Writing while hangry, sleepy, etc.

When are you most productive as a writer?

I’m best from about 8 to 11 am, or 1 to 4 pm. If I’m writing something important, I try to time it for those periods, when my blood sugar and writing flow are typically at their best, and when I can block out distractions and concentrate.

But what happens when you have to write in less than ideal conditions?

Writing when you don’t feel like writing

Sometimes, you’re not in charge of when you’re writing. You might have to write while hungry, angry, tired, under deadline pressure, or distracted. Maybe you just had an argument with your boss, your spouse, your dad, or your children. Or maybe you’re just not “feeling” like writing.

If that’s you, here’s what to do:

  1. Be aware of the problem. Take stock of how you feel and why. If necessary, take a few deep breaths or watch some kitten videos to reach the calmest possible state of mind.
  2. Be aware of how your state of mind affects what you write. If you’re hungry, you’ll probably write shorter, more disconnected sentences because it’s hard to get into a flow state when your stomach is bothering you. If you’re tired, you’re unlikely to have the energy to maintain consistency and connection between pieces of what you’re writing, and may repeat yourself. If you’re angry, your writing may lack humor, or conversely, may be more arch and snarky than it ought to be for, say, a personnel evaluation.
  3. Complete the work, but don’t turn it in. If you possibly can, reserve time later to self-edit. And when you’re editing what you wrote, be aware of the problems caused by your previous mental state and correct them.

All of this requires an awareness of your writing skills: when they’re at their peak, and when they need help. You (the writer) may need revision, but you (the editor) can help make up for those deficiencies.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of always writing in ideal conditions. That’s no reason to subject readers to prose with known flaws. Learn this, and none of your readers need ever know that you wrote something when you were too hangry to think straight.

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