Authors: when is the most productive time to write?

1182878_woman_writing_in_the_agendaI read this article on yesterday, entitled “5 things you can do right now to be instantly smarter.” (Link given if you want to read. Please note that uses language some might find offensive.) One item–number 5–really got me thinking, in terms of when it might be most productive for us to write. It says:

Work at the worst time of day, with the worst kind of people.

It cites a bunch of experiments scientists have run, and it uses this basis for its conclusion:

  • When we’re at ease and with lots of energy–at the top of our game– our brains are really good at continuing the processes and doing the tasks we tackle on a regular basis, but we resist breaking out of the box. To cite the article: Your well-rested, socially comfortable brain is pretty good at thinking inside the box — accessing that sensible place that appreciates old jokes and rejects ideas that seem too “weird.”
  • When we’re tired, frustrated, out of it, annoyed, that’s when our brains adapt to and even embrace new and crazy ideas. Ideas that, in a more relaxed, comfortable state, would seem way too weird. Again, to quote: [When you’re out of your element] is when you decide that you might as well chase whatever off-the-wall notion pops into your head, regardless of how tap-dancingly ridiculous it may appear.ย  You start following those threads to their conclusion, until boom, you suddenly have a great idea that would never have occurred to you if you were operating during your optimal work hours with the people you like hanging out with, because your brain’s anti-nonsense detectors would’ve been too strong.

This really, really got me to thinking. I, for one, have always been a morning person. I’ve always made a point of trying to get my writing done in the morning, as soon as possible after I wake up, because I’m up and rearing to go, and I drain more and more of energy and mental capacities as the day wears on.

Now, I feel that it could make a bit of sense to adapt my approach to what I learned from reading that article…. If the scientific basis of the experiments outlined hold water, then it seems that pretty much every aspect of the writing process could benefit from me spending a little time at night working.

  • PLOTTING/OUTLINING: This one’s obvious. I don’t plot/outline all that much, but when I do…. I mean, that’s as creative as the creative process gets. And if being out of it helps you tap into your creative faculties, it’s worth spending some time late at night trying to figure out what the heck I’m going to do in the sequel to “The Esclavan Abductions.” (Right now I have no stinking idea and I’m stuck with a war to explain and end.)
  • FIRST DRAFTS: If you’re less inhibited creatively when you’re out of it, then that could be a good time to write because you’re less likely to let that blasted inner editor interfere with your progress.
  • EDITING: I’ve said before that editing is all about recognizing the problems your draft has, then finding creative ways to solve them. Yeah, creative ways. Apparently being exhausted and drained and at wit’s end is good for being creative. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyways…. I just wanted to share that info and my reflections on it with you guys. For whatever they’re worth! I personally don’t think I’m going to stop writing in the morning. But I hope to make more of a point of adding some late night sessions too and see what comes of it!


32 responses to “Authors: when is the most productive time to write?

  1. I’ve heard this somewhere else recently too, and it makes sense to me. I’m at my best around midmorning usually, but thanks to an 8yo, write whenever I get a chance! So I expect I spend a lot of time writing when not at my best. Good to know it isn’t a bad thing.

    • Apparently it isn’t. Super crazy!!! Definitely not what I’d have thought, but it’s relieving to hear, I totally agree ๐Ÿ™‚ You probably get lots of writing time when you’re not at your best, for sure ๐Ÿ™‚ So yea!

  2. For the last year or so the only time I’ve been able to write has been my hour long lunch break. Take away the time it takes me to walk to the cafe where I write and to eat my lunch that leaves approximately 45 mins and boy do I use that 45 mins. Because I know that’s all I have everything is crystallised. There is no humming and hazing. Just writing! Works for me.

  3. At home I write best when I’m completely by myself. Away from home I write best where there’s lots of people around (i.e., library, coffee shop, book store).

  4. I write around the day job. Lunch breaks if I can, but usually the evening and at spare moments at the weekend. Sometimes I get inspired at odd times and have to rush down a note to sort out at home, which can be frustrating!

    • Ugh I hate that!!! At least you think to leave yourself a note then, which is smarter than I can say for myself. I often just believe I’ll remember what I needed to do next and where I wanted to take a scene…. And then I don’t. Haha!

      When I was working a summer office job I would write lunch breaks. I LOVED it. U of Alabama…. I’d take my lunch to a bench on a beautiful, shaded part of campus and write.

  5. angel7090695001

    I totally disagree. I am so not a morning person that when I can (aka in the holidays) I don’t get out of bed until 11-12 in the morning. The afternoon is my most productive time and that’s when I write.

  6. I’m a morning person, so if I can get started early in the morning, I’m more likely to keep the stamina going all day. On the other hand, if I don’t start writing until the evening, I tend to be less productive. Not unproductive, but I want to go to sleep with the sunset. Thank goodness, the summer is coming. Longer days means more writing time for me, provided I wake early enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Interesting post!

  7. That was really useful, I never realized how creative my mind was when I was stressed but it makes sense.

  8. toninelsonmeansbusiness

    I usually like to write first thing in the morning. It’s quiet and I enjoy seeing the sky get brighter and brighter. It never ceases to amaze me how ideas just pop up through out the day and I just have to write them down.

  9. Pingback: Authors: when is the most productive time to write? - PHILOSBOOKS | PHILOSBOOKS

  10. I would prefer to write in the afternoons, but if I wait, it doesn’t get done, and the writing is filtered through all the garbage that is now in my head from FB, twitter, Pinterest, and e-mail. I am trying to write as soon as I open up my Laptop, get at least 250 words written (it is usually more), and then I can move on. I feel I’ve made major strides when I tackle the writing first thing.

    • that sounds fabulous, Penelope!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m more or less the same way, though most days I do check blog stats, market links, and respond to comments in the morning before I write.

  11. I feel like I can often go on writing for hours and hours — if I am handwriting. On a laptop I have a completely different experience. I think it’s the backlit screen that starts irritating my eyes or something….

    I really enjoy your blog posts, by the way!

    • I’m so glad, Natasha! Thanks!!! I’m so glad you mentioned the difference between pen and paper and computer writing, because they really are quite distinct. Some take more to one than the other. I love the ease of quick adjustments writing on the computer gives me. Pen and paper every now and again is a nice change of pace for me.

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  13. Interesting idea, but not sure it would work for me. Maybe I should try staying up late and working for the next few nights. Our family have two ten year old Italian boys coming to stay with us on Monday, (with our 6 and 9 year old) so that’s going to be an interesting week! If I add in the late nights writing, I think I will be feeling pretty stressed by the end of the week!
    It would be interesting to look back over my work at the end of that week! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Why not take the best of both worlds?
    When you’re “out of your element,” try writing new material that your lucid brain would immediately flush away.
    When you’re lucid, that’s when it’s time to make proper edits and gather structure.
    I’ve been using this technique for years, especially when it came to writing music–it might also explain why so many drug-users were such great musicians as well.

    Great article!

  15. Great post, I pretty much always write at night because that’s when I’m most relaxed, but now I might start writing in the morning or earlier, just to see what works for me! Thanks for the advice.

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  17. Pingback: Why dichotomies don’t work in describing the writing process | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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