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Is it Best to Write at Night?


You're familiar with the clichéd depiction of a flamboyant creative whose best work always comes out after midnight. You might just be that clichéd story!

And you might think there's something to that, which science can back up. There's not. The truth is - and you'll hate me for this - there is no best time to write.

Oh, so what? You're just supposed to do it? Just write all the time? Not exactly.

First, if you're super creative late at night, it means you should've gone to sleep a couple hours ago. Do you know why you have dreams?

Because when you sleep, the "gate" in your brain keeping all your thoughts and memories in check - all those neurons from streaming - relaxes. The gate opens, if you will. Your dreams flood out, except that you're awake for them.

If your most creative, off-the-wall, "genius" ideas all come at 2am, it's because the rest of you tried to go to sleep hours ago. Your being a night owl has little to do with this.

In fact, if you have these late night creative spurts, you probably don't even know if you're an owl or a lark, because you're not letting your body get into a rhythm.

It's similar with insomnia. It's not that you can't sleep, but that you're intentionally forcing your body to do things it's not supposed to do (like stare at screens before bed, not relaxing, not taking time to wind down, making yourself stay awake for whatever reason after you realize you're sleepy). I digress.

If you've read much of what I've written before, you know that I love to quote William Faulkner: "I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine." Truthfully, the best time to write is whenever you'll do it. It has less to do with when you're naturally inspired, and more to do with your discipline.

I know some make time at 4am before they have to prepare for the day ahead. Some take long lunches. Some entrepreneurs or stay-at-home employees do it in between other tasks.

Some do it right when they get home, or after the kids go to sleep. I've even read from a couple of screenwriters that they would get up in the middle of the night to write for a couple hours before going back to bed.

There's not a single best time to write. There's not a single portion of the day where you're more creative or better (except, perhaps, by avoiding 2-4pm).

There might only be one chunk of free time where you can think straight, but that's not the only time in your day when you're capable of writing - and writing well!

The best time to write is not late into the night. The best time to write is whenever you'll do it.