Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Are Writers Morning People or Night Owls?

It's a tough question. Writers I talk to are divided, but lean toward morning. I, myself have always been a morning writer when circumstances have allowed – and have never been a late-night writer. Most really productive writers I've known are morning writers. Notice I said 'most' not 'all'. There are always exceptions.

Why, you may ask, what's wrong with staying up all night, burning the midnight oil, tapping the keys into the wee hours – writing your opus while half asleep and feeling like one of the literary giants who you imagine pounded the typewriter keys through the darkness?

Well, a number of things actually. If we're talking the small hours of the night, you're probably running on caffeine or some other hype-you-up, keep-you-awake substance. Not really a good idea for a clear brain, no matter what you may think.

Also, you've got the trials of the day on your mind. Everything that did go wrong, stuff you hadn't expected, problems have arisen. Complications have ensued as they say. All of this means your mind is rehashing old things instead of focusing on the project at hand.

And, whatever you're using to keep going, you're tired.

So, if you've been the night owl author type you might consider trying out the morning. Instead of staying up all night and being bleary-eyed, try going to bed early – and, radical thought though this is – getting up early. Getting up at 5 AM isn't so very different than going to bed at 5 AM. Except at that point the sun is rising in the sky and you're being regenerated and filled with energy. In the early morning the time is truly yours. Things are quiet and new. It's the time of pause and peace before the day takes whatever nasty turn it may. Because the reality is every day, even good days, are filled with minor and major interruptions, crisis of every description,

Think about restructuring your life, give up some of that late night TV or use a recording device to record it for watching later. Set your alarm for the early hour you are comfortable with arising to write. Perhaps start the process of converting to early morning by increments. Resist the urge to slap the alarm's snooze button. Maybe you're aiming for a 5 AM wake-up. Maybe it will work better for you if you begin with a 6 AM wake up. Do your writing organization, get in some writing, even if only for a very short time. Do it for a few days that way, then push the alarm back a bit more. Break it into bits you can deal with, perhaps a half hour at a time, perhaps 15 minutes. Stay at each level for a few days, then back it up until you reach your target time.

There, you've gotten to your target wake up time. Time to write.

Remember at this point to be good to yourself. You still need that 7 – 8 hours sleep at night if you want to really reap the benefits of this new schedule and be fresh and ready to face that blank screen instead of desperately tired. Do things to quiet yourself before seeking sleep. Perhaps a glass of warm milk. Maybe a bit of light reading. Try not to get into a big fight with your spouse at this time as it will definitely keep you from restful sleep. Get your mind and body used to hitting the hay a bit earlier than you may have done in the past.

Your reward for all this will be a time for writing that is truly yours. Quiet, slow paced and not yet buried by the trials and troubles of the new day. Your writing is important to you. Don't let late night TV, the computer, or other distractions keep you from doing what you set out to do. Write!


  1. This is tough! I went through period when if I was awakened at night, I would get up and write. Two or three in morning write for a few hours then get up at seven. I LOVED it. Quiet. It was such a special time. Only problem is that I kept my schedule and life running as usual with only a few hours uninterrupted sleep. I crashed after about six months with walking pneumonia. Now I try to get it down during daytime. It takes discipline. It's not so easy for me to block out everything and write. But I'm learning.

  2. Thanks for the input Jamie. Everyone is different, but time and again I've heard the leaning toward the daytime hours for good writing and keeping yourself going.

  3. Well, I am a morning person - but my personal schedule due to influences/problems at home dictates late night writing as that is the only time I have to myself - the house if finally quiet - all are asleep - my music plays quietly from iTunes and I am not interrupted every 5 or 10 minutes to perform mundane, but necessary tasks. I need this space as I cannot write like a machine - but need calm and peace, which is available only late at night to me. And the ethos that infuses my writing matches the dark more than the light...

    Ted Smith

  4. Great comment Smithy. I, too have had times when my schedule demanded I write other than in the morning, but I keep coming back to it as it does remain the most productive time for me.

  5. Actually, as I was born midday, I find the middle hours of the day to be my most productive and creative. Anywhere from around 11 am until 4 pm tends to be my best writing and concentrating time.

  6. Interesting angle on this Wizard. Wonder if there is any research on this subject easily available. I'll dig in and see if there's a correlation between time of birth and best time of day...It doesn't work for me 'cause I was born at 10:30 at night and that is getting on to my sleepy time.

  7. Stopping by to say hello.

    I have become a morning person . . . writing and otherwise. Do my reading at night.


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