How Being Tired Can Make You a Better Writer

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Image via Lauriesanders60 WANACommons

One of the best writing teachers/mentors in the business is Author Candace Havens. This woman isn’t an author, she’s a force of nature, and any writer who wants to go pro needs to take her classes. Recently, she presented for us at WANACon, and she brought up some interesting points I’d like to share here.

Embrace Being Tired

Okay, first I want to take a moment to acknowledge that we do need rest. We need breaks and days off. I’ve been working 16 hour days 6 and 7 days a week since the beginning of the year, and right now all I want to do is curl up and sleep…for a month. I’ve wanted to do this for the past 5 weeks at least, but I had to finish what I’d started.

It’s been almost two years since my last social media book, and it was time for a new one. I’d written a 100 page proposal that didn’t go anywhere in the traditional sphere, so at Christmas time, I decided to just dig in and write the book. Obviously, a lot had changed since I’d written the proposal, so basically I was back at square one. But, I set a strict deadline (End of February to finish first draft) and dug in.

Your Body Will Lie to You

Our bodies tend to be a bit lazy, and they like to lie. They tell us we need a day or two or twenty off, and the longer we’re away from the work, the easier it is to let things slip, to see a new shiny and start a newer, more exciting project. In this business, time is our enemy. Always remember this.

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Image via JulaiLimjl Flikr Creative Commons

It Will Never Be a “Perfect” Time

We want to wait until we’re rested, the kids are out of the house, until we have total quiet, a new computer, the list goes on. To do this job at a professional level, we have to learn to write no matter what.

I blog every day with a toddler whacking me 47 times with a NERF sword before breakfast, all the while Bubble Guppies blazing in the background. I’ve learned to un-see the dirty dishes, the laundry that needs folding, and the Christmas tree that still needs to be taken down. Yes, I am officially white trash.


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The Spawn “helping me” during revisions. Yes, I wanted to stop and clean the mess, but resisted. Gave me a twitch, but I kept going…

Time is the Enemy

When writing anything (but especially fiction) taking time off can kill momentum. We need to go back, reread, familiarize ourselves with the story and characters (since we’ve slept since that last bit we wrote). This can lead to editing the beginning to death and stalls forward progress. We get bogged down in the first part of the book.

Take too much time? Likely, you’ll have to start all over.

I did. Yes, even NF authors are vulnerable to time.

I spent more effort trying to retrofit work I’d done for my agent back in 2011 than I want to admit. Finally, I just tossed most of the writing and started over. 100 pages of wasted work all because I didn’t keep writing.

My mistake. Won’t happen again.

Sometimes Being Tired Produces Better Writing

I know a lot of you work day jobs, and you’re squeezing in writing when you can. GO YOU! You’re superheroes, and always remember that. Keep pressing.

Yet, one mistake we make is we don’t tackle the novel when we’re tired. We believe our work will be better if we’ve rested.

This isn’t necessarily true.

Candy runs a workshop she calls Fast Draft. In Fast Draft, you write your novel in two weeks. It is one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever done, but it works. No editing, no going back, just keep going forward. By Day Three, I promise you’ll feel like you’ve been tossed in a bag of hammers and shaken.


One of the biggest enemies of great fiction is Conscious Mind. Our internal editor lives there and won’t let us move forward until we get rid of “was clusters” or add more detail to that “jungle scene.” Conscious Mind will have you “being responsible” and browsing the Internet looking at South American plants instead of writing.

Conscious Mind is the Bigger Sibling Who Constantly Calls Little Sister (Subconscious Mind) Stupid and Tells Her to Shut Up

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Image via Life Mental health Flikr Creative Commons

Subconscious Mind is the primal mind. It sees things we don’t, makes connections Conscious Mind, also known as “The Thinking Brain”, misses. Thinking Brain is a bit of a Bossy Pants and likes to shove Subconscious Mind around, give it wedgies and promise that it can jump off the roof with an umbrella and float down.

Hey, Penguin does it all the time.

The best way to get your Subconscious Mind to help you is to wear the bigger, bossier sibling out. This allows the Little Guy an opportunity to help you make magic without the bigger sibling butting in.

Conscious Mind is the Inner Editor, the Inner Critic, the Nit-Picker, whereas the Subconscious Mind (the Limbic and “primitive” brain) is the one who sees value in finger painting and advantages of glitter.

Subconscious Mind will thrust you deeper into the story. Subconscious Mind is like a toddler who jumps head-first off the couch. No fear. There will be greater emotion and the writing often is more visceral. Subconscious Mind plants Seeds of Awesomeness that you will see flower into something more amazing that you believed you were capable of.

But that won’t happen unless Conscious Mind is exhausted and too tired to argue and bully it’s littler sibling.

So if you’re struggling with the WIP, you might just be a little “too rested.” This isn’t to say we don’t take care of ourselves, but total immersion and pressing on even when we’re worn out and would trade everything we own for a nap does have major advantages.

Have you ever done a fast draft? Did it help? Do you write even when you’re tired? What has that shown you? What are your thoughts? Questions? War stories?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. This is the same reason I’ll sometimes drink a beer (or two) while I’m writing; Conscious mind goes on a booze-cruise and Subconscious mind comes out to play. Only works in moderation, though 🙂

    Great post!

  2. Oh, I need to remember this. I’ve done the ‘Fast draft’. It was called the 3-Day Novel contest. I’ve done it, and NaNo and enjoyed the 3DNC far better because the words came out faster and better, especially for the one I pre-planned. Now, the issue is I did more telling than sharing, but in 3 days, you have to take shortcuts. (Incidentally you also find yourself writing paragraphs on rope-making.) However, my last one has a really good story. So I know where to make it even stronger. It will make for a much easier edit. I enjoy the turning off the brain part. But, I’ve used NaNo to teach me to write consistently, and it really helped.

  3. Reblogged this on Zellie M. Quinn and commented:
    Here is an excerpt-you write your novel in two weeks. It is one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever done, but it works. No editing, no going back, just keep going forward. By Day Three, I promise you’ll feel like you’ve been tossed in a bag of hammers and shaken.


    One of the biggest enemies of great fiction is Conscious Mind. Our internal editor lives there and won’t let us move forward until we get rid of “was clusters” or add more detail to that “jungle scene.” Conscious Mind will have you “being responsible” and browsing the Internet looking at South American plants instead of writing.

  4. My favourite book for inspiring me to do a fast draft is Chris Baty’s No Plot. No Problem. Chris is the person who started NaNoWriMo, and his book is a funny and helpful guide to getting the words down, shutting up the inner critics, and surviving a writing marathon. My solution to writing the fast draft is to get away from my computer and cellphone, so I use an Alphasmart Neo–just a plastic keyboard with a view of about 7 lines of text and about 700 hours of battery life on good old-fashioned AAs. This device is portable (hardly weighs anything), has no internet access or solitaire games, and you can never lose your data. With a cable, it uploads everything later to Word. Perfect!

    1. I’ll need to check out that book!

      1. Chris Baty gives great advice, Steph. The book is worth your read, as are all the exercises, etc. that come with it. 🙂

  5. Fatigue is my most oft-used excuse. It is true that when I push though that I manage to get writing done, some of it good, some not so good, but at least it is forward movement.
    BTW that cat reminds me of my own heat seeking sleepers. 🙂

  6. I am impressed that anyone with small children can accomplish anything! I had a hard time the summer before last when both of my children, (then 19 and 21) lived at home…

  7. Get out of my head Kristen Lamb! (I’m pretty sure you were talking directly to me) Seriously, these are words of wisdom I need to keep in mind, (maybe a tattoo?) since my Conscious Mind has been doing everything you’ve described above for quite some time. It’s time to show it who’s boss!

  8. I thinkI think I need your help… I am clearly NOT a professional writer but I have great stories all piled up in my brain (most from being a hairstylist for 20+ years). My problem is that I am NOT a professional writer yet I love to blog and have kept journals on and off for many years. I want to tell stories and be a great blogger and clearly I need someone to help me edit (I’m great at spelling, horrible at puctuation and sentence structure) and I also need to figure out a way to keep my stories and thoughts in line and not get all ADD. Which I really have a tendancy to do. I get lazy also, call it tired but I am currently living in Italy and I’m not working. My only job here is to learn Italian and write for myself… I am finding that the TV has become my enemy also. That is now in a the living room and not in the bedroom… TV…banned! Any siggetions would be lovingly and greatly appreciated. I just don’t know where to start!

      • J. F. Smith on March 20, 2013 at 4:24 pm
      • Reply

      Hi Miss Misfit. I wrote a lot about “unplugging” yourself in one of my blog posts if you want to check it out.

      I would recommend enrolling in an online English class, or buying books that are similar, to hone your writing skills. My university students are sometimes shocked at how much their writing changes after one class. 🙂

      1. Of course I want your advice! I’m chewing on it all like a big giant dog toy!!! Can you send me the post?

          • J. F. Smith on March 21, 2013 at 9:01 am
          • Reply

          Sure thing. Here you go!

  9. Do I write when I’m tired? All the time. I’ve been exhausted for over three years, since the baby came! 🙂 Between the demands of a child and house and keeping on top of the social media demands as well as actually writing, there just are not enough hours in any day. So I sleep a little less and write a little more. If writing tired makes you a better writer, I must be approaching genius level. LOL! 😀

  10. hahah… Ya I’m GREAT at spelling… sorry for the typo-s

  11. Sleep and comfort = big traps

  12. I find the prose I write when overtired is wildly creative but lacks structure and logic. I guess I should write tired and edit rested. Kind of a play on Hemingway quote of “write drunk, edit sober.”

    • TLJeffcoat on March 20, 2013 at 9:55 am
    • Reply

    Wait. You mean there are people who aren’t tired all the time? I always tell my friends, who say I should sleep more, that there is plenty of time to sleep after I’m a dead best selling author.

  13. Exactly the motivation I need this morning. I’m going to have to attempt a fast draft for my next project, because I know I let Conscious Mind take control way too often when I’m writing.

  14. Embrace being tired… this must be the toughest piece of advice I’ve ever heard.

  15. This is a great piece – so much truth!

    • K.R. Brorman on March 20, 2013 at 10:04 am
    • Reply

    Would you believe I’ve actually said “I don’t have time to learn Fast Draft”…I rolled my eyes too. With this concept in mind NOW is the perfect time to finish my draft.

    • SweetSong on March 20, 2013 at 10:05 am
    • Reply

    I have experienced something LIKE this, but I’ve never done a full Fast Draft like Havens promotes it. I had a story idea nagging me while I was writing one of my manuscripts (which wasn’t going well at the time) and I finally gave in and just wrote until I couldn’t write anymore. It was awesome. Exhausting, but awesome. The end product is a mess, but I feel like I can go back to it and turn it into a real manuscript.

  16. interesting. well, I have done some “morning, groggy” writing, stream-of-conscious type stuff, and that does end up much different from any conscious writing–it’s kind of cool, and probably similar to what you are talking about. But I think a nice walk in the woods, or anywhere actually can help you get to that mindless, creative area of the brain too, not necessarily being over-tired and overworked. I find I have the best ideas for posts when I’m out walking the dog, or looking at the river or even driving by myself… best takeaway from this–the conscious mind needs relax! thanks for your post!

  17. I’m not really tired right now…just bumbed. My 16 year old just had major surgery, my wonderful husband is still recovering from his last bout of chemo and to make matters worse he just lost the new job he just got…
    Darn, the tears are flowing and the screen is blurry.
    I didn’t mean to say any of this on your comment board, but grrrrr, WTF is happening to my family?
    Okay, pull it together Tamara.
    I just watched a show last night on the unconscious brain and it was riveting. The unconscious brain is an amazing thing. Basically the whole brain is an incredible machine.
    It helps us pull through the tough times, like too little sleep, illness and long stretches of bad luck.

    Here’s hoping my brain will help me pull through this.
    Best wishes on your edits and new book!
    Have a great afternoon,

    1. Prayers and blessings for you and your family, Tamara. Peace.

      1. Ellen, thank you so much! I’m floored by your kindness…thank you from the bottom of my heart.

        1. We all love you and we’re sending good thoughts and prayers your way. This too shall pass. It sucks when ur in it, though. I know last year we had a death, then orders for my husband to deploy to Afghanistan then Spawn knocked out all his front teeth and it seemed to happen all at once. But your WANA peeps are here for you ((HUGS))

          1. Thank you, Kristen, thank you so much. I take your well wishes and wisdom to heart…this too shall pass.
            Hugs to you 🙂

    2. SO sorry life is in a dark space for you right now, Tamara. It’s hard when those around us are suffering.

      The only nice thing I’ve found about tough times is they all seem to pile on at once. Two or three huge piles of crapola all rise up at the same time, and once you dig your way out of those piles, a rather gorgeous (well-fertilized) world will be waiting for you.

      But the “in the middle of the $&*@” time SUCKS.

      1. I love that, Jenny, “once you dig your way out of those piles, a rather gorgeous (well-fertilized) world will be waiting for you”.
        I’ll always remember it. Thank you so much for the response. I truly appreciate it.

        1. Yep…nothing like a well-fertilized life. 🙂 Hope you get to the other side of the crap-piles soon!!!

      • malindalou on March 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm
      • Reply

      (HUGS) and prayers to you. I’ve been there.

      1. Thank you, thank you for the hugs and prayers…I’m gathering them up around me like a warm blanket 🙂
        Have a wonderful evening and a productive remainder of the week.

          • malindalou on March 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm
          • Reply

          You’re Welcome! You too.

  18. Good points, Kristen. The Pulitzer Prize winning poet Richard Eberhart once told me that he wrote his best poetry on days after he didn’t get a good night’s sleep. It’s a surprising different mental energy when you’re tired–as long as you’re not too tired and can’t concentrate.

  19. Great advice. I will be quoting an excerpt of your post as illustration of a point on my blog on March 26. I hope you will stop by to read it.

  20. Lately, you have been peeking in my brain, haven’t you? LOL. Candace inspires me–if she can do all that she does with day jobs and family, so can I. I’ll get the rest that I need when I need it. Right now, I have to finish Revision Hell on my WIP.

    Congratulations on getting your book revised!

  21. I’m always tired when I Blog!! A combination of insomnia and a soon to be 5-yr-old boy will do that to you 😉 I haven’t attempted fiction yet or anything else for that matter. At the moment I just read as much as I possibly can and review the books on my blog The Reading Habit

    Loved this piece and I agree with you – Most of us are tired when we finally get a little me-time. Why not put it to good use?!

  22. Back when I was running a business, on the board of two charities, officer in the Exchange Club and doing their weekly newsletter, raising daughters and writing a novel, I seemed to get a lot more accomplished than I am now with lots more time on my hands.

    What’s the old saying? If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. We can be that busy person.

  23. What a fabulous, inspiring kick in the pants! 🙂 I have to shovel 8+ inches of heavy, wet snow off the deck. By the time I’m finished, I expect I’ll be nice and tired to write. 😀 (I never thought I was a method actor writer, until now. 😉 )

  24. You nailed this one. My best ideas come to me just before I fall asleep. Usually after the worst of days. I enjoy fast/flash writing and I am always surprised by I end up with. By the way, that is not a cat on the copier, it’s a monster!

  25. This is an interesting blog post. I always figured that I would do better when I am well rested, but this explains why sometimes the best ideas I get for writing come when I am about to fall asleep or first thing in the morning before I’ve had my first cup of coffee. I like the idea of a two week draft challenge, I think that I might give that a try starting this coming Sunday to see how it works out for me. I have a WIP that I think might be ready for this type of challenge at that point. Thanks for the inspiration like always!

  26. There are many good pieces of advice in this post but I loved the whole concept of “unseeing” the dirty laundry, the papers on the floor, the Christmas tree. Been there, done that. Still there, still doing it! Selective blindness can be a working mother’s best friend, especially when she wants to write.

  27. I am so exhausted, I must be a great writer. LOL One of the things that I must do is pare down my responsibilities to the local art center so I can focus more on writing. I know what you mean about those long breaks away from a story really taking the fire out of it. I have struggled with the last two books, taking wayyyyy too much time to complete them. Since I am not getting any younger, I must change that. Thanks for the kick in the butt.

  28. LOL! My kinda writer. I have a house full of kids (6 left in the nest, 3 out on their own, and 1 of the six is a just turned 4 yr old), 2 big dogs who want equal time, and a schedule that includes a homeschooler, an active 12 yr old in jr high, one finishing high school, and my own college adventures. And I have to do it alone (hubby died a year ago today).
    Do I write? Absolutely! I have to. I want to. I NEED to.
    Do I write tired? All the time.
    Late night is the only time that is ‘all mine’ and I willingly share it with all my characters who, as noted in your post, seem even more eager to join the party when my inner-weasel is too tired to try to rein in their adventures. I love the late night writing sessions and, once my bleary mind can function the next morning, it is fun to see where the writing has taken us.

    Very motivating to see necessity is so often a blessing in disguise. Thanks.

  29. I love this argument for writing when tired! The only free time I have not being used up in writing/writing related activities/managing life with two small children and two part time jobs is the evening when I sit and draw rather than write, my basis for this being ‘at least I’m being creative’. Now I understand that I can’t afford that luxury. Love that the subconscious will be more active then, as when I have a drink! Fab. Will tweet and FB too.

  30. Back when I worked full time, came home, fixed dinner, tended the dogs, and started writing at 9-10PM, wrote for 3-4 hours then collapsed for five hours sleep I could put out a first draft in a month, without knowing a darned thing about fast draft, character sketches, any thing to do with writing “right.” And it was pretty darned good. Now that I know more I write less…something’s wrong with that dynamic. I took a short break that turned into nine years and it’s sheer hell to get back into the rhythm of writing. Like Maryann Miller I appeased my creative self by taking on too many outside jobs, and I’m shedding all but the ones I really want to do. Boy were those people surprised when I said no!

    • Lily Wilson on March 20, 2013 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    Wow. Just what I needed to hear. Thank you, thank you. I lovce the idea that my megapowerful limbic system can be my friend, as well as terrorizing me.

  31. I’ve finished my novel via a NaNo challenge, and writing fast, ignoring housework, is so much fun! But I always have stacks of notes before I dive into that mode because I write historical fiction. There are just some facts you have to verify before you base a turning point on it!

  32. I agree with your observations. I have also found that even if you are taking a break from one project to work on another, you can also derail your work. I am finding that it’s a struggle to get going again on a fiction novel after taking months off to work on a non-fiction project.

    However, a little rest can do wonders. I generally take two breaks during my work day. One is for a half an hour walk and the other is for a nap of the same length. Both rejuvenate nicely so that I can get down to work again.

  33. What a great blog, Kristen. My debut novel is ready to publish this summer, while my second novel has been “95% done” for at least 6 months. Okay, enough wasted time – I’m going to dig in and finish that 2nd novel so that I can get to editing. Thanks AGAIN for a much needed kick in the rear to get moving! Love all your posts!

  34. I have major distraction problems so I have minimized things in my life as much as possible. Divorced the wife, sold the house, and have not replaced the dog that died. Even with few distractions, I still find focusing tough. As I type this, my brain wants me to step away from the blinking cursor and go clean the crumbs out of the toaster. Maybe I need some Adderall…

    1. Know what you mean! Divorced the husband, gave him the house, and have not replaced the two dogs that died. I’m having trouble focusing, too. And sleeping. But this is the place I always come to to get my butt in gear. You’re all my go-to peeps!

  35. Fast drafting is basically how I always work. Well, not always. I’ve been working on my current project for a month now and it’s not finished — shock! Horror! 🙂 However, I like to write as quickly as possible. Last year during NaNoWriMo I hit 50k on Day 4 which I don’t exactly recommend, but it was good fun anyway 🙂

  36. I agree that being tired helps writing. When I was at my most productive (about a dozen years ago), I did all my best writing at night, because even though I’ve never particularly been a night owl, my muse is. So I’d stay up til the wee hours of the morning writing. Ever since being prescribed Xanax so I can sleep, I’ve not been doing that. The past week, I’ve been putting off the nightly dose and staying up later. I think I need to start writing at night and see how the muse rewards me…

  37. fascinating, hadn’t thought about ignoring the exhaustion. I am a bit of a glutton for punishment, so I might try a slightly longer ‘fast draft’ when all my planning is complete. Love this blog!

  38. Following this blog ranks as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and this post ranks as one of the most helpful. Thank you!

    1. Awwww, thank you *hugs*

  39. even though I TOTALLY agree with writing tired… I also agree with your note that we must listen to our bodies and accept our need for healthy sleep and rest.
    One thing I know is that, tired or not, we need to get up from our chairs every couple of hours and stretch and move around. It is good for you, for your body, for your heart, reduces chances of blood clots, and the boost in circulation will make you think more clearly and boosts your creativity! Not a bad bonus when you are more artistically ‘free’ by being tired already. A two for one!

    • Jess Molly on March 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm
    • Reply

    M’dear, I’ve been hanging on every word you’ve said since I found your blog, but I have to admit this idea scares me a little, just in case somebody takes it too far. Kindly learn from my example. I’m famous for doing too much. I have 4 kids with physical challenges, a husband, elderly/ill parents, two psycho dogs, and I’ve been writing for 4 years. I started in hobby fiction, and I’ve moved into writing as a career during the past year. My average day lasts 17 hours. Yes, I am exhausted and it takes its toll on your health. Be careful, my friends!

    Being a professional author means I have to pick up new tasks, and juggling it all is not easy. For a long time, when my body demanded rest, I skipped it, sometimes going to my day job on 3 hours sleep. Now, I have atypical migraines daily that cause vertigo, which has lasted for 7 months. I can’t drive, hold a job, exercise or walk a straight line and I was always fit.

    It’s smart to write a fast-track manuscript (and to outline: it clarifies your destination). I love Kristen’s conflict cards, too. Don’t stop to edit. I like to call it ‘being in the zone’. Once you’ve been in the zone a few times, it should be fairly easy to slip into it. I’ll tell you one thing, when I was rested, I was far more productive. Three years ago, I averaged 15K a week. Now, I’m down to 30K a month.

    My 76-year-old mother can run circles around me now. My muse is ticked.

    Please don’t burn yourselves out. Don’t procrastinate, either, but don’t be so driven that you don’t take care of yourself. Especially you amazing authors with toddlers and babes. I have no idea how you write with those nippers on your knees. xo

  40. The best way I’ve found to get my conscious mind to go away is to go to work. My job causes me to drift away into my imagination all the time (otherwise I’d go insane) which allows my unconscious mind to emerge. This leads to a lot of my idea making to happen during work. I can then go home, reengage my conscious mind to flesh out what I jotted down at work and go in the next day to space out and work on my book again.

  41. Thank God for my tenacious nature! It’s the one characteristic that helps me push on when the people around me kick back and goof off. I know I’m REALLY tired and in need of that special day off when I catch myself staring at a wall in a room I don’t remember walking (or crawling) into. Until then, “mush, you huskies!”

    • morgynstarz on March 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm
    • Reply

    Err, Copy Cat on a “Lazy” printer?


  42. I have ask, does your brilliance extend to other areas of your life, Kristen?
    You seem to have an iron grip on the whole writing thing and I can’t help but theroize that your brilliant mind is capable of creating a near-perfect life for you and yours.
    Sorry about the sucking up, I don’t know what came over me…..

  43. Love the cat photo. I tend to be a lazy meow myself. However, I’ve never actually found that being tired helps me be better at anything that requires consenual behavior of my fingers or toes…or other digits. I do like to let myself think about plots when I’m sleepy. Maybe that’s basically the same thing.

  44. WoW. A first draft in two weeks? That’s just crazy talk. However I can see how it would work to knock the editor off his soap box. I

  45. I’ve done the ‘race to the end of a novel to get it done quickly’ and discovered I wrote some amazing stuff (at least to me) that I hadn’t remembered writing. I love writing this way though I don’t often do it. Writing tired is something I do every day. It’s been so long since I’ve been well rested, I’ve forgotten what it feels like.

  46. Reblogged this on Diane.

  47. I love this article. Thanks for reminding us to turn off our more responsible “editor” brain and just write, write, write.

  48. I will give your idea a try, but I want a repeat of what happened to me yesterday. It was astonishing. – I wrote til exhausted, went on a mile walk, squeezed in a little TV and repeated the process over and over again. My writing was significantly more connected and creative. Plus I’d walked four miles. 🙂

  49. This whole paragraph: One of the biggest enemies of great fiction is Conscious Mind. Our internal editor lives there and won’t let us move forward until we get rid of “was clusters” or add more detail to that “jungle scene.” Conscious Mind will have you “being responsible” and browsing the Internet looking at South American plants instead of writing.

    Writing a historical project had me in the weeds about so many crazy details. The second time around with Nanowrimo I did better, but I still found myself revising the previous day’s work before adding more words. I know, I know booooo. I think it takes willpower and practice to shut off that editor. I mean, we NEED the editor, just not during the first draft.

  50. Excellent post, Kristen, as always. As you say, “showing up” regularly to write will get the finished results. In addition, you’ve taught me how much blogging regularly helps my writing and my commitment to it. Your posts help me maintain my mental energy even when my physical energy is drained because you got me to thinking creatively , and I saw what is possible. For me, tired now works, in every sense. Thanks so much, Kristen.

  51. Good thoughts. Unique perspecitive. And right on.

    • erebusetnox on March 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm
    • Reply

    I needed to see this today! And it is spot on…write forward, not back…my new mantra. No editing until it’s a full draft!

  52. I think artists invented the concept of ‘un-seeing’ dirty dishes and dust dragons under beds!

    • Virginia on March 20, 2013 at 3:27 pm
    • Reply

    Love this and so very true!!

  53. I love your self control in being able to leave that pile of papers untidied, while you finished your writing! Yes, I think we can write, no matter if we are tired or stressed or even mildly sick. It is the consistency that keeps us going. Thanks!!

    1. I now have a permanent twitch, LOL.

  54. Brilliant post. I know that as a working Single Mum with two boys can leave little time for writing… so glad I have a cleaner so I can do writing instead of housework…

    • malindalou on March 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm
    • Reply

    This is very true for me. When I’m half asleep, I find that I am very prolific. But I never edit that way. I let my subconscious mind do the writing and my conscious brain do the editing.

    • J. F. Smith on March 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm
    • Reply

    This makes me feel lucky that my future spawn are still a couple of years off. I think that writing can be done at any time, but editing can only be done correctly with a fresh brain – or a bajillion mg of caffeine.

  55. “Yet, one mistake we make is we don’t tackle the novel when we’re tired. We believe our work will be better if we’ve rested.”

    I agree, when I’m physically tired I can produce some luridly imaginative stuff. However, there are times when my mind can’t even be bothered to wander because there’s just too much other stuff in it. Those are the times when I need to back off.



  56. I kind of fought against this idea at first, but then I realized I was already implementing it in my own life. You’re right. There will never be perfect conditions, or only very rarely. We either write or we don’t. Period. Thanks so much for this post. It helped me formulate thoughts for a future topic I’ve been thinking about, so of course pingback will be headed your way soon. Thanks for always sharing your great advice with us. 🙂

  57. Soooo loving this post! I wrote my latest novel, Brazen, in about 4 weeks and I swear it was as though I was writing on auto pilot sometimes. I think it’s good to not depend too heavily on the conscious mind you speak of. We writers are artists, after all. GREAT POST!

  58. I’m not a big fan of doing anything when I’m tired. However, I often will do a 10-20 minute meditation before I start writing. I get the same effect of words flowing from inner consciousness without the scolding gatekeeper effect. On the other hand, if I’m in editing mode, the gatekeeper has free reins.

  59. “This can lead to editing the beginning to death and stalls forward progress.”

    This is so true it hurts. My writing career has been one long frustration because of this.

  60. You leave me no choice but to stop with the excuses and write when I’m tired. You convinced me!

  61. It’s time, I think for subconscious mind to summon the troops. Conscious mind has ruled for far too long and only lately am I realizing it.

  62. True that one day off sometimes leads to a week, month, year. Keeping consistent is hard, but more efficient.

    • Debbie Johansson on March 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve always claimed fatigue as being my reason for not getting any writing done, but I have to agree with you that in this business time is our enemy. As always Kristen, thanks for the tough love!

    • The Writing Whisperer on March 20, 2013 at 8:38 pm
    • Reply

    I teach the idea of the fast draft to my clients. It’s helpful because the “writing” brain and the “editing” brain are actually two very different functions, housed on opposing sides and to continuously switch back and forth actually slows the entire process down.

    • Theresa on March 20, 2013 at 9:09 pm
    • Reply

    I admire and like Candace Havens. I’ve taken some of her classes, including Fast Draft, and lurk on the writers’ loops that she started, or came from her ideas. I am the first to admit that I need to spend tons more time writing instead of other things.

    But really, if you are seriously sick, not just a cold or tired, get yourself to bed. Candace talks about one weekend when she was in the middle of several things for her work while often violently sick, and still managed to write a novella. She’s proud of it; I disagree.

    If you’re that sick, then something’s wrong, and your body is saying it needs help. Go to the doctor, or go to bed. Ignoring your body can cause long term problems, and your sickness might be a warning signal, as it was for a friend of mine; unfortunately we lost her ten years ago this coming January.

  63. I am new at this blogging thing but I mentioned this blog, which was inspiring for me, this time and usually. I hope it leads others to your blog. My blog is darsblog on WordPress.

    1. Oops, I still don’t know how to edit comments. That is darsword not darsblog.. Sorry for the confusion.

  64. I have no real problems with motivation to write beyond tiredness. I rest when I need to. I can write full-time if I really want to or at least schedule it to fit the unexpected. My personal goals for the year 2013 are being achieved and up to 2015 plan. I know; I can write the novels the way I want to so it is like driving downhill on a mountainous road with curves. I have to just let it coast with hardly pressing on the gas pedal and tapping the break pad to slow down on the curves or adjusting to traffic. But I can finally coast instead of trying to drive as fast as I can in fear that I will never be successful. I can write the novel. I have the rest of my life to be paid. The waiting for a reaction is more frustrating, but I have scheduled to continue writing, during the waiting period. I sent a proposal to Penguin Books years ago and it took an entire year to get a snail mail personal letter from an editor with a slight apology that they could not use my story. Today, I just keep writing and let it happen. The more novels I write; the more I can send. I am not so frustrated, which is worse than needing a good night sleep or a weekend to simply do something else. I have to go back re-reading the last two “post” on writing because “writing the novel” is more important to me than the social media or the Psychology of it all.

  65. Reblogged this on Melissa Janda – the Buzz on Writing.

  66. Thanks for the thought-provoking post Kristen. I decided to write a related post: Are You in Your Right Brain? I reblogged your post but I’m not sure I did it right. Yeah, I’m new to all this, guess I need your book 🙂

  67. I have always written well and quickly when totally immersed in my WIP. The stuff about the two brains is so very true, however. If you let it, the Conscious brain interferes and becomes very bossy. So much time is wasted, and creativity stifled by the internal editor getting in the way of the flow. I am going to embrace the Unconscious Brain from now on. I wish I could get the distractions of stress and worry out of the way, however. I find that more debilitating than physical tiredness. It’s a lot harder to push through it. Tired or not, you have to be able to keep your eye on the ball.

  68. Very timely article, and just what I needed to read and take in. Finished two books a few months ago, and am writing articles daily, putting off working on my big WIP. Ready to buckle down and get back to work.

  69. A timely post. I usually write picture books but now I am about halfway through my first chapter book/ MG novel and having two small children at home, and working part-time, I am always tired. I have all these plans during the day that as soon as they go to sleep at night, I shall write for hours! But by then I am absolutely stuffed and more often than not, do a measly half hour and go to bed thinking that I’ll be clearer in the morning. But my early mornings are taken up with social media and e-mails. I will keep persevering after reading your post, and just write away doing fast drafting, at least I’ll get more on the page. Oh, I have stopped caring about the house work, as long as things and the kids are semi clean, fed and happy, I am happy! Thanks for your post!

  70. Writing is my release, so usually takes place when I am physically exhausted. Good to keep the brain active!

  71. I’ve never done fast draft and I don’t think writing that fast would work for me. But, I do get up at 4 am everyday to write because I know that I am the most creative before I am actually awake. It really does work. 🙂

    • Stacy Margaret Allan on March 21, 2013 at 6:46 am
    • Reply

    I get most of my ideas for the book when I’m tired x x 😀

  72. It just occurred to me (no coffee yet this a.m.) that I’m doing something of a fast track deal next month. I’ve joined up for the NanoCamper thingy, and doing the ROW80. My plan is to have my book all plotted out in Type-A personailty detail, then just whip right through it in April. That’s the plan. Realilty…? No, Lara, have faith. You can do this…

    Have a good, productive day everyone!

  73. Put my name in the hat TWICE, Kristen! This was a very timely post for me, as all yours seem to be!

    Here’s my take:

  74. This is just what I needed to push my butt back into revision mode…hacking away at my Nanowrimo draft while I do homeschool with 2 angsty preteens and pretend I’m a shark for my 3 year-old at breakfast. Thank you for always making me feel “normal”.

  75. Absolutely LOVE how you depict our crazy brains by using rival siblings! Also- I can agree as I often come up with the most creative (although not always logical) ideas right before falling asleep!

  76. I was a student in Candace Havens’s workshops at the last DFWCon. She is a force nature, that gal. I admit to kind of sloughing off her two-weeks-one-novel idea as being over the top. But having just tossed aside a project I’ve spent about one year trying to perfect, I decided to dig into a different novel I started and go at it with vengeance.

    With Fast Drafting, I’ve logged 13,000 words in 3 days. And what I like is that I don’t have to jog my memory about the characters, the stakes, the subplots, or where I was in the story when I last stopped. I’m less concerned about that Internal Editor people talk about because I get along with mine just fine; she’s not a nag at all. But there is definitely a flow to this story with the speed that I’m writing it. I will take one day off each week, though. It’s my “Sabbath” habit.

    So glad to hear you’re bringing out another social media book, Kristen! Congratulations.

  77. I’m not a procrastinator by nature, but I manage to play the “I’m too tired to write” card more often than I play the “I’m too tired to clean” card. Problem: I love writing and I hate cleaning. What’s wrong with this picture?
    I’m giving in to fear or laziness or whatever, but now you’ve nailed my lazy hide to the wall.
    Uh…thanks…I needed that.

  78. I needed to read this today. I’ve been letting Conscious Mind control me for far too long. Starting today Subconscious Mind is going to be my guide! Thanks!

    • Tim on March 22, 2013 at 7:49 am
    • Reply

    Hi, I discovered your post from searching for something that will sustain my writing momentum. I’m two months into answering the call to writing full-time. I’m a copywriter and I try to incorporate as much creativity into the writing as possible: I use a lot of personification. Anyway, your post is exactly what I needed. I liked the way you posed the conflict between our conscious and subconscious minds; very poignant. I view the conflict as a spiritual battle. In fact, I see this battle depicted in the gospel of Mark, 10:17-22. Jesus invited the rich man to follow him by selling all of his possessions. The rich man didn’t want to sell his possessions; as a result, he went away sad. He was unwilling to make that kind of sacrifice. This is similar to the conflict between our conscious and subconscious minds. Jesus wanted the rich man to go beyond his conscious self and enter into his subconscious self by giving up his possessions. However, the rich man was unwilling to make that sacrifice. Giving up sleep to write when we’re tired is giving up our conscious self to follow our subconscious self. When we give up our conscious selves and enter into our subconscious selves, we’re following Christ.

    1. Jesus of Nazareth believed in needing cash to survive turbulent times. I did not know it. Maybe it is where the expression – we cannot eat things – comes from, but cash can buy food and pure water. I know; the barter system would be suggested. Trade jewelry for fish and bread and wine so less starvation in the world. Novels are probably filled with mysteries of the elderly murdered because they had wealth of many possessions so they must have been poisoned instead of not selling something to buy food or pay for city tap water.

        • Tim on March 22, 2013 at 8:31 pm
        • Reply

        Hi Daniel, I must apologize, I didn’t mean to imply that Jesus believed in needing cash. I omitted the fact that the Jesus asked the rich man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. I edited the post down a lot and I must have accidentally edited out Jesus’ request to “give the money to the poor.” The most important part.

        The whole point is that Jesus was asking the rich man to go beyond his conscious self of hanging on to his possessions. Jesus was asking him to reach for his subconscious self by selling all his possessions and giving the money to poor. The rich man wasn’t ready to make that shift. As writers, we must be ready to let go of what possesses us consciously so we can make the shift to our subconscious mind.

        1. Agreed. God has no problem with us having wealth. The LOVE of wealth is the dangerous part ;).

        2. That interpretation of the Holy Bible, the re-writer in English must have had inheritance or was being taken care of by the church – no worries of being a statistic because of starvation. It sounds unrealistic to me, but good thing that I am poor. Any wealth accumulation I will achieve and earned with my efforts; I can give to myself. I believe in “Jobs Creation is the best charity.” My conscious mind and my subconscious mind constantly remind me that I need a source of income, now and in my elderly years. It is why I continue to write novels or I would believe in inheritance like the meek. I really do not want to be a beggar. I believe; God the Creator and the Holy Spirit agree with me. I would be dead by now from years of unemployment and a failed college education because of “fun and games”.

  79. I know I have better ‘creative’ (ie. subconscious) ideas whne I’m tired, but I find it harder to write first drafts and edit because I just get so distracted, either by external-world things or inner thoughts related to the story that come up with a load of random extras. Annoying, but I do need to revitalise my writing methods.

  80. Fantastic post! I am going to press on when tired because yes my mind does work better under a bit of pressure and weariness.

  81. The cat on the printer: such a familiar sight. The highlight of a cat’s day is the printer actually spitting out sheets of paper.

  82. I started writing my first draft three weeks ago. Five days ago I got REALLY sick. All I want to do is sleep. But, instead, I drag myself out of bed, feed myself and my puppy, plug my earphones into my head and start writing.
    I’ve gone 13 days straight (not including saturdays or sundays). Next week is spring break. I live in a 9×12 foot room with my sister and brother.
    This will be the first time I write with a plot in hand, a first draft with them home, not four feet from me, arguing and being distracting on purpose.
    But I am DETERMINED TO WRITE every single morning for at least three hours, just like I’ve been doing. I’m sure my subconscious mind won’t have any trouble staying in charge. 😉

  83. I’m guilty of all the excuses, including I want to be rested when I sit down to write. Today I’ll skip the nap and finish pounding out the outline.

  84. I participated in the Nanowrimo challenge and busted out some pretty decent stuff. Since then, I quit my day job to focus on my writing. I think I just may be too rested.

  85. Well timed, I did a writing course just recently that left me dispirited and blew my ambitions right out of the water.. too many rules! I do’lt know.. too much something.. with a tutor who kept telling us she was busy with other writers and please forgive her for her neglect and a link to her own book, anyway I am bright enough to know that probably I was in the wrong class, what I should have been doing was giving MYSELF a swift move along.. back to the writing board. or the editing board as the case may be. This was excellent to read, and wonderful to know.. have a lovely day.. I feel inspried again, easy isn’t it! c

    1. The Midwest of the USA is famous for raising the Black Angus beef cattle. HARDES fast food restaurant sells the 1/4-Lb. Charbroiled 100% Black Angus beef patty. Fast food restaurants were my idea of being frugal or at the Philippines being known as “kuripot”.

      Growing my own pineapples on the side of the house owned by my parents is my back to nature mid-life crisis while spending my leisure time writing novels. I may not have the money, but I feel so successful.

      Back more than a decade ago (2000), I told people that I became a serious writer of actually sending manuscripts to publishing houses. The responses were: “Oh, you became a bum.” “Most successful writers started writing when they were children and you think that you can be successful at your age.” I was forty.

      Like Kristen is teaching, anybody can be published. Self-publishing is the trend for some; because with money it is easier. Getting the money from other people is difficult, but to be read is getting so much easier. Thank you for reading this. I did not have to send it to the opinion editor of the Kansas City Star.

  86. I put this on my blog instead of here. It may be long but like my girl Wanda says, “Now I have a motor mouth!”

    Fully awake or tired does not make a difference. I don’t know if I am either. I have to be inspired to begin with and like my English Composition teacher in Junior College said, “Just let the thoughts flow without understanding them or trying to use proper grammar and spelling.” I earned an “A” in that class and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. He actually read my papers. In high school I did not do well in English classes.

    Now, after I write I have to take several naps, and get back to it some time later. Like this comment, I had to rely on what I knew, go back in time to the 80’s, and that is mentally exhausting.

    I had to use my conscious mind to program my subconscious mind to write computer programs, trouble shoot hardware and software problems, and do Research & Development. I was good at this. It was amazing. All I had to do is gather all the facts or thoughts. Then I would sleep on it. The answer would pop into my conscious mind. The only problem is when I turned to writing what I did could not translate into a novel, but thoughts. I was part of a Think Tank. All I did was complete a thought that would work. When I consulted all my company needed was the missing pieces.

    I have written thousands of pages that are just thoughts pretty much like replying to leaving a comment. Before I started writing a woman on the job said to call them SHORTS. It is a work of art to me and requires programming my self consciousness mind.

    When I write I use my conscious mind to gather facts and pass them on to my subconscious mind. This is a practice I have done for years. Then all of a sudden my subconscious mind has a break through with something to say. Maybe keyed off a topic or a phrase. All the related bits of information come to the surface of my consciences mind where it is assemble as a single or many thoughts.

    Some people have a problem understanding my thought process because it is not necessarily linear. I don’t mind. You have to follow my train of thought. I had that problem on the job also. My Lead had me do a presentation on a project I was working on to the others she led. I used colored erasable markers on the white board. I was so motivated by their interest and happy to explain it to understanding ears. She told me afterwards they had no idea what I was talking about. I welcome questions as this makes for a more cohesive thought. Mostly I have to do this myself.

    I will never be able to write a novel. Nothing personal but I can’t handle writing all that superfluous information (being more than is sufficient or required; excessive.). I have to try to scale back already. Sergeant Friday used to say on the TV Police show, “Just give me the facts.” We both have an investigative personality.

  87. I loved – your body lies to you – and I agree. It’s something I have come to know as fact and now I tell it to stop being stupid, that you’ve done it before so just do it again.

  88. I never thought about it this way before, so thank you. I have a whole bunch of little kids so TIRED is something I do well. 🙂

    • JCurtis on March 27, 2013 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    My problem, when I get tired, I fall asleep. Maybe that’s why it took me 22 years to write my novel, or maybe it was those mortgage payments or just lazy. Meanwhile the world kept changing so I had to update every time I got back to it. Then it took two years to edit it. I didn’t even get a lot of rest despite all the snoozing. Now I’m pretty happy with the outcome and work on it every day as much as possible. Oh, I hope I win. I want that critique!

  89. One day I will be awake enough to see what difference not being tired makes…

  90. And I thought this post was going to give me permission to go take a nap!

  91. I’ve read about authors who write about an hour a day– these are best-selling authors–or they write maybe 250-600 words a day and I always thought, wow, that must be amazing that they can limit it to that when I have to write so much more a day to keep on task. But maybe that’s what they’re doing. OR, maybe we’re all different and we don’t all NEED to limit ourselves to that much a day? I don’t know. I know my deadlines have had me writing at least a thousand a day before, and doing so while tired. I’m glad to feel validated in the tired department! Because sometimes I felt bad for writing when not at my peak in the day due to my unusual life (living with autism, Alzheimer’s, bipolar in the house). I have to “catch” my writing times carefully and not be as structured with it. Thanks for this encouragement!

  92. This is so unbelievably true. I’ve been sick for the last five days and have been ‘unable’ to write for most of them since my head is so congested. This gave me the inspiration to sit down and write, right now. I have written a fast draft, although it took longer than two weeks. I realized this is the ONLY way for me to complete a novel. To not go back and re-read it or edit. Just keep writing until it’s finished. Great post.

  93. Reblogged this on Dancing in the rain and commented:
    What an awesome, and inspiring post.

    Notable quote:

    “I blog every day with a toddler whacking me 47 times with a NERF sword before breakfast.”

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