That Bewitching Witching Hour: What’s your brew?

by Alphonse Mucha

by Alphonse Mucha

In medieval times, 12-3AM was deemed the Witching Hour because that’s when black magic and all things supernatural are at their most potent. But what do medievals know? Most couldn’t even read!

I say the Witching Hour is roughly between an hour after last call and an hour before sunrise. Lord knows who decided to call it a witching ‘hour’ when it’s actually 2 1/2 or 4, and it never feels like an hour.

One of the things I both love and dread the most about work is that bewitching 2 to 5 AM period I struggle so desperately to avoid and yet almost always end up bogged in. Every project I get I tell myself, ‘There’ll be no cavorting with goblins and ghouls this time around! I’ll finish at a sensible time like 8 or 10 and then pour myself a celebratory drink, watch a quick movie and off to dreamland’.

Lips touched rye at 6 this morning.

And I just woke up (2PM).

The problem is that while you can create ideas in your sleep–hence the term ‘dream up’–you can’t execute them (although I’m sure science is working on that). There’s nothing to be done. So every time I find my basement hurtling past stars and fog and into that dead zone I make damned sure I’m ready to meet it. Here’s what I keep by me:

http://www.librivox.org, last.fm, youtube

Just as the ancestors employed noise-makers and story-tellers to ward off evil and win at war, so too must I keep the radio on to keep the darkness from swallowing me whole. I find the sound of another human voice gives my mind something to dwell on while I perform the Sysiphean task of adding a line, undoing it, and adding a color, undoing it, repeat ad infinitum.

The preoccupied mind is your best defence against viral videos, flash games, ebay and other procrastinates. A narrative is even more linear than music, so I find interviews and audiobooks the best remedy. At youtube and librivox, you get them both for free. Audiobooks are the best way to become well-read without having to strain your eyes.

For a jolt of energy, I keep fast jazz around. The opening salvo fired by Miles Davis’s trumpet in ‘Walkin’ has blown some serious cells in my brain.

– American Copywriter, Age of Persuasion, Advertising Show

Podcasts can also be great to occupy the one sense I usually don’t need when working, thus freeing up the others to focus on the task at hand.

– A Notepad and Pen

I keep a pad and pen so I can jot down anything that I would otherwise waste time on. Some entries include bits of lyrics/poetry, an author or artist I haven’t checked out in a while, ideas for other things, and to-do items like ‘vacation packing’ and ‘check for mold’ and ‘make blog post about witching hour’. I find lined paper helps a little in preventing me from doodling.

– A tumblr account

Sometimes I hear something that I can type a lot faster than I can jot down. Usually it’s a quote or a little article I get on twitter, and posting it here makes it easier for me to google and get back to later or remember it when I need it. It’s my writers’ scrapbook and also where I do my dissections. It’s also a great way to avoid becoming the twitterverse equivalent of a lame screensaver (schlocky quotes and a slideshow of kids/sunsets). I think it’s courteous to limit your tweets to 2 every hour tops. If you bother visiting, you’ll notice many of the posts last week were done after midnight. Witching Hour indeed.

4-pack of Red Bull and Snacks

Even though I really shouldn’t…

So the question now is, what about you? I’m curious about how other creatives deal with their witching hours. Do you work in silence? Do you call others to boast about how hard you’re working? Is that bottle of the strong stuff normally kept in the back drawer standing watch by your mac? Let me know, because when it’s 3 AM and there’s hell to pay, you’ll want to be armed.

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