By Ahtiya Liles


Ever since I was in high school, I refused to stay up to finish homework.  If it wasn’t finished by ten or eleven that night, it wasn’t getting done (which just meant that I made sure to finish it before then).  I never believed in stressing out and staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish homework.  That just wasn’t my thing.  And after seeing the majority of my classmates do it and how they were always exhausted, I decided it was never ever going to be my thing.

When I went on to college, I found myself breaking this rule slightly.  Maybe it was the new found freedom or maybe it was the fact that I didn’t have every class every day that was tripping me up, but I would let myself leave homework until 2AM the day before.  Now that I’m in my sophomore year of college, I am finally breaking out of this horrid habit.

If I’m going to be up until 4AM, it’s going to be because I’m writing.  Not an essay, but something creative.  I am a huge believer that creative inspiration comes at any time (and usually, at the most inconvenient time), and we must jump on board when it happens. Sure, you can jot the idea down and attend to it tomorrow, but I promise you: it won’t be the same.  The details won’t all come flying back and the excitement and freshness you felt with this newfound idea will be gone!  Poof!  Bye-bye!  I know firsthand – it’s happened to me, and it’s a horrible feeling when you can’t quite reclaim the same excitement.  You start grasping for what’s left of the freshness, but it slips through your fingers.

The thing people seem to forget when it comes to writing creatively is that inspiration and creativity come in their own time.  I cannot dictate when my inspiration will hit or when my creativity will kick in.  If I could, that’d be awesome and really handy, but for now, I’m just stuck with hoping it hits before 1AM.  Most likely, though, it won’t.

I started, outlined, and drafted the first two acts of a play over the course of SEVERAL early mornings, where inspiration and ideas wouldn’t hit until after 2AM.  This was during the summer, of course, when I wasn’t working and could afford to have a wonky sleeping schedule.  There were some mornings where I would go bed at 7AM – I would wake up and go back to sleep to sunshine.  My brother’s parakeets would both wake me up and put me to sleep. I was a mess, and that sleeping schedule was hard to break out of, but it was all worth it.  The play is not yet finished (but it will be within the next year), and I honestly don’t think I would have gotten as far with the play if I had just jotted down my ideas and gone to sleep.  The freshness, the excitement, the exhilaration that I felt – it couldn’t be replicated the next morning.  It had to be acted upon in the moment.

I think something can be said for my mantra when it comes to creative writing.  I’m all about dealing with the present when it comes to writing, but I definitely need to implement this thinking into my own life.  I plan a lot – and I’ll never stop planning because I hate losing control of situations and not knowing what’s happening – but I think I can loosen up a little bit.  I can stop my insane planning and live more in the moment, trusting that the planning I need to get done will take care of itself at another time.

So, no, I’m not going to stay up until 2am and get homework done.  Either the homework will have to get done beforehand or it is not getting done at all.  My logical side will have to pick up the slack, so that my creative side can flourish in those early morning hours.  It is a balance between my logical side and my creative side that I’m still working on.  And it must work.  I need them both to survive.