Morning Writing vs. Evening Writing: A Duel

When is the perfect time to write?

Trick question. But while there’s no perfect time, different parts of the day do have different advantages. I’ve tried many, and I’ve gone back and forth on which one feels best for me overall.

Morning writing looks best on paper. Just get up and get to work, before the daily concerns of life can derail your creative process. Wake up with a shower, eat a decent breakfast, and sit down at the computer with a clear, fresh mind. Knock out several pages, then tend to the rest of the day secure in the knowledge that you’ve already accomplished some solid writing.

But it doesn’t always go that smoothly, at least not in my case. I have a day job, so in order to give myself sufficient writing time, I would have to wake up around 5:30 a.m. or so. I tried that for a while. Some mornings went well. Others got off to a sluggish start, and by the time I was starting to build some decent momentum, it was time to stop and shift to my other work day. Then, after work, I was often so tired that I’d crash by about 9-9:30.

On the plus side, I got some of the best sleep of my life. But I’m really not wired to be a morning person. It’s nice to know that I can get myself up super-early on occasion, if the need arises, but it wasn’t optimal use of my time or energy levels.

Evening writing is a riskier affair. The pessimistic view is that you’re putting writing at the mercy of how the day went. A rough day can wreck the night, and there’s increased temptation to drink too much caffeine too late in the day. I’m certainly guilty of letting myself get derailed for a variety of reasons, but it’s always ultimately my own fault. When I focus on the key advantage of night writing, the results are much better.

That key advantage: I’ve already done absolutely everything else I needed to do that day. All other commitments are cleared out, and the book becomes the only thing I need to focus on.

This usually gets me a longer stretch of writing time compared to trying to cram in some morning writing. I’ll finish my day job, take a dinner break, read for an hour or so, and then there’s still plenty of night left for writing.

I can sneak some additional work in other parts of the day. An unfocused morning can still yield some productive brainstorming, and afternoons (on my days off, at least) are sometimes good for editing. But those are simply nice bonuses. For me, in my subjective experience, nights are when the best work tends to happen.

Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever tried writing at 3 a.m. Maybe that’s the top-secret perfect writing time?