Right now, I am on flight from Johannesburg to New York, some 38,000 feet in the air.
After a bit of dozing off and accepting that I just won’t get a full night’s sleep (we left Jo-burg at 10pm and are flying into daybreak), I’ve decided to seize my writing moment.
Writing first thing in the morning, a full night of sleep or not, is always the best time for me. My mind is fresh and not cluttered with mundane things such as “To Do” lists and random worries (calls that have to be made, deadlines to be met, bills to be paid).
It is at this time that I can be most productive, sometimes writing page after page, nonstop. I also instantly come up with my best titles early in the day and am least likely to go off on tangents.
Over the years as a freelance writer, I’ve become increasingly miserly about my mornings, planning in advance how I will use them. If I have a major feature I am working on, that will always take priority. And if anything happens that forces me to lose that precious time, I feel “off” for the rest of the day, like someone who misses their daily workout.
There’s a right time for other aspects of my writing, as well. That includes allowing for the gestation period for all good ideas.
A couple of years ago, I had a great idea for a New York Times article and was really passionate about doing it. I was sure that it was perfect for the then-Connecticut section of the paper. Inexplicably I never could commit to writing up the proposal for it. I kept finding excuses. Never seem to have the time. For months, it was bothering me. My husband would ask when I was going to do it. I kept saying I would. But it just wasn’t happening.
After coming up with the idea, I’d all but shelved it.
Then an interesting thing happened. I was visiting Boston and met someone who knew a bit about the subject I wanted to write about. He happened to mention something that gave me the jump-start I needed to go ahead with the proposal. He didn’t know it, but he provided me with the impetus I needed.
On the drive from Boston to Connecticut, I wrote the New York Times proposal in my head and, once in my office, simply typed it up. After a careful proofread the next morning, I sent it to the editor and the day after, the phone rang and I had the assignment. The piece came out less than a month later and the timing could not have been better. An event going on had the subject on many people’s minds.
Having had experiences like this, I now trust myself more and never beat myself up for not jumping on an idea right away. I’ve learned to trust my instincts. Recognizing this “Write Time” is critical, I believe, to succeed in our world of travel writing.
Timing is critical – what tips do you use to get your timing right?
Thanks for this insight, Susan. I, too, am a morning writer and tend to flag towards the afternoon. I really appreciated your anecdote about the guilt of putting off an idea and how not to let that get to you!
Great advice Susan! I think particularly important is the timing issue – I agree that sometimes you need to let an idea germinate into something before you follow through on it, but I also think if you do really have a great idea and you can get it fleshed out, you should act on it.
Oddly I’ve been on the receiving (editor’s) end of both situations – I’ve had writers pitch a great idea, then never follow up on it, leaving me to find someone else to write that article….and I’ve also had writers pitch me an idea saying “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and thought I’d see if you’re interested”, a week or two AFTER I’ve accepted a pitch for a very similar (if not identical) idea from someone else.
So I guess I’d say, pitch when you feel that you’re ready, but if you’re ready, don’t wait.
Thanks for the article. I am going to stop beating myself up right now:)
We have been traveling hard for 6 months and we have so many ideas that we want to pitch and work on…and we are both (my husband Dave and I) beating ourselves up daily.
Running our blog is number one priority right now, but we know that we have to branch out and we know that we can do it. We think we have great ideas:) It is just a matter of taking the time to do it. We have set a goal that we are going to take at least 2 months this summer (at various families homes and cottages) to work on proposals and pitches.
Let’s hope our timing is right!
.-= Dave and Deb´s last blog post: Dave and Deb StumbleUpon Barcelona, Spain =-.