This morning, I tried solving the daily Wordle puzzle before I got out of bed. It took me three times as long, and I almost didn’t get it. I actually had predicted this might be true. I wake up slowly. My brain just seems less flexible until a few hours after I wake up. Is that true for you? Or are you at your best the moment you open your eyes and it’s all downhill throughout the day? That’s my husband’s assessment of his productivity pattern.

He is a morning person. I’m a night owl. We converge during the evening hours to connect in conversation. As the years have gone by, though, I’m not the same kind of night owl I used to be. I will sit up doing some work or reading after my husband goes to bed. But only for a few hours. I need to get seven hours of sleep. I don’t try to stay up all night the way I could back in the early days.

But I am very productive mentally from about 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. I try most work days to be sitting at my desk between those hours so I will receive the magic.

On days I decide to stop writing or editing before 7:30, I do so by choice. I need a good reason. Otherwise, I know I can complete drafts during that time. I know I can edit stories for Appalachia journal with a clear head then. It doesn’t feel hard.

I won’t push anymore through periods my mental focus goes fuzzy. Like 3 p.m. My father-in-law used to say that in hell it is always 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I do not work well at 3 p.m. Everything takes twice as long then. I might instead get up and take a walk. For years I used to push through those times. No more.

Understanding one’s productive times and fuzzy-brain times can open many doors to moving happily through new writing projects. Not feeling bad that I’m not a machine has helped me relax into the kind of work I feel truly called to do.


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