Take a basic course in photography and you will likely learn about the Golden Hour. It’s a special time right after sunrise, or before sunset, when the angle of the sun casts brilliant reddish hues over everything.
I remember my photography instructor gushing about the amazing possibilities this little window of time would provide. I was attending the Defense Information School at the time learning how to be a Navy journalist. I recall thinking, “I came to learn how to write, not take pictures of random nonsense!” My younger self didn’t realize how much photography would grow on me, and it became more than just a part of the job—it was something to fill my free time.
So when people ask me when the best time to write is, I always think of the Golden Hour. While writing is different than photography, they are both art, and they both require the artist to show up.
The thing with the Golden Hour is you can charge your batteries, pack multiple lenses and filters, strap a tripod to your back, and lug it all out to the perfect location, but there is no guarantee you will get a single usable image. Maybe clouds roll in. Maybe you just have a bad day and don’t get an interesting angle or inspired shot. Maybe you just sit there and get lost in the moment and don’t take a single photograph. But every now and then, as long as you keep trying, you will get that one photo that takes your breath away when you open it up to edit.
Writing is the same way. While you don’t need to wait for sunrise or sun fall (or lug heavy gear), you still have to be present. On any given day, you may find inspiration or you may flounder. Those mental clouds can roll in and ruin even the most perfectly planned day of writing. If you stay consistent and keep hitting those keys, eventually “it” will happen. You will have a moment of perfect clarity. A moment of pristine mental light. In this Golden Writing Hour (or maybe multiple hours if you’re lucky), all those rough days will be worth it. The result, well, it might just amaze you more than any photograph could.
This is one of the first posts I generated here on QE. Since then, I’ve taken a book with a handful of chapters and finished it (and edited a couple others). During that time, there were more cloudy days than golden ones. The lesson I learned is bounce back. For me, that’s the ability to forget about a lackluster day and treat a new one with an open mind.
With that being said, when those golden days shined, they changed my book in big ways. On some of those golden days, I didn’t write within the manuscript at all but simply remapped and re-outlined sections to enhance the story. I saw additions and concepts that weren’t fully formed solidify. Honestly, I attribute this to simply being present.
This is why I encourage those I collaborate with to at least take a small amount of time each day and write. Even if it isn’t to tackle the ever-looming word count, progress comes in different ways. Sometimes, all it takes is for us to be present and willing.
That’s it for today! It’s fun for me to re-read and give some of these older posts a second life, and it’s also interesting to think about where and what past-Corey was doing back then. Do you have a Golden Hour in your writing life? Do you have a method you use to help you bounce back from a rough day? I’d love to talk about it. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!