Day 158 – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Why I Write In The Morning

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received was from James McBride and it was totally unsolicited.

So, years ago, I’m standing in line at the National Book Festival in the DC Convention Center waiting in the booksigning line having fueled myself with a turkey sub from across the street. I’m in the huge hall with lines so long they snake for the popular authors.

The National Book Festival is sponsored by the Library of Congress and it requires a plan. There are so many authors and so many events that it’s not something you can wing it or not bring a roller bag or not buy the books that you want signed before hand. Ask me how many mistakes I made going to the festival because it was all of the above. I paid the price.

At least I knew enough to make a “must see” list. On that list was James McBride. I’d loved his story “Goat” on LeVar Burton Reads enough to buy his book of short stories – Five Carat Soul. I hand over my book for James McBride’s autograph and tell him I’m a writer. Now. It was chancy that I told him that. The advice to not meet your heroes has been valid for me in the past. Except. He didn’t give me a condescending look. He didn’t laugh. He scrawled his name inside the book and gave me a piece of advice – “Write at 5 am in the morning.”

That was years ago and now I know why.

The critical voice has a way of getting after me the later it is on in the day. Yesterday, it got me while I was finishing reading an extremely entertaining book I planned on outlining to study. Then, I made the mistake of reading the acknowledgements. The author thanked his publicist, and his agent, and his editor, and his lawyer.

Now. Remember I said I liked this book enough to study it and this is a New York Times Bestselling, award-winning author. Like, I hope he’s good at his craft?

But the comparison demon sauntered up on my shoulder and asked that question that no good answer comes from – what are you doing? Then other comments/questions quickly follow – You’re not good enough. You’re wasting your time. No one wants to read what you write. You’ll waste your life in front of a keyboard for nothing.

The critical voice knows where to hit and when. So, yesterday was a wash. After finishing that book, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t write. I didn’t post to the website. I didn’t edit. And this was after the day before I had an excellent day, meeting all my writing goals.

But do you know what? Critical Voice is lazy af and doesn’t get up at 5 am in the morning. Critical Voice needs light and air and when it comes to comparison, something to compare to. Ain’t nothing going on at 5 am except the darkness. Even the birds don’t start twittering in summer until 6 am.

Even if the Critical Voice does get me later on in the day, writing when I wake up means I still would have written something. I still would have gotten something down on paper or studied or listened to a manuscript for dropped words. I still would have succeeded that day.

And that’s why I write first thing in the morning. And I’m sure that’s why James McBride told me to write at 5 am.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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About Irette Y Patterson

Irette Y Patterson is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and romance. She has been published in FIYAH, Strange Horizons, Translunar Travelers Lounge and on the website of The Saturday Evening Post. When not writing, you can find her digging around in her garden or catching the latest musical in the theater.
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