In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,
“Mornings belong to whatever is new — the current composition.”
Are you a morning person? I’m not!
I’ll be honest: I’m not a morning person. I actually find it really hard to function before 9am. For the most part I’ve been able to design my life where I haven’t had to do much every day before that time, but occasionally I have to leave the house early or have a job that starts at the first sign of daylight, and so I’m forced to make do. I find my brain starts kicking into gear, on average, between 9 and 10am, never before.
At the same time, I’m no longer much of a night person either, although I used to be. When I was in my twenties, I stayed up until 1 or 2am every night, easy. There’s something so magical, so calming, about the night. When everything quiets down, and there’s no urgency. The older I get, the more of a struggle it is for me to stay awake past midnight, but if I could stay awake later, I definitely would.
In fact, the first three novels I ever wrote I penned completely at night. In 2010 I worked a job from 9am to 7:30pm, and every day I would come home, make dinner, maybe watch a movie, then start writing. My ideal writing time that year and a little bit into 2011 too was between about 10:30pm and 12:30am. And I liked it that way. It gave me all day to think about the next scene to write, and the last thing I always did before I went to bed was write, write, write. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.
But writing every night can also burn you out fast.
But when I was no longer working that full-time job, I found no more reason to write late at night. And when I started getting tired more and more, my brain shutting off around 8 or 9pm, I gave up writing any fiction, ever, late in the day. I wrote my fourth novel Happy Birthday to Me Again in the morning, and that’s the way I’ve written every novel since. Now, at age thirty-four, I would rather do my writing between 7 and 9am than 7 and 9pm. I would rather get it done early, and then have the rest of my day to think about the writing to be done the next morning, when I’ll be refreshed, when I’ll be most on my game.
Stephen King says in his craft book On Writing that he writes new fiction in the morning. He talks about how he aims for 2,000 words, or about 10 fresh pages, and that the earlier he finishes his work the better. He talks about how he’s especially thrilled when he’s done before noon, and he’s out and about, happy with the work and still with lots of day left to go. He talks about how sometimes the work doesn’t come as easy and he’s forced to keep writing through lunchtime, or even after lunchtime, and that he will not stop until he gets a minimum of 2,000 words down on the page.
Mornings are ultimately the best times for writing.
I’m the same way. There is nothing more glorious than getting your 2,000 words down fast, early in the day. It’s been years now but I still remember a day when I wrote my 2,000 words in 45 minutes. 45 minutes, and I was done, and I was actually happy with the words I put down, too. That is key, by the way, to be happy with the work you’re doing. It’s not enough to quickly write 2,000 words of total crap, and it’s definitely in your better interest to spend a longer period of time, say 3 or 4 hours, or even more, to put down 2,000 words of quality.
Sometimes I start writing as early as 9am. Other days, for whatever reason, I don’t start until 11 or 11:30. On the occasional day when I didn’t plan well, I’m not writing until 2 or 3pm in the afternoon. And here’s the deal: I find, almost one-hundred-percent of the time, that the earlier in the day I start my writing, the better the work is. When I’ve been busy all day, and I begin late in the afternoon, the work isn’t as strong.
There truly is a thrill in finishing your writing early in the day and then having your afternoon, evening, and night to do other things. Maybe revise some of your work. Read a book. Watch a movie. Make a nice dinner. Relax. I’ve heard of authors who treat writing like a full-time job in that they actually write non-stop between 8am and 5pm, maybe taking a short break for lunch. I’ve never been able to do that, and I don’t think I ever will. I have, on average, three good hours of writing in me every day. Three hours of total concentration and creativity. After three hours, I begin to fade, and then the work suffers, so why bother continuing?
But CAN you write later?
You are of course welcome to write any time you want. Some of you might feel more confident writing at night, and if so, go for it. Some of you might also have work obligations that begin so early that the only way for you to get the words down is to sit at the desk later in the day. Some of you have kids, responsibilities, and it’s a fight just to find a thirty-minute window of time to write, let alone those perfect couple hours in the morning where all your creative juices are flowing. Trust me, I understand.
But if you do have a bit more freedom in your day, consider doing your writing earlier, not later. Try to make mornings the time for your current composition whenever possible.
You might find your writing improve considerably!