One of the most common questions that writers ask is, “when is the best time to write?”
Perhaps you enjoy writing in the early morning before the sun rises (or as the sun rises). Or, maybe you prefer late at night when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep.
Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, there is research to support either claim.
Morning is the best time to write.
Remember that funny thing that I’ve mentioned in this post, called willpower? Yeah, that. If you write first thing in the morning, prior to doing anything else, your willpower is strongest because you haven’t used it for other tasks.
There have been psychological tests conducted to support this claim, such as the Stroop Test. Participants are divided into two groups (A and B), and are asked to complete a mental activity. Beforehand, Group A has to tackle a small puzzle, while Group B only does the activity. Results showed that Group A didn’t perform as well as Group B and also took more time to complete the activity.
The answer is because we have a finite amount of willpower. If we deplete it, by solving a puzzle for example, then we are less motivated (or not motivated at all) to solve any subsequent tasks. In the above experiment, Group A used up some, or all, of their willpower, while Group B had a full tank for the main activity.
Realistically, before we can even consider writing in the morning, we may go to the gym, wake our kids up for school, have a full day of work, or even all three. When that is said and done, we have drained ourselves of any willpower.
Something as simple as choosing to make a cup of coffee before getting started could reduce your will to write.
If you write first thing in the morning, literally first thing, then you haven’t used any of your willpower and it’s possible for you to get more writing done.
Another argument to support writing in the morning…
…is that we have more clarity and are the most energized at that time; we don’t have the stress and worries from the day because it has just begun.
We are devoid of our daily distractions.
Your creative brain is most active during and immediately after sleep. However, as you continue on with your day, your creativity slowly gets replaced by your logical mind.
Take Ernest Hemingway for example-he was a morning writer. In his 1958 interview with the Paris Review, he stated,
“…I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you…you read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there.”
Hemingway would stop writing at a point where he still had the plot in mind and then he would return to it the next morning with a clear head.
Perhaps this method is one of the reasons why he was so successful as an author.
Those writers who believe that working late at night is better do make valid points.
For one, there are no distractions; everyone is asleep and there is nothing left to do for the day. Not only that, you also have inspiration to pull from using your experiences for that day.
There is some research to support the night owl’s claim that late night is better for writing.
Ron Friedman, PhD, author of The Best Place to Work, gives some insight that may seem counter-intuitive. According to him, being fatigued from the day can actually boost your creativity. He explains why in a podcast from Harvard Business Review.
“…in order to be creative, sometimes you need to consider some ideas that don’t necessarily feel like they’re on track with what you’re trying to achieve. And so having all these ideas come into your mind because you’re not quite as good at putting them off when you’re tired can actually make you more creative.”
The bottom line is that this fatigue can make people better at solving insight problems. This is also why having an energy boost, such as with coffee, can hinder these stray thoughts.
A 2011 study, conducted by Mareike B. Weith, supports this claim. Over 400 students were given insight-based and analytical problems at different times of the day. There was no difference in performance for analytical problems. However, the study showed that when the students were less awake, they did better on the insight-based problems.
In conclusion, scheduling your creative writing time for late at night, after a long day and when your brain is fatigued, can trigger your out-of-the-box thinking.
So, then when should I write?
At the end of the day, pick a time that works for you. Most importantly, make the best of it and make it a habit.
To recap, here is an infographic from Quick Sprout that I really like.
What time of day works best for your writing? I’d love to hear in the comment section below!
(Featured photo credit: Tirachard Kumtanom via pexels.com)