5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Write When You’re Tired

June 18, 2010 at 5:42 am (Editing, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )


We all do it. Mostly because if we didn’t write when we were tired the writing would screech to a cataclysmic halt from which there would be no return (wow, that was way too much hyperbole). Here are my 5 reasons why I shouldn’t be writing when I’m tired.

1.  I tend to use more hyperbole when I am tired. Lots of it. Huge and all-consuming masses of hyperbole that drip all over the page like the blob devouring a cinema full of movie-goers.

2.  I also tend to overuse similes when I am tired. Probably because I start thinking very literally and I over-compensate by adding in similes. I can always tell how tired I was when writing something by how many times I have used the words ‘like’ or ‘as a’. It is kind of odd given I use very few similes in my actual writing by the time I finish editing because most of them turn out to be utterly superfluous.

3.  Typos. Far too many ‘teh’ and ‘wat’ and all sorts of other silly errors that I would almost never make except when I was feeling like I was hit by a truck and then had to walk home. And if I do make these errors, I normally catch them, except when I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck and then had to walk home.

4.  Repetition. I repeat myself too often. I become redundant. I guess in my head  I assume everyone is as tired as I feel right at that moment and so I repeat myself, becoming redundant.

5.  This one probably isn’t a common problem for most people but when I’m tired I have this nasty habit of killing off my characters. The next time I sit down to write I have to back the story up, bring them back to life so I can get on with the story but my brain just seems to send these characters blithely onto their deaths while I’m tired. It can make for some truly spectacular death scenes that utterly and completely destroy any plot I may have had.

There you have it. 5 reasons I shouldn’t be writing when I’m tired. What are yours? Or does your creative side kick in with exhaustion?

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28 Comments

  1. Amanda J. said,

    LOL @ #5. I think we all take things out on our characters sometimes, but man, every time you’re tired? You should just give your characters 9 lives or something. : )

    I know what you mean though. I’m tired during the day when I’m trying to write but then at night when I should be going to bed I wake up and get some great writing done. Weird.

    Funny how writers work sometimes. Great post!

  2. Corra McFeydon said,

    I become a sad and depressed writer (redundant too!) when I’m tired. All the snappiness is gone.

    Similes? Oh yeah. In triplicate.

    That’s funny you kill off your characters. :P

    - Corra

    the victorian heroine

  3. Melissa said,

    If I write when I’m tired (and trust me, there are many days/nights when I do), it seems like I’ve hit “Typo City”. Everywhere I look, there is some kind of typo grinning it’s ugly face at me lol.

    I also do something similar to your #5. I tend to put my characters through a lot of torture…I become the worst, sadistic writer.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think I kill them off to wake myself up. Unfortunately it doesn’t get the story any further along.

  4. Casey Lybrand said,

    My creative side can kick in when I’m tired.

    For instance, the other night I was writing way too late. I’d gotten out of bed because I could not sleep with scene I had in my head. I sat down to write it, but I was so exhausted that eventually I could not keep my eyes open — really — so typed with my eyes shut. But I had to write it, and I had to write it right then.

    It turned out to be a pivotal scene. I really got at some things I needed the characters to work out so the plot can move forward.

    But! As a piece of writing, it sufferers from much of what you outlined here: typos, repetition, and — well, I tend more toward adverb abuse when I’m tired, rather than overusing similes.

    I can fix those things, though. I’m happy to fix those things! The insight into my story I gained with that bit of writing in the middle of the night is very much worth it.

    It’s not unusual for me to really feel a scene when I’m tired, and be pleased with it overall — not the finer technical details, but the tone and structure.

    Haven’t killed any characters yet, so I can’t speak to that! Too bad about the whole plot-destroying thing, because the spectacular death scenes sound so interesting!

  5. Alex Willging said,

    Sometimes I’m 50/50 on my writing when tired. If I can keep it going , I can try to write myself toward something good, letting intuition take over.

    But that’s pretty rare. More often, since all my writing is done on a computer, I tend to just get stuck somewhere and start looking for distractions, usually on the Internet. When that happens, I’ll either go back and finish (or rewrite entirely) the scene I was working on, or leave it for another time, with a tiny note in brackets on what the scene still needs.

  6. Glynis Smy said,

    LOL, I find my characters seem to have put the kettle on for a cup of tea, far more when I am tired. I think it is the tea drinking Brit in me that does it. :)

    I hate it when I get up and look at all the typos grinning back at me. I had two male characters kissing one day. One of them was wearing a lovely purple victorian gown and bonnet! Mmm, not in my book …lol

    I did smile at your list, it sounds so familiar to me.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Now that you mention it, my characters do tend to eat a lot in scenes I write when I’m tired.

  7. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    Oh….typos. Definitely. Slow typing, for sure. I still write when I’m tired (I don’t really have a choice), but it means more work later when I’m revising.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Yes it is hard to avoid writing tired if you ever want to finish anything.

  8. Lynn Rush said,

    Typos, for sure. The repeating is always a problem for me, but worse when tired. I get really “listy” when I’m tired and writing. . . .like, just start listing off what people are doing. Boring, yucky writing.

    Thank goodness for editing, right? LOL

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Listing definitely should have been on my list. Listing things people are doing or done, or wearing or eating. Most of this gets hacked out in editing but listing is definitely a by-product of tired writing. Thanks for that suggestion.

  9. AlexJ said,

    Write when you’re tired and edit when you’re awake, I guess.
    And my writing tends to just drone on when I’m beat.

  10. catwoods said,

    LOL, Cassandra. Reasons 1-4 I share with you. Not five, though. It might be a bit terrifying for a juvenile lit writer (PB, chapter books and MG mostly) to go all Freddy Krueger.

    I try to write in the morning to combat these symptoms.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Yeah – most of my characters don’t stay dead. Thank-goodness for the delete key sometimes.

  11. Marlene said,

    #5 is hilarious! The ultimate revenge for those nights when your characters don’t let you sleep.

    I tend to not write when I’m tired, for the simple reason that my mind shuts down. I’ve had insomnia for years. I used to say I haven’t slept since 1998, but some medication and/or hypnosis have helped a little lately. Even so, I’m a zombie after a bad night. Writing after 8 p.m. doesn’t work either, even if I did sleep the night before. I think my sleep debt is too high and I never get caught up.

    If I have a deadline, I can force myself to get something out. But it ain’t stellar.

  12. Southpaw said,

    Typos are a big one but worse than that is the totally illegality when I read it back. The words are all there but rearranged into a nonsensical sentence. Decoding my work takes up a good chunk of time. LOL

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I usually don’t get to that stage. Once I’ve written at least five sentences that make no sense I call it quits. Repetition and typos I’ll ignore to get story down but gibberish is a whole other story.

  13. Carol Kilgore said,

    If I’m too tired, I see it in the grammar when I reread. Also in the repetition. And if I’m really tired, I make connections in my head and don’t put them on the page. Nothing makes much sense that way the next day.

  14. Miss Rosemary said,

    Repetition, similies, cliches + tired = bad story for me. I must say, I don’t have the kililng problem, that kid of happens anyway, believe it or not, depending on what kind of mood I’m in. Another tired problem? since I do everything longhand, my handwriting becomes even more terrible than it alredy is!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Longhand – I couldn’t do that if I were tired. I would have to be very fresh and awake to write any part of the story long hand.

  15. agatha82 said,

    Oh dear, I am guilty of writing when I am tired, I found myself doing that last night and I never write anything very decent, as others have mentioned, I too tend to repeat myself and write cliches as well and I’ll over explain something. Oddly enough, no typos!

  16. Lua said,

    I don’t kill off my characters but I tend to use a LOT of hyperbole and do a lot of repetition when I’m tired… And also, if I write when I’m tired the melody of my words sounds a little off, like some words just don’t fit… That’s why I get up early in the morning, around 5 am and start writing with a fresh, rested mind before I do anything else, other wise I’d have a lot of off beat stories heavy with hyperbole and repetition! :)

  17. dylancharles said,

    It depends on what I’m writing really. When I’m tired, I just don’t have the energy to do fiction. It takes a lot more out me than my blog entries do.
    Blog entries, I find I’m more honest if I’m tired, which I think works well in that context. To a point. Heaven help me and my readers if I start blogging while tired AND maudlin.

  18. brownpaperbaggirl said,

    Haha. Writing when we are tired doesn’t always go over well. I usually end up with bland sentences because my imagination just wants to take a nap.

  19. Jemi Fraser said,

    I love you #5 – I haven’t done that from being overtired yet.

    I ramble, have incredible typos and repetition after repetition… :)

  20. Writer Links – Summer Reading, Female Heroes, and Fire Breathing « Leith Literary said,

    [...] ♥ Cassandra Jade gives us Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Write When You’re Tired. [...]

  21. Michelle Gregory said,

    i’ll try to remember that the next time i’m tempted to write when i’m tired. but it kind of happens anyway.

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