Telling stories

Are You Really a Writer if You’re Not a Night Writer?

Posted by southwrite on June 4, 2014

Owl Face

There has been a lot written on when is the best time to write. Some authors will tell you it’s in the morning, first thing, before shower or breakfast or even coffee. Others pack every word into a 9 to 5 schedule just like a day at the office. Still others – and there seems to be lot of them – tell me there’s no writing no writing time like night writing time.

Blogger Jonathan Manor speaks for this group when he says: “The reason that most writers — “good” writers — choose to write at night, is because their mornings, afternoons, and early evenings have filled their bodies with inspiration.”

In other words you need a day of living and experience before you’re going to have anything to write about. That seems obvious. You need knowledge and information. They form the raw materials that are then shaped into stories, articles and books.

I know many of these folks who write in the evenings. The incredibly prolific Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series of novels, says that he wrote many of his books (which number over 150) after putting his children to bed. In fact, that tidbit comes from his own excellent guide on how to be a professional writer – Writing for the Soul: Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life. The evening can be not only ideal, but the only time to write for those with daytime jobs or children that need to be cared for first.

On the other hand, if you’re like me, and feel wide awake early in the morning (I typically rise by 4 am), but start getting sleepy and sluggish by midafternoon, you might say no way. You need to do all your writing in the morning when you’re fresh. I thought so too, but research says not.

Consider this. In one study subjects were asked to perform six problem-solving tasks at different times of day. Surprisingly, those who self-identified as morning people did better on “insight” oriented problem solving – tasks that required original thinking – in the evening. Night owls’ performance was the opposite. Counterintuitive results to say the least.

The study authors say it’s easier to come up with an original idea or solution to a problem when we’re tired. During these times we’re more open to different information, and are less set on our own preconceived ideas of what’s “right.”

If your writing has come to an impasse, this process might help you find the solution as well.

I’ve tried this process myself, when I needed to tackle a project in the evening and found that sometimes my writing became freer and easier than it did earlier in the day. Of course, that feeling could also stem from the fact that a deadline was bearing down on me. To adapt a phrase: Nothing concentrates the mind of a writer quite like knowing a deadline is near.

For most freelancer writers it can be hard to limit your work to a particular time of day. I frequently have so many projects going on at one time that I have to write when I can in order to make a deadline. The actual writing – particularly for non-fiction – is always a smaller part of the job compared to all the research and interviewing you needs to do to gather information.

I encourage you to experiment with different writing times just to see how it might improve your work. If you’re a night owl try the morning. You early birds stay up late.

And see what happens.

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