If we polled every successful author in the world, we would likely discover that the question they are asked most often is: “How do you do it?” Writers’ habits are constantly questioned, as if we could crack the code on successful writing by knowing their daily minutia. One such topic that always comes up in that conversation is when the author likes to write. Every famous writer seems to have firm opinions on the time of day that’s best for penning their prose. Even outside the famous, the writing community is split into two camps—morning writers and night writers.
So, which side is the right one?
The answer is simple: it’s about what works best for the writer—what works best for you. Despite all the arguments, one time for writing is not better than the other. There are pros and cons to each, and the polarizing thoughts that only “good” writers write in the morning, or that the most “creative” people write at night are unnecessarily black-and-white.
The Morning Masterminds
“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.” – Ernest Hemingway
So why do so many people choose to write in the morning? Early writing is the most popular camp among famous authors, with members like Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and Maya Angelou. Here are some of the top reasons why The Morning Masterminds like getting it done early:
Clear Mind, Clear Words
Many believe that the time when your mind is clearest is when writing needs to happen. Those daytime writers claim that the morning is the perfect time to write because your brain isn’t jumbled up with the events of the day. It’s a clean slate, a pristine canvas of creativity that gives way to more concise, clean writing.
Gain the Discipline, Ditch the Guilt
Who doesn’t love starting out their day with a few pages under their belt and a sense of accomplishment? If you get your writing done at the beginning of the day, you won’t feel a sense of pressure or guilt if you’re too tired at the end of the day to get to it. And for those perhaps not so morning-inclined, it’s a great test of willpower to sit down and churn out creativity that early in the morning. If you’re looking for a real opportunity to strengthen your writing discipline, making yourself get it done early in the day is a good way to do it.
Get It Out of the Way
Another positive aspect of early writing is that the sooner you write, the sooner you’re done. For those of us writers who avoid sitting down and typing out a page or two with the “I’m busy” excuse, nothing curbs the desire to procrastinate better than sitting down at the start of the day, before your schedule gets too hectic. There is no end-of-day “I’m too tired” defense to stop you from reaching your writing goals.
The Nighttime Naturals
“At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.” ―H.P. Lovecraft
Interestingly, there are fewer famous night writers, at least out of those well-known individuals who have publicized their daily routines. Famous writers from this camp include Danielle Steel, H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert Frost. Here are some of the arguments as to why The Nighttime Naturals like writing late:
No Distraction Zone
Writing at night is great because of the lack of distractions. No one is vying for your attention, there aren’t any pressing calls to make or work to be done. Everything from the day has been taken care of, and you’re able to just sit and write without pressure and without the weight of outstanding responsibilities. You can relax and focus, because your to-do list isn’t weighing on you.
Spit it Out
Despite the morning writers’ claim that words come out clearer in the light of day, there’s an odd sort of freedom that comes with night writing. You might be a little tired from getting things done during the day, loosening your inhibitions. Night writing is great because a lot of the time, you can spit out words far easier than you do in the morning. They just fall out of you, and while many of them might not be poetry, getting words down on the page is half the battle. That’s what editing is for, after all.
Time to Unwind
For many people, writing takes the form of some kind of therapy. There’s a lot of catharsis that comes from sitting down and typing things out, especially things that have been sitting in your mind for so long that you thought they might never be transferred to the page. Writing at night is the perfect unwinding after the day and allows the writer to hit the pillow ready for a satisfying sleep, having cleared your head of the ideas that have accumulated there during the waking hours.
How to Figure Out Your Own “Writing Shift”
“My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it.” –Ray Bradbury
Another thing to remember about writing—especially when you’re just starting out—is that finding the time to write is a big battle in and of itself. Unlike many famous writers, you may have other essential obligations that demand your attention. If that’s the case, don’t allow time of day to hold you back from doing what you love. If you squeeze in ten minutes of writing at 6 a.m., then another thirty at lunch time, and then a couple more paragraphs before you nod off, you’re still working to establish your writing muscles.
Find out what time of day works the best for you. Successful writing happens during the time of day when you’re at the height of creativity—something that everyone has to discover for themselves. Though we love to hear about the schedules of our favorite writers to gain insight into their process, triumph does not hinge on following their advice to the letter. Once you’ve found the time that works best for you, that habit will push you forward in your writing.
Whether you’re a Nighttime Natural, a Morning Mastermind, or somewhere in between, you’re still a success in our book.