by Emily Ruth Verona
It’s not for everyone. It’s not even for me really. I’ve always been a morning person, writing only my darker stories and novels in the latest hours. Night writing used to be a phase I went through every few months. I’d spend a couple nights doing it and then I’d return to my usual schedule. This bout of night writing is going on a year now. I suppose I’ve come to embrace it. Not the best idea. Apparently, if nothing else, I excel at poor decision making.
9:00 pm: Ready…and…go
I do a lot of pacing. Not actually pacing of course. This pacing is internalized, with thoughts sliding from side to side inside my head with massive weight and persistent force. It makes me anxious. Impatient. I start talking to my dog. She stares at me as if I’m losing it. She’s probably right. I want to do everything and so I do nothing. It takes a while to figure out where and how to begin and so I don’t typically get to focusing until around nine. I never start right away though. It takes a substantial amount of wandering about before I get to the actually writing.
9:30 pm: E-mail
I check my e-mail. Occasionally responses from short story submissions arrive at night, but most of them don’t. Nonetheless, I check. Sigh. Check. Pick at a hangnail. Check. Knit my brow desperately. Check. I pause, look at my dog, and then check again, as if those thirty seconds of eye contact with her have in fact been the eternity needed to produce a response. I tell myself that it’s fine—that there’s still hope. After all, it might be 9:30 pm in New Jersey, but in California it’s only 6:30 pm and so maybe I’ll hear from someone there. I refresh my e-mail one last time. Nothing changes. I move on.
9:45 pm: Research
I begin any research I need to do that evening for my novel. Sometimes I sift through books I’ve gotten to get myself into the mindset of my protagonist—things I need to know because she would know them. Then I move on in pursuit of the concrete facts I require to make for an accurate and plausible narrative. I stumble eagerly across the internet from site to site, occasionally wondering if the nature of my searches have flagged me in some government database as a potential homicidal maniac. Eventually I get enough done and decide to reward myself by looking at books or movies online, assuring my writer self that it will only be for a few minutes.
11:30 pm: Poverty
An hour and a half later I am still wandering the internet, having spent twenty dollars on a few novels I don’t have room for because they are about the twenties and I MUST READ THEM. At some point I inevitably fall into looking for nautical antiques. I tell myself I don’t need any. Myself hates me. In the corner of the room my dog stirs and when I look at her suddenly her eyes glisten and her ears perk back. My attention must mean that I want to play with her. She comes over to the bed and starts whining. Pawing at the edge. Utilizing her natural adorableness. She is a caramel colored Cavalier King Charles Poodle mix and, weighing all of six pounds, cannot jump up herself. I have to pick her up to get her to stop and she views this as an invitation to lick my face. I tell her this is unnecessary and frankly a bit excessive. Her tongue gets my eye. I lift her up and stare into her round little brown eyes, explaining that we must focus, then place her at the corner of the comforter where she decides to lie down and watch me carefully, as if she pegs me for a runner.
11:50 pm: Email Check
A form rejection from a small fiction magazine arrives.
11:55 pm: Doubt
Literally. Doubt. Not the noun or the verb, but the film. I consider watching it, hoping that its careful cinematography and dialogue driven scenes will inspire me. Quickly I realize this is not focusing.
11:58 pm: Doubt (the noun)
I begin scolding myself as only a twenty something woman with the soul of a ninety five year old man is able to do. “Focus,” I tell myself and then, when I don’t listen, “You are not the writer I raised.” I lean back and roll onto my side dishearteningly. It is late. I should call it a night. My dog comes over. Licks my cheek. I ask her why this is necessary. She responds by staring. I spend a few moments going over my little book of fiction rejections, for I’ve made sure to keep a list of everywhere I’ve submitted and everywhere that has said no. There are a handful of places without a line drawn through them. I have yet to receive a response from those. I narrow my eyes, pull over my computer, and check my e-mail. Just to be sure. After all, it’s only 9:00 pm in California.
I write. It is blissful. Freeing. Occasionally graphically or thematically disturbing. It is mine though—the only part of the day during which I am whole and natural. My heart beats by the stroke of each key and my mind hums with the voices and feeling of those characters, each of which is flawed and broken in his/her own way. They want change. They want honesty. They want a world so much better than the one they are given. And I love them. Even when they are poorly drawn or brutal or ugly. I feel the weight of them all in my chest, just above the ribs. It aches there. Sings there. It is the source of all steadiness within my soul.
2:05 am: Email Check
Nothing. I want to scream.
2:08 am: Poor Choices
After deciding that I am hungry, I utilize social media to express my desire for Chinese food. I could go and find something to eat if I really want to, but I object to standing. Instead I take a few photos of my dog to distract myself. Send them to friends. My best friend promptly responds by reminding me that it is a weeknight. She uses her cell phone as an alarm and has to get up in an hour. I apologize. The evening drags on.
Refusing to heed my own warning, I decide to watch whatever movie it is that I have rented. Sometimes it’s a dramatic piece, other times a horror film. This is the End. The Conjuring. The East. The Evil Dead. Friends with Kids. What Maisie Knew. The Killing Fields. Mama. Insomnia induced delirium begins to set in around 2:30 am, but I pay no mind. I’ve been wholeheartedly addicted to narrative film since the age of twelve. By the time the movies ends I feel pleased with myself for all of five minutes. Then I look at the time.
3:45am: EVERYTHING HURTS
Everything hurts. Every. Single. Thing. Hurts. My mind. My soul. I start to believe that I am having chest pains, though whether or not I am actually having them is something only the 3:00 am Gods know for sure and they aren’t telling. I still have to walk my dog. I don’t want to. It is either freezing or muggy or I’ve just watched a particularly paranoia-inducing horror movie and there could be murderers or ghosts lurking in the dark recesses of the yard. Wary, I look at my dog. She is lying contently on my bed or in her own on the floor and her eyes are creepily open ever so slightly in white slits that occasionally twitch as she dreams. When I pick her up she moans softly and curls up against my shoulder. I slip on my shoes, get her leash, and bring her outside. When I place her on the ground she stumbles a bit like a drunk teddy bear trying to keep her footing. She sniffs around and I tell her to focus, which is apparently our evening mantra. She listens.
3:48 am: Stars
I stare up at the night sky and take in breath while watching stars. They are lovely.
3:49 am: Unnecessary Staring
I pause awkwardly upon getting inside, unable to focus or blink or move. Not good. Definitely not good.
3:50 am: Final E-mail Check
3:51 am: Deeply Rooted Self Loathing
I gently place my dog in her bed again and she curls into a little ball the moment I put her down. I manage to find a pair of pajamas and pull them on. Brush my teeth. Hit the light. I fall—yes, literally, fall—into bed and lay there for a moment, too exhausted to do anything but exist. I roll onto my side and pull the blanket up around my neck. When the self-loathing begins to subside, I start going over in my head the pages I’d written that night, noting the things I liked and the changes I’d make. These thoughts, if nothing else, carry me.
After a night like mine, it’s nice to be carried.
WARNING: Night Writing is a hazard to one’s soul and may result in dizziness, online shopping, delusions of grandeur, delusions of catastrophic failure, muttering, doubt, more muttering, irrelevant fixations, confusion, and irreparable stubbornness.
Note from V: LOL, online shopping. Preaching to the choir. For more information about Emily’s writing and other nocturnal habits, please visit her website and/or follow her on Twitter. Good night, and good luck!