Writing at dawn – Alex Brunkhorst
By Alex Brunkhorst
I remember exactly when I started writing before my day job. It was roughly fourteen years ago. I like to say it was Fate who gave me that left-field idea to write a short story as a Christmas present for a friend, but I never did find that out. I was working in the entertainment industry – long hours under constant pressure – and by the time I got home my mind was exhausted. The only time I could think to write was before work.♥
‘It was mating season, and my grasshopper was getting frisky.’
Those were my first pre-dawn words. I wrote them in a pitch-black office space because I didn’t know how to turn on the lights. It was quiet, the typically cluttered office pristine under a sheet of blackness. Soon it would erupt with people making deals for writers, directors, and actors, but for right now it was like any other dark space, ripe for creativity. I turned on a playlist on my computer. The National or some other moody, writing music kept me company.
At first I dreaded those mornings. Sure, it doesn’t get cold in Los Angeles, but it was winter, and some mornings I would wake up to forty-five degrees. I’d leave my house when it was dark. There was no room for a hangover or for sleepiness. I told myself I only had to do it until Christmas.
The short story took shape. It hit fifteen pages pretty quickly, and then reached fifty. By the time Christmas came, its word count pegged it a novella. I was done with pre-dawn writing I thought. But then I gave it to my friend, who encouraged me to write more – scrap that “la” ending and change novella to novel.
I left entertainment, and I started working in real estate because real estate offered me more flexibility to write. Yet for the past fourteen years even when I have the option to write later in the day, my ritual has stayed the same. I still write for two to three hours before work, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why? Well, first, Los Angeles is prettiest at its earliest hours, and that’s when my mind is the sharpest. I love the uninterrupted creativity, the stillness, the lone surfer I walk past on my way to the coffee place. There is no traffic at that time; the streets are empty. The phone doesn’t ring as an interruption, and there are no emails glaring at me, begging to be answered. And in addition to the wonderful focused stillness, writing early has taught me the beauty of “Just do it.” There is no time to procrastinate. There is now, but not later.
After fourteen years of writing early in the mornings, my second novel, The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine, sold last year. It seemed that the first question everyone asked wasn’t what the novel was about or if I was getting cracking on my next one. Instead, it was if I was going to quit my day job and write full time. The answer was an easy one.
Tomorrow at six a.m. you’ll know where to find me.
Alex Brunkhorst’s novel The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine is out now in the US and will be released in the UK on October 1st. She is also a top-producing real estate agent with The Agency in Beverly Hills.