We are delighted to have Leonore (or Limr as she’s known in the blogging world) as our guest poster this week. Leonore is a fantastic writer; just read any post at As a Linguist and you’ll see what I mean. You can also check her out on Twitter at @asalinguist.
Leonore started college wanting to study English Literature but fell in love with Linguistics instead. It fit the passion for language she’d already developed at a young age. Since then, she’s gotten a BA in Linguistics, a M.Ed. in Deaf Education, and several teaching certificates in ESL. She’s taught in Turkey, Portugal and the United States. She’s currently teaching writing and English Literature at a community college in the Northeast. Language is the love of her life, but there’s still room for photography, cooking, her boyfriend, and her two literary cats, Zelda and Mrs. Parker.
When I am asked why I became a teacher, I often reply that it was my love of chalk that led me to education. I’m really only half-joking when I say this. I do love chalk. I love the silky smooth feel of that stick of chalk, the sound it makes as it moves across the blackboard, and the sight of clean white lines on black. I was thrilled every time I was chosen to do a math problem on the board or take part in a spelling race. I didn’t care about the dust or if it got on my clothes. In fact, I almost preferred some chalk to rub off on me or stay coated on my hands for the rest of the day. Being marked in chalk dust was evidence of work and of learning, and I loved – and still love – being part of the process.
As much as I love chalk and enjoy being in the classroom , teaching is not my first love. From a very young age, I’ve wanted to be a writer. I didn’t always know why. Sure, it made me feel good and it has always been fun but I didn’t know where it came from.
I’m happy to say that after…let’s just say ‘a lot of’ years, I’ve finally figured it out and can tell you the reason why I have no choice but to write: I am an incurable night owl.
My enduring image of The Writer is a person hunched over a desk, working steadily with a furrowed brow, a glass of whiskey nearby, and a smoldering cigarette forgotten in the ashtray. And it’s always nighttime. The scene could take place in a small city apartment, on a screened porch near a lake, in a café, at a writing desk…it didn’t matter. I never imagined writers scribbling away in the morning.
I knew that this image wasn’t how all writers had to work. Hemingway liked writing in the morning, and often standing up. Dorothy Parker never worked steadily, but instead was easily distracted and often took months to finish a story. Agatha Christie didn’t drink.
But the fact is, many writers are famously drunk, nocturnal creatures, even if they’re not necessarily writing at night. As for me, I may not be a drunk, but I could stay up all night with hardly a thought. More importantly, that’s also when I do my best writing.
I’m practically useless when the sun is out. I stare at the screen, begging for a phrase to come to me, an idea to materialize, an angle to use to follow a train of thought. I beg, I plead, I bargain with any and all forces that may or may not exist in the universe, but…I get nada. The blank whiteness of my new open document mocks me, tells me that I’m no good and shouldn’t even pretend anymore.
And then…the witching hour. Evening falls and I tell myself that tonight I am going to be in bed early. I get sleepy around 8:30, but I know I can’t realistically fall asleep for the night until it’s at least double digits. I make it to about 10:00, then 10:30…then 11:00. At this point, I sit down for ‘one last pass’ through email or blogs to read. I have a quick idea that I’d like to just jot down.
Suddenly, it’s 2:43 in the morning and my ‘quick reminder note’ has turned into 2,000 words. At some point, I’ve poured a finger or two of bourbon, and there’s no cigarette, but I’ve probably chewed through an entire pack of gum.
Ideas that had previously been amorphous blobs in my ‘daylight brain’ have become solid, clearly shaped, and manageable once the nightingale sings. The words that finally come start to fill the page and as I write, the proto-thoughts I’ve been having all day long gain clarity and coherence. My mind calms down as I channel the racing stream of thoughts into one sentence, and then another, and another. The vague sense of anxiety I might feel in the morning or afternoon goes away when I understand the point I’ve been wanting to make, or the transition I’ve wanted to craft in whatever piece I’d started the night before.
I just have to face it. I’m forced into being a writer because of the rush of ideas that hits me as soon as the sun goes down. I have no choice. What other job would allow me to work the third shift without wearing safety goggles or a hairnet? Who would schedule a meeting for 10 minutes past midnight? And now that the internet has made banking and shoe shopping available at all times of the day, why do I need to even pretend that I’m a Day Person?
Never mind that I’ve been ‘writing’ since the age of four by scribbling lines that approximated words, even incorporating spaces and punctuation. Forget the idea that writing to me is as essential as breathing. Ignore the fact that seeing my words on paper helps me think, reason, understand.
No, no, no. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The Great Oz has revealed the truth. To write, one must be a creature of the night. Now if you’ll excuse me, the sun is rising and it’s time to go to bed.
When do you do your best writing?