Confessions of a Night Writer

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of essays and podcasts in which readers and writers from all corners of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop community express why they believe in our mission to elevate the literary arts. Please support these important programs on Colorado Gives Day, December 10, when every gift is boosted by a $1.5 million incentive fund. Save time by scheduling your gift today; just select “Colorado Gives Day” under frequency and your donation will be processed on the 10th and boosted by the incentive fund.

It’s 2 AM and I should be writing.

Writing can be such a solitary venture. I have often imagined writers in their attic ateliers hunched over their pen and paper, PC/MAC, or even IBM Selectric, the fading light from the solitary window flickering off their pages as they scribble their tortured imaginings, and I think that’s a real writer! How I write is not so removed from that. I prefer the quiet of night, usually between 10 PM and 3 AM, when the world is dark and still and there are no intrusions—no doorbells or ringing phones, to disrupt my process. That’s when my stories come alive.

I normally think of myself as a fiction writer but I have been dedicated to completing a memoir for the past few years. Maya Angelou said, “There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I have found that to be painfully true. The memories, songs, images, relationships from my past have coalesced into a story that could break your heart—and devastate my own if I don’t tell it. Sometimes, though, I am a writer who struggles to write—even in the dark of night, even when I am my most alone.

One book that I found invaluable in establishing my writing practice is A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld. As part of understanding yourself as a writer, she asks you to consider why you write. I used to say “I write because I must”; however, after practicing this exercise, I came up with over 100 reasons why I write before narrowing them down to six:

I write:

  • To understand myself, others, and events better;
  • For all the ones who are afraid to tell their stories or create new ones;
  • Because if I don’t tell the story it will never be told;
  • Because I love language and playing with words;
  • Because there’s someone out there who wants/needs to hear what I have to say;
  • Because there is a fire burning inside me and the only way to extinguish the flames is to share my thoughts with someone else.

Despite these extremely compelling reasons to write, I am still acutely aware of the aloneness of writing. I usually wrote by myself. I was lonely. I decided that for me to be successful, and somehow to tell my story and keep my sanity, I needed to connect to something larger, something outside myself.  Perhaps a community?

I knew what I did not want. I had no interest in sitting around with a bunch of folks complaining about how bad published writing was and how much better ‘our’ writing is, though it has yet to be discovered. I did not want my writing dissected like some kind of scientific experiment until it was no longer recognizable as a cohesive piece of work. I also did not want to hear how perfect my writing was—I just never found that to be helpful. I am a serious writer and I wanted to be taken seriously—and have fun. So, I decided to try Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

I have benefited greatly from the workshop experience. I found the facilitators to be knowledgeable, earnest and well read. They keep the groups from degenerating into the awful experience of simply dragging an author through the muck, but they still allowed us to view our writing through a reader’s eyes. Listening as others receive feedback has been as valuable as receiving feedback myself. Importantly, members remember to discuss what we are doing right, not just what areas could be improved. The workshop sessions have been great for sharing thoughts and ideas, for building confidence and for providing strong, critical feedback.

Then I heard about the Lighthouse Writers Workshop's Book Project program. It is unlike so many undergraduate and graduate programs in that its entire focus is not on getting a piece of paper at the end, but on finishing your book. If accepted, I would be part of a sizable group of individuals that was broken down into small cohorts of six that met several times over the course of the program. We would learn much about each other’s work and find ways not only to be supportive of each other but also to provide a measure of accountability depending on what we needed. We would also have a mentor who not only made sure we each had a clear grasp of the writing fundamentals necessary to complete a work of significant length, but also was available as a shepherd, someone who’d jump into the tangled undergrowth in which our book was trapped and help us forge a path through it. 

Well, I was accepted into this incredible program and am actually the Book Project Fellow for the 2019-2021 class. I have made new friends and writing buddies. Sometimes we write together; sometimes we celebrate; sometimes we commiserate. My book is now moving steadily along. I feel good about my process and the quality of my work. And I know with the support and resources the Book Project offers, I will finish my book (at least one!). I know that it isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely right for me. Most importantly, it has helped me reconnect to the reasons I write in the first place. It helped me remember that publishing a book has always been the inevitable byproduct of my desire and need to write. Anne Lamott said, “Writing is its own reward.” For some of us, I do believe that is indeed the truth. I still mostly write at night, and I still usually write alone—but I no longer am alone. And for me, that matters.

Twanna LaTrice Hill is a Book Project Fellow for the 2109-2021 class. She is currently working on her memoir, tentatively titled Diamonds in Her Teeth.

Read the other entries in the Colorado Gives Day 2019 series:
"To Build Impossible Worlds" by Connor Rodenbeck
“A Mission of Compassion” by Michael Sindler
“It Takes a Village” by Tiffany Quay Tyson

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