As the name of this blog might indicate, I do my writing generally in the margins of life. Between the cracks of the day, in the morning before things get going and the evening, after dinner and with a glass of wine to stir the creative pot.
I’d like to do my writing more consistently at a given time, but it’s difficult to achieve that kind of consistency with the current life situation – I travel a lot for work, frequently arriving and departing at weird times, making a sleep schedule nigh impossible.
So, doing a lot of writing on both sides of the day, here’s what I can say:
Early Morning (6 AM):
I’m talking the immediate edge of dawn here. Maybe a quick breakfast, a pot of coffee, and your keyboard while the sun pokes itself above the horizon. I tend to be hazier at this time, which makes me more creative. It’s easier to start new ideas, to break through a particular scene and into something interesting when the day is fresh and nothing’s beating down your door.
If I could consistently work at this time, I’d be infinitely more productive. The best, definitely, provided you get enough sleep. I’ve tried it a couple times after later nights and the mothballs in my head kept me from getting much done.
Later Morning (after 8 AM):
Outside of the occasional blog post, I can’t do a lot during this time on weekdays because of, you know, the job. But on weekends and those vacation days, I’m pretty productive if I can squeeze out some minutes at the keyboard. Without a day job, I think this would be the perfect time to get thousands of words on paper – you’re at the peak of the caffeine rush and there’s plenty of mental energy going.
It’s also a more dependable time than early morning, because late night adventures won’t impact it quite so much. It’s also the most impossible time to squeeze into for traditional jobs. Sigh.
Early Afternoon (After 12 PM):
My worst time, by far. Really, this constitutes any time in the immediate aftermath of lunch. Your body’s blood sugar is in flux from the food you just ate. The morning caffeine is diluted. You’ve done enough that you’re not at peak creative energy anymore.
Usually, on off days and weekends, I’m done writing by this time. If I’m not, it’s hard to get much done. One strategy that I’ll try if I can fit it into the schedule is to leave my desk, the house, wherever and find a different spot. Sometimes the change in scenery triggers a burst of enthusiasm that lets me get some words down. Otherwise, this is prime time for fiddling with lighter tasks, like email, managing the blog, or perusing message boards to see what’s up in the writing world. Or, you know, actual work.
Evening (After 5 PM):
This one’s a mixed bag. If I’m at home, I have to be disciplined to get the writing done at this time. I’m talking get back, do a workout, plot dinner, eat and pull out a beer or something. Put on music and squat myself on the couch or elsewhere and type out the words.
That might sound nice, but the evening timeslot is full of minefields. There’s innumerable distractions – whether that’s parents, friends, and other social obligations that can dash your writing plans with a single request to go out somewhere, your significant other who actually wants to spend time with you, to pets that want a bit of attention after a day roaming the house by themselves.
There’s also simple fatigue. If you’ve been busy during the day, it’s hard to pick yourself up again and make the mental effort.
That’s why I’m most successful here when I put myself in a place that facilitates writing. When I’m traveling, I’ll squirrel away at a restaurant, generally the bar area, and type. The ambient conversation seems to help, and the scenery is better than a blank hotel room. At home, again, that after-dinner drink or music keys in the mind so I can focus.
But keeping that focus is hard – lose it around this time and it’s too tempting to put away the laptop and do something ‘fun’. Every day I look at writing at this time, it’s a roll of the dice. Not a great long-term plan.
Late Night (After 9 PM):
Nope, can’t do it. I’m almost never successful by this time with any serious writing. Partly cause I’m tired, partly cause I’m already thinking about the next day. It’s hard to focus.
Now, I think this would be a viable time if I didn’t have to get up in the morning quite so early. If the mounting minor stresses of the next day weren’t quite so insistent. The quiet and reflective zen of later night could be ideal. Maybe when the work calms down, I’ll give this one a try.
So what’s the point of all this? Breaking down the schedule? I think it’s a good exercise. One you’ll probably do naturally to some extent if you try to write every day, just because life forces will push you out of your rhythm every now and again. Finding that sweet spot that most productive will make you happier, less stressed, and enable you to structure your day around all of your commitments in a way that makes it satisfying to work through.
If you’re getting started with writing (or, honestly, just about any hobby), I’d try it at different times during the day to find what fits your muse. Maybe you’re a night owl. Maybe an early riser like me. But you’ll be far more productive when you find that perfect time, so go looking.