Thursday, 19 February 2009

Burning the midnight oil - Linda Strachan


I like to write at night because it is more peaceful. The phone doesn’t ring, no one comes to the door and there is that edgy quiet, if you need it, that darkness and the silence within which it brings.

I also find myself writing emails and doing all sorts of odd jobs on the computer often late into the night. The other day, well it was night really; I sent an email about a book cover to my illustrator, designer and a note to my agent, too. It was very late and I didn’t expect anyone to answer I just was trying to clear a few things from my desk. Almost immediately there was a flurry of emails.

It made me wonder how little the established ‘norm’ of working 9-5 applies to not just writers but many of the other people working in publishing. Email makes all of this possible but I wonder if it makes us also a slave to the job.

With so many freelance workers with the ‘freedom’ to choose our working time do we find ourselves forgetting to stop, trying to just write this last email, check this text, until the wee small hours or until our eyes are so tired or sore we can no longer see?

Is it a freedom or when does it become a compulsion, a drug - the temptation to get it all finished (when it never really is - there is always another email) overtaking all good sense?

7 comments:

Jon M said...

E-mails can be insidious but I always make a point not to check work e-mails just before I go to bed, I've had too many sleepless nights as a result. I wondered about laptops too, marketed as devices of liberation but try working away from the desk for a while. The old lower back soon starts to grumble...

Pauline said...

I still prefer the quiet of the night for my scribbling or drawing, wandering the streets with my dogs, finishing off work (it's a disease of teachers, too) or writing to relatives in other countries.

LynnHC said...

I love to write at night - always have. Silence and a slumbering cat for company. It's 1.43am and here I am still...

Anne Rooney said...

I vote for freedom, not tyranny. I love to be able to work at all hours and have never had a 9-5 job - I've always supported myself with a mish-mash of freelance stuff. I get up early to work, and I'm surprised how many editors will email back at 6am - so it works at both ends of the day :-)

bookwitch said...

It's marvellous to be able to do what you do when you want to do it. Learning to 'say no' to yourself can be a problem at any time, not just the middle of the night.

I once emailed an author after midnight on a Saturday, feeling vaguely ashamed, because he'd realise I have no 'fun' in my life, if I wasn't out getting drunk on a Saturday night. I had his reply an hour later, so he obviously also leads a very boring life, despite being a 'young man', and not a middle-aged witch.

Linda Strachan said...

Delighted that there are so many other night owls out there.

I agree Anne, wouldn't have it any other way and would hate to be tied down to a 'proper' job - if there is such a thing - it's one of the great joys of being self employed. But sometimes I wish I was disciplined enough to know when to stop and get some sleep!

Lucy Coats said...

Writing comes when it comes--regardless of conventional time constraints. If I have a restless midnight-or-later hour where my brain is boiling with ideas, I'll work then, though I'm not a night owl generally speaking. And my family--scattered about promiscuously over the entire globe--is always up whatever time I email.