

      Ha ha. I like that: “connoisseur of quirkiness!” Yes, I’ve even seen studies showing that we’re still in our “creative” deeper brain at that first stage of waking up, before the logical brain takes over. Precious time not to be wasted! Thanks for writing in! (Love the gargoyles by your book on your site, by the way!) ;o)