In his late essay titled ‘Night and Moonlight,’ Henry David Thoreau writes: “How insupportable would be the days, if the night with its dews and darkness did not come to restore the drooping world. As the shades begin to gather around us, our primeval instincts are aroused, and we steal forth from our lairs, like the inhabitants of the jungle, in search of those silent and brooding thoughts which are the natural prey of the intellect.” Blake’s Tyger! Tyger! hunts by night too.
About nine o’clock on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, after eating dinner and cleaning the kitchen and tucking in the kids, I make myself a cup of coffee and sit down to write. The first hour or so is always a loss, but on a good night I will edit and revise (yet again) a chapter of my novel. I may write something to publish here too. I’ll stay up as late as two in the morning, when the automatic sprinklers cut on outside and the raccoons creep through the oleanders. Other people, I know, get up early to work on their creative projects, but night is when I hear best.
Part of the pleasure of writing, for me, is to knock on things and hear them hum. You’re never sure what notes you might summon from a fact, a character, an observation or idea. The note that you strike with your own knuckles will sound unlike anyone else’s. Even your own knock will sound different tomorrow. The bones in the figurative hand expand, the flesh gets thick and soft, or dry and thin, according to the weather. It all affects the timbre and resonance you discover. When hunting by ear like this (if I can return to the metaphor), I always catch a little of myself in the trap.