When do I write? In the dead of night…


People often ask me: “When do you actually do the writing that you do?”  Good question.

I do my best writing after midnight, in secret, in the dead of night in our darkened bedroom with only the glow from my laptop screen for illumination.   That’s the best thing about laptops—you don’t need to have a light on when you write or read.  It all comes pre-packaged in the laptop.

For me as a writer I need not to see what’s around me or hear what’s going on around me.   Ever since I was a boy I really did my best work at night after everyone had gone to bed.  No interruptions, no one asking me questions, no pups needing to go out, etc.  As a grown man I still do my best work after the old schoolhouse clock has struck midnight.

I am not easily distracted but there is something comforting and reassuring about writing quietly in a darkened room when no one is around to watch me or see me doing the writing.  In the darkness, when I look up from the laptop screen, I can visualize the scenes and characters that I am writing about.  Sounds weird, perhaps even eerie, I know, but it’s true.  In the darkness the words I write come alive and take shape right before my eyes.

So, if I write at night in the wee hours what do I do during the day or earlier evening hours?

I like to sleep late.  Always have.  If I go to bed at 9:00 pm I’ll sleep until noon.  If I go to bed at 6:00 am I’ll sleep until noon.  It’s my internal body clock.  I’m a night owl through and through.  Many years ago I learned that IF I’m going to stay up all night I might as well be productive.  I simply do not function in the morning.  Period.

I say that I “sleep” until noon, but that’s not quite true because I still have to get up every couple hours to let the pups out.  Eight dogs have their own internal and external body clocks and their needs must be met.  Luckily, they are pretty much on my night owl schedule as well.  Or, my vampire schedule.  Thank the bees and trees.

Therefore I sleep in roughly two hour blocks of time, get up, go out, wander around for about fifteen minutes and then crawl back into bed with all the pups.   They know that around noon I “wake up” and things are going to begin to happen.

Hot shower, brush my teeth, make coffee.  Then the pups go for a good long walk in the woods and burn off all their pent up energy from the long night of sleeping.

From about 1:00 pm on we are in the Breakfast Room at Henwoodie or at the kitchen table here at John’s house.  The pups eat a bit, play, tussle, and I do research, read, reply to emails, answer pressing queries from my editors and art directors.  This takes up the entire afternoon pretty much.

The pups eat dinner exactly at 6:00 pm.  I watch the PBS Newshour, have snacks and a Pellegrino mineral water and putter around online—chatting, looking things up, checking to see what friends and family are up to on FaceBook and begin to get ready for a long night in the studio.

I generally draw and paint from around 8:00 pm until 3:00-4:00 am (if I’m not writing).  After spending so many hours at the drawing board I unwind by crawling into bed with another Pellegrino and my laptop and will write for at least an hour or two.

Then sleep.

And that’s my writing schedule pretty much.  Think and read during the day; draw, paint, and write at night.  Darkness is this writer’s best friend.

Quiet.  Quiet is the night.   All things alive mock death by sleeping. Sleeping peacefully through the quiet, quiet night.  And I write in the quiet, quiet night.



While driving home from the grocery store here in Dearborn I was listening to the Detroit NPR station.  NPR is the ONLY radio station I listen to when driving (otherwise I listen to a great audio book—love love LOVE Audible!).   The program was interviewing a local Detroit writer/poet and I was dismayed to hear the interviewer say “So what made you start journaling when you were five years old?”

Journaling???  I hate this word/verb more than I detest the word “dude”.  There are just some words that are “fingernails on the blackboard” to my ears.  And ‘journaling’ is right at the top of the list.

I remember the first time I heard a teacher use the word journal as a verb when talking to a student:  “Did you journal today?  You know, it’s important to keep journaling every day.”  I almost fell over in shock and horror at the use of what used to be one of my favorite words: journal.

You write IN a journal.  You can even KEEP a journal (hidden or written in).  You might even maintain a journal.   To me the word “journal” is, and always will be, a noun.  I write in my journal everyday.  Well, almost every day.  My life isn’t so exciting that it requires daily documentation, believe me.

If I could have one wish granted it would be to have writers, teachers, students, and especially children STOP using the word “journaling”.

I’m sitting here laughing at myself because I almost have the same gut reaction to the word “author”.  I still prefer “writer”.  I write.  I do’t auth anything.  I suppose it really comes down to semantics and pickiness.

I love writing too much and it bothers me when people water down the activity of writing by creating nonsensical words like journaling to describe the act of writing in a journal.  And I think I know why.

Journaling sounds so much less intimidating than writing.

But then I ask myself “Why are people so afraid to write and the activity of writing?”  Anytime someone says to me “Oh, I can’t write.  It’s beyond me.”  My reply is: “IF you can tell a joke and get to the punch line in due course, you can write.”  There is no great mystery to writing.

It really is very much like knitting or stringing beads or pearls: You simply select the best words and keep stringing them together to tell your story, make your point, tell a lively joke.

It saddens me that so many people associate writing as something no really very enjoyable to do.  I often quote Gertrude Stein whenever I talk about my own writing: “I write for myself and strangers,” she wrote.  And it’s true.  I do the same.  I don’t think anyone gets near the enjoyment out of my writing, my words, that I do.  I simply like them.

I like the way they look on the page, on my laptop screen, or in a book.  I like way words look.  Period.  The same way I like the way old books smell when you open them.  Or the feel of the paper in old books that has so much texture and heart.

When I write with a pen or pencil I like the sound it makes as I scratch the words onto paper.  There is something so satisfying about that sound and feel of writing.   I like the shape, the heft, and design of a beautiful pen.   I still love to write (and draw) with my 1960 Extra Fine nib Mont Blanc fountain pen.  I love mixing my own inks for this fine instrument (pitch black ink sometimes bothers me so I like to make a more watered down dark grey/sepia ink to put in it).

Writing is cathartic.  Writing is meditative.  You have to consider the value of each and every word and whether to use any particular word in any particular sentence at any given time.

Here are some of my favorite words that I strung together when I was eighteen years old and was sitting in a lecture, bored silly:

Two trees stand firm against the bitter wind

a friendship has grown between them.

I simply like these words and the feeling that they convey.  They conjure up a powerful image in my mind and capture the essence as to how I feel about friendship.

Words.  Words are my currency.  And I spend spend spend!

Not Dead…


I am not dead.  No matter what rumors you hear, this one is not true.   I have been travelling and taking care of John in Dearborn, Michigan after his emergency surgery at the end of January for appendicitis.   Then all the snow came.

And I haven’t really had anything exciting or noteworthy to post.  But inspiration will return.  I have ever confidence of that!