I know it. You saw the title and thought: “Who does this guy think he is to tell me when my creativity works around the clock.”
I am here to tell you this: “Hold your horses, this is not gonna be those kinds of list posts that try to convince you something you really know that you can’t be convinced about. This is a research-backed article whose major aim is to try and tell you how to choose your perfect writing time.”
“Are we cool now?”
I guess the answer is yes.
Let’s then proceed.
What Does Science Say About Our Productivity?
Scientists have explored the rhythms of the human body and our productivity cycles extensively. They have concluded that they aren’t random or a matter of personal preference. There actually are optimal times to do certain kinds of activities.
For example, the best time to check your Twitter is from 8-9am in the time zone where most of your followers reside. This is because your twitter buddies post more positive tweets between the hours of breakfast and before they start working than at any other time.
A lot of activities have their specific times when if carried out, they will lead to more productivity and better outcomes.
Let me just add some more examples so you believe me:
Science Points Out That the Best Writing Time Is in the Morning
Bouts of creative writing might be easier to come by just after waking as this is the time of the day when the prefrontal cortex is most active. A scientific study of brain circuits confirmed that this creative activity is highest during and immediately after sleep, while the analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on. The study looked at morning and evening MRI scans and observed that mornings showed more connections in the brain—a key element to the creative process.
If you believe that creativity is your best source for ideation, then the early mornings should be your best time for new thoughts.
The greatest evidence for this effect is with dreams. Science has told us that creativity is a function of connections between many different networks throughout the brain. With that in mind, consider this observation from Tom Stafford, writing for the BBC:
An interesting aspect of the dream world: the creation of connections between things that didn’t seem connected before. When you think about it, this isn’t too unlike a description of what creative people do in their work—connecting ideas and concepts that nobody thought to connect before in a way that appears to make sense.
Early Morning Idea Sessions Don’t or Won’t Fit You?
In a study from Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks, it was determined that ideas often come at our least optimal times.
Their experiment measured insight ability and analytic ability, two components to the creative idea process. Participants identified themselves as either morning people or evening people and underwent a series of tests at different times of the day. The tests for analytic ability revealed no significant findings, but for insight ability, the results were telling:
What Wieth and Zacks found was that strong morning-types were better at solving the more mysterious insight problems in the evening, when they apparently weren’t at their best.
Exactly the same pattern, but in reverse, was seen for people who felt their brightest in the evening: they performed better on the insight task when they were unfocused in the morning.
The theory goes that as our minds tire at our suboptimal times, then our focus broadens. We are able to see more opportunities and make connections with an open mind. When we are working in our ideal time of day, our mind’s focus is honed to a far greater degree, potentially limiting our creative options. Limited creative options will not work for any person who wants to be a great writer though.
Can I Disregard Everything Scientific and Write at Any Time?
A lot of people believe that the best time for writing is in the morning. Once I wrote this very same sentence, a certain quote came to my mind. Here it is:
A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper. —E.B. White
So, what is the meaning behind that quote?
Remember Charles Dickens And Robert Frost? Here Is A Small Fact About Their Writing Time and Schedule:
Charles Dickens was a morning kind of a guy. He finished his writing by 2:00 pm each day. Robert Frost was just about getting started at 2:00 pm and would often be writing late into the night (and waking up the next day around noon). What each of these famous authors lacked in synchronicity they made up for in routine. Their daily schedule of writing was set at the same time every day, even though the exact time was different for each writer.
It is possible, then, that the most important time of day for writing and ideas is the same time of day you always write and come up with ideas. Routines and habits could trump the clock. In fact, the brain appreciates these habits. Routine reinforces neural circuitry, and the more you work at the same routine, the stronger those connections become.
Here Are the Facts About Choosing to Write At Any Time:
Life Situation and Responsibility Can Shape Your Writing Time
If you’re a single parent to young kids, a set schedule might be impossible. You write when you can or when the kids are asleep. Getting up an hour or two before the family does sounds great, but it might be tough if you also have a full-time job outside of the house. You need sleep, too.
Maybe you have intermittent health issues. Someone sick or handicapped at home. A job with erratic hours. Pets. Aging or ailing parents or a relative. Without a day-to-day schedule you can control, it’s difficult to commit to a writing schedule.
So, what do you do? You write when you can.
Your Beliefs Can Shape the Time You Decide to Commit to Writing
“The early bird gets the worm.”- I actually don’t know who said this. But a lot of people believe it. So, we will go with it.
People who get out of bed at noon are often scorned—even if they worked until 4 a.m.
So, do you believe that the morning thing and early bird getting the worm works fine for you? Then go for it buddy!
But don’t kick yourself if you simply can’t do it. And don’t bend to pressure. If you tend to write better in the afternoon, evening, or in the middle of the night as I often do—go for it. Especially if that’s the only time you have available.
What Kind of Writing Do You Do, How Urgent Is It?
If you’re a freelance writer or you’re writing a guest post for a big blogger, you probably have a deadline.
Same goes for journalists. The big story happens—your chance to make it big—and your editor tells you to hustle. Best time to write? The time is now, people.
If you’re a creative writer, you might not have a sense of urgency that propels you forward. You don’t have a deadline unless you’re under a publisher’s pressure. No editor is glaring at you from across the room.
But think about it.
Your writing is urgent. Life is short. You never know when you might lose it.
I am hugely against the idea of forcing into people’s minds the best time that they should be writing.
The reason is that people are different.
That is why I wrote this article without trying to tell you when you should write. A person who is literate enough to read and understand this blog post has the capability of deciding for himself when to write or not write.
Do you think that you have something that you would like fellow writers who visit this blog would like to hear? Put it in the comments.