46 Comments
Jan 22Liked by Paul Bloom

Just sharing this because it's a routine change that surprised me, at 40 years of age, and then surprised two friends of mine who tried this also. We all have little kids and/or babies. About 4 months ago, I gave up trying to go back to sleep after our baby's 3am-ish feed. I figured, "I'm already going to be exhausted, so who cares? I'll just stay up." ...and I felt fine. Good, even. Intrigued, I decided to just do this every morning. I set my alarm for 3:30am. Lo and behold, this seems to be some sort of natural circadian rhythm for me. I now go to sleep around 8:30pm and wake up at 3:30am. I still have to get up 2-3 times each night for the baby. And I feel better, honestly, than if I had continued to pursue my 6-7 hours of sleep but shifted later (my old routine had been like 10pm-5am-ish). Like I said, two friends of mine with kids decided to try this too and same deal, they love it. Anyway, nothing groundbreaking here, just thought I'd share it. Because of waking up much earlier now, I have almost 3 hours of quiet-house/productive time available to me when my brain works at maximum capacity (for me). Plus, I can drink my coffee(s) and listen to the coyotes howl while they do whatever it is they do at that hour of the morning/night. The mind reels with the possibilities. All good. (Shared this post with several co-workers, btw)

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Jan 22Liked by Paul Bloom

I follow Ernest Hemingway's advice to never stop writing at a natural stopping point. Instead, stop while you are still actively writing and have more to say, and leave the rest for next time. This strategy makes starting up again much easier, and also gets the brain thinking during the interval about what comes next.

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Jan 22Liked by Paul Bloom

Funny thing is I was having a productive morning. But the notification and title drew me in. Oh well, tomorrow I will start earlier.

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Jan 24Liked by Paul Bloom

An excellent, excellent article Paul.

One of the things I've attempted, as I stumble my way towards a PhD, is blocking out time where I either write, or do nothing. This strategy was famously advocated for by Neil Gaiman.

I think there's something in embracing more boredom these days, as a necessary precursor to doing deep work. There's too much readily-accessible shallow stimulation that grasps my attention, but leaves me feeling deeply unfulfilled.

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As a former lawyer who used to bill in 6-minute increments and now writes, I am drawn to this method of yours and must give it a try! I'm curious to apply to it. Morning writing is the most productive for me as well, but I deal with a chronic spinal condition that worsens as the day goes on and I struggle to get anything done after that initial burst of creativity. Perhaps a return to my billable ways may help me make small progress even when I'm not as focused due to pain.

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I recently watched “Žižek” and on that documentary Slavoj Žižek discusses his writing procedure: he doesn’t like to just sit and write either, so he writes down notes when inspired which eventually amasses into a book-length collection of notes that just needs to be edited down and organized. Seems to work well for one of the most creative philosophers currently working. But I guess the problem is only partially ameliorated and is in actuality pushed back to sitting down during the editing process!

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I love the nighttime bar story. Insert adult adhd. Wonderful breakdown. Thank you!

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1. Balzac, come at me.

2. Stories from the Owl House is your next project starting - now. Sure, add something about psychology somewhere there...*waves hand* Who's with me?

3. Nick Cave's transformation into a regimented office worker artist from... something quite different, is another fun example.

Thank you!

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Jan 22Liked by Paul Bloom

The Owl! Many fond and, uh, quirky memories at The Owl.

Some ancillary advice about circadian rhythms. If you want to entrain a new one, or solidify the one you have and wake up all sprightly-like, a bright light box is very handy. I keep mine next to the desktop computer, and after a few days of using it consistently I'm drawn to it like a moth in the morning. (The aim is to then write, but usually I read something first, and then I'm commenting, and then I'm having feelings about it, and there goes my writerly anima. But the first part works really well!)

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Love this. Especially the first one. I even wrote about writing in my latest (https://www.losingmyreligions.net/)

p. 3:

"PS re: conversation: Books, including memoirs, are generally presented as fully-formed, perfectly-polished pieces of coherent narrative. But that is not how they come about. Writing takes place within a life, with much else going on. If you and I were sitting down to talk, that conversation would obviously take place within the context of our lives, our moods, and the broader world. So in these pages, I’m going to tell you at least some of the context, to let you know what is happening as I write. I’ll also share some of my thought process. Really, this isn’t a book as much as a window into one month of the interesting life of an uninteresting person."

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Jan 22Liked by Paul Bloom

I used to have a real hard time getting up early enough to make it into work at reasonable time. So I decided to plan a fun (for me) activity an hour or so earlier than I would normally wake up (I experimented with this during the pandemic). My fun activity is playing video games, I found myself getting up earlier and earlier, to the point where I'm awake and out of bed several hours before I have to head out to work. I also find that my sleep cycle has improved and I have a lot more energy through most of the work day.

I suppose I could get some work done during this early morning period too. :)

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Jan 22Liked by Paul Bloom

Thank you for this. Just this morning, having heard you talk on Robert Wright's podcast about your six-minute habit, I was thinking, "I wish he would write something about that to give us more of an idea of how it works."

At some point in the future, I'd love to see you write about the idea of self-acceptance. I'm struck, for example, by the fact that you don't seem to beat yourself up about writing in one-hour sessions rather than the three- or four-hour sessions that many writers favor. And when you refer in passing to a period when you were running regularly, it doesn't sound as if you're castigating yourself for not running regularly now. From examples like this, I get the impression that you've thought a lot about doing what you can and refraining from torturing yourself about not doing more. I think many of us could benefit from your thoughts about this.

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Fascinating article. I saved it with the title: "When Writers Write," which to me was the most interesting part of it.

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Jan 24Liked by Paul Bloom

Powerful!!

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Jan 22Liked by Paul Bloom

Just curious, how many writing sessions did it take to produce this piece?

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Amusing to click on this excellent post because I want to steal your secrets for getting writing done, only to encounter a bit of advice from myself in there too. And then I read the quotes from me and thought, huh, that’s a good point actually, I should really try to remember that in my daily life. (Which tells you something about the nature of advice and writing about advice, perhaps...)

I have many questions I want to pepper you with, but will confine myself to this one: do you do all your “writing writing” in that initial hour, or do you return to it as one of the six-minute tasks too? I like the idea of the latter approach as a way of extending the daily word count without even really trying.

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