A Novel Observed #21 – When To Write?

The Writing Stage

The Writing Stage

Having considered the lie that I don’t have time to write, and the tyrant king that is the daily word count goal, it’s worth looking at when to write – by which I mean, when is the best time to write.

Now, it may well be that, in order to fit in with a job or with family life, we end up writing in sporadic bursts, a hundred words before breakfast, another hundred after taking the kids to the park. While writing this post, for example, I am running the AV for a conference in a London hotel, keeping an eye open for any problems or signals from the speakers, assisting with videos and presentations. At the same time, I am running projects on Elance and PeoplePerHour, tackling CreateSpace formatting issues, and responding to a steady flow of business emails. And in the midst of all that, I am not only trying to write this post, but also complete the next chapter of ‘No Time To Stand And Stare’. “Sporadic bursts” barely covers it!

Of course, this sort of thing comes with the territory – there are very few authors around who can afford to stay home all day and focus solely on writing. I’m certainly not one of them!

But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing I can do to try and improve this situation.

When Am I At My Writing ‘Best’?

I’ve always been fascinated by how different people are, not in looks or in character, but in how they are affected by the time of day. In my own household, for example, there is a fairly broad spectrum: my wife is good at getting up in the morning, but come 10pm it’s as though someone’s flicked a switch that turns her from Mrs Alert to zombie woman; David will happily sleep til midday, but is still ready for bed at 9; Jonathan is fine in the morning, but, like his older brother, is in bed early; Josiah, son number three, doesn’t sleep at all as far as I can tell and is often still awake, performing somersaults late into the night; and Elisha, my daughter, is usually the first up, but is ready for bed by 8. Each one is different, and I’m no exception.

I hate mornings. When I work in London and my alarm goes off at 4.30am, I genuinely feel like crying. My natural ‘wake up’ time is around 9am. No matter when I wake up, though, I’m pretty useless for most tasks for at least an hour or two. In fact, trying to write before lunchtime is pretty much a waste of time – my brain just doesn’t function properly.

At night, however, I’m a different creature altogether. Everyone else has gone to bed (even Josiah is in his bedroom), and my brain is wide awake. It’s not only wide awake, but it needs to be given things to do – it want to create! And when I give it things to do and it starts to get warmed up, it wants more. In the end, I have to force it to shut down and go to sleep by reading or listening to an audiobook.

Why is this important?

Because, knowing this about myself, I can gear my writing to suit: late evening is when I’m at my writing ‘best’. It’s when I used to write my sermons and it’s when I write most of my books.

Each of us is different. Your time to write may be in the morning like other freakish ‘early birds’. It may be during the day, sitting in your car in the your lunch break, or in a cafe with people all around you. It may be in the evening, like normal ‘night owl’ people. Or even in the middle of the night, though, admittedly, I reckon you’d be in a fairly small minority there.

So what’s your answer to the question: ‘When to write?’