I am doing a scientific study to test the following hypotheses:
- I am always happier if I write something before bed, even if it’s just a sentence.
- It is always a good idea to wake up and go to the farmer’s market.
Some questions I hope to answer in the course of this experiment: Is writing in the morning as useful to me as writing at night? If it’s raining and I go to the farmer’s market, will I get the same jolt of pleasure or will I simply get wet?
Writing a sentence before bed is better than writing nothing. A sentence is progress.
I write a sentence before bed and that inevitably turns into many sentences. A paragraph, maybe a page. Sometimes there are many pages. I may get a third of the way down a single page and conclude that my brain has taken on the consistency of apple sauce.
I usually start writing in a notebook while sitting on my couch because it’s warmer on my couch and I’m sleepy. The orange blanket sheds its fuzz on my tie-dye leggings and Olive tries to thwart me by gnawing my pen.
A previous experiment proves without a doubt that I am never as prolific writing on the couch as I am on an Amtrak train. Another prior study suggests that no amount of caffeine will make me prolific on the couch. Each of these studies concluded that I am more efficient and creative when I’m uncomfortable, yet habit drags me yawning to the couch with my notebook. I’m a creature of habits, mostly bad ones.
So why do I write before bed? Mornings are for drudgery. I write first thing in the morning, too, but it’s like swallowing huge, bitter vitamins. I do it because I think I might need the vitamins. Don’t all good writers wake up early and empty their heads? I often wonder how they have any synapses firing before eleven AM, because I certainly don’t.
(Another study concludes that sometimes when you need to make yourself do something, it is helpful pretend you are a French spy in hiding and that your life is constantly on the line.)
But everyone knows that mornings are for drudgery and nights are for lunacy, super moons, forbidden desires, ritualistic naked dancing in the enchanted forest, and essentially everything that is pleasant in life. At night my heart beats faster and I’m a little drunk on my own tiredness. I immensely enjoy my own company. In the morning, I often fall back asleep entwined with an unwilling cat.
Studies show that showering, like writing, is only good at night. Showering in the morning feels like suddenly being flung into a tank of piranhas and results in cold, wet hair. Showering at night is a relaxing and transcendental experience that results in life-altering epiphanies and ideas for novels you will not write.
It’s better to wake up and go directly outdoors. It is better to immediately transport yourself to a trail marked by Boy Scouts or a misty apple orchard. It’s definitely better to go to the farmer’s market every possible Wednesday, even though it’s twenty minutes away, even if I’m tired, even if I want to sleep for the rest of my life.
So I drive twenty minutes to the farmer’s market. I park in the parking garage and pay for the parking space like a square. I cut through the bookstore just to be among the books and the people who like to read them. I stop at an ATM and take out cash to pay the farmers.
It’s sunny as I stroll towards the strip of white tents but there’s a cool breeze. The market is populated with pumpkins and tubers. It smells like autumn, dirt, and yeasty bread. I buy delicata squash, purple cauliflower, and honey crisp apples. I buy massive bouquets of rainbow chard that are worthy of fanning Roman emperors. The guys at the burrito stand always wave to me even though I have never once had a burrito there. A toddler spills his handful of tiny green acorns on the pavement and I help him pick them up. He clumsily snatches the acorn from my fingers and nearly takes my hand with him.
I buy some late-season peaches from the exuberant Amish girl who wears a calico dress with an orange bell pepper pattern. (Sliced open bell peppers look like maniacal mouths.) I talk to her stone-faced brother about the pretty cranberry beans I purchased. Long, thick string beans with burgundy striations, and it turns out you can’t eat the pretty pod.
Then I pick out a bouquet of mums and zinnias. I don’t know how to get it safely to my apartment, so I squeeze the bouquet between my legs as I drive. By the time I get home my car is covered in petals. I brush them off my legs and tell myself that this is one hundred times better than sleeping.