My sleep cycle is that of a person who works third shift.
It began about five years ago. I’d sleep at night, like most people do, and wake up the next morning.
That was fabulous and I built my writing schedule around it. I diagnosed myself with mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) years ago and once I have a system, or a schedule in place, I stick to it. For each day of the week time was blocked off to work on this writing project or that one.
There was a day and time for writing short stories, editing those stories, creating a website article, posting and sharing that article, searching for freelance writing jobs, preparing articles and submitting to those jobs, revision of my poetry collection, searching for contests to submit to, and so on.
My church and writers group attendance was built into my schedule as well. Yes, I’ve very structured when it comes to my work. Imagine the difficulty I had when I started finding myself wide awake at night until around 3:00am, sometimes later (or earlier since it was technically morning).
After realizing my sleep was going to come when it wanted to, I revised my writing schedule. Things were great for a few days and then, BAM, there I was feeling sleepy around midnight. Initially, I fought against the changes in my sleep cycle. I tried staying up later, going to bed earlier, forcing myself to get up when still tired and groggy. I was extremely unproductive with my writing. My brain was as I’d imagine it to be for someone who worked swing shift. Your mind isn’t able to stabilize to any one schedule, rendering you low comprehension and a minimal energy level.
Months into rotating from sleeping at night to sleeping during the day led me to give up on trying to change my cycle. Whatever it was going to be – I was going to roll with it. When it changed, I’d give myself a couple days to adjust, revise my writing schedule, and move forward. My current sleep cycle has me reaching Sleeptown anywhere between 4:30am and 6:30am. I get up between 12:30pm and 2:30pm, depending on what time I arrived into Town.
A solid eight hours of sleep leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to work. A few Sunday mornings I was sleepy around 6:30am and decided to stay awake to attend the 8:00am church service. I was home and in the bed by 10:00am. I got up at 6:00pm, freshened up and fixed something to eat. I then began editing a short story according to my once-again-revised writing schedule. The time of this writing was 1:49am.
People try to help by telling me try this or try that and usually I’ve already tried it. I’m happy to have a consistent sleep cycle. Some say I need to get a night job. I say, “Writing is my job and I do it at night.”
Don’t feel bad if your schedule or something in your life is different from someone else’s, even if you’re in the minority. You have to work with your own schedule, not theirs.
The purpose for my writing this article is to encourage you to function within whatever cycle or schedule your body has you on. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re unable to complete the things on your list. Be willing to revise your schedule. The important thing is to stay productive. If I can manage the changes necessary with my mild OCD, I’m confident that you can too. So, whatever comes your way – a varying sleep cycle, caring for your children, attending or taking someone to medical appointments – as long as it’s consistent, you can adapt to it and build your writing schedule around it. Don’t let anything deter you from writing, because, well … you’re a writer.
I’d love to read changes in your writing schedule, how you overcame them, and your feelings about it.
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This article was written 10/5/15 and is cross-posted from deborahldixon.com. What’s written is still true for me today.