larks and owls

This month’s blog is more a poll than a post. OK, maybe a poll with an essay question.

On weekdays, I write in the evenings. Without going into too much detail, it’s usually around 9-10pm before I am able to settle down enough to work. Since I get up around 6am…let’s say I’m usually tired and not hitting on all mental cylinders. So I’m thinking of resetting my clock, getting up at say, 4am, writing for a couple of hours, then getting on with the rest of the day. It’ll mean an earlier night, and will likely require some adjustment time.

So, the poll w/ essay:

1) when do you write?
2) did you always work at this time, or did you make a switch (morning to night? night to morning?)?
3) did you notice a difference in quantity or quality of output? Did the time change make things better, the same, worse?
4) any comments you’d like to add.

And now I really need to get to work…

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  1. 1. Alma Alexander

    1) Whenever I can – and I’ve never been a “it’s just another 9-5 job” kind of thinker. I’ve stayed up until 4 in the morning to write. I’ve got UP at 4 in the morning to write. I’ve also skipped lunch or dinner to write, using the actual daylight hours for it. It all depends on what I’ve got cooking and on how insistent it is.

    2)Well, in a sense, yes, I have – I’ve ALWAYS worked at all hours…

    3) There are times when stuff just won’t COME to me. But it is unrelated to a specific hour in the day.

    4)I’m probably the wrong person to answer this. I am currently a full time writer so I don’t have a “day job” as such to make other demands on my daytime hours; I dont’ have kids; I don’t in fact have any of the obvious roadblocks. If I feel like writing, I write. And yes, I know I’m incredibly lucky and things could always change…

  2. 2. Marie Brennan

    My best hours are at night, and waking up at 4 a.m. or even 6 a.m. would be about the most counterproductive thing I could possibly do. I do sometimes write at other times of the day, if my brain is revved up and ready to go, but I am most reliably good at . . . well, *everything* . . . late at night.

    Srsly. EVERYTHING. I’ve played games that require hand-eye coordination in the afternoon, and then played them at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. or whenever. Without fail, I’m better at night.

    But that is absolutely a personal mileage thing. Trying a morning schedule is worth a shot, at the very least; you’ll have to see for yourself whether it works for you or not.

  3. 3. SMD

    1. Right now it’s whenever I am in the mindset, have the mental capacity to think about writing, and have the time to do it. Before, it was during the day, or at night, or whenever, depending on if I was in class or not (usually during the day).
    2. No, I used to write late at night, so I guess I switched. It’s sort of the result of having a college schedule now instead of a standard 40 hour work week.
    3. I’ve noticed a change, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I’ve developed better as a writer than the time. I’m young (24) and I’ve been writing since high school (seriously that is). Some of my early stuff was HORRIBLE. But I can see the progression. I don’t know if I’m a great writer (my girlfriend thinks I’m really good, and she actually is my most brutal and constructive critic…so I generally trust her judgment…because she’s not afraid to tell me when a story is utter garbage), but I certainly think I’ve become a better writer. I think this is more because I have really been stepping it up this last year and a half. I finished my first novel last year, started another one, wrote bunches of short stories, edited several of them that are out there with publishers as we speak, and even managed to get an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest my first time trying there. So, if that means I’m good, then great.
    4. I can only say that one’s success as getting writing done has to do with one’s dedication. I couldn’t write anything if I didn’t like it. I love writing stories. Sometimes it’s hard. That’s unavoidable. Other times it’s really easy. But I keep at it, even if the writing is slow (like it is right now with this quarter’s school schedule literally killing me with mounds of homework I’ve never dealt with before). But if I get a free moment and I have the mental stamina to actually concentrate on writing, I write. And it feels amazing. I love it. I don’t know what that means. Should all writers love their craft so much that it makes them feel good to write?
    Basically, I think the biggest challenge for people that want to write is just the drive to do it. Set a goal for yourself every day. Be realistic about it too. Published folks who have deadlines don’t have much time to be realistic. Editors don’t like realistic…they just want the book finished. But for those of us that aren’t quite there yet, we have to be reasonable. Most of us have jobs, or are going to school full time, or a little of both, and we have to realize our limitations to a certain extent. Tobias Buckell had to set himself goals in order to succeed, and he’s doing fantastic, or so it seems. His goals were realistic too.
    Okay, I’m rambling…and I have no cause for it.

  4. 4. Tom Gallier

    getting up at 4 AM worked for me. But I’m a morning person.

  5. 5. Bran fan

    I think you should try everything. Why not give it a go? 4:00am might work. And if not, at least you’ve learned what doesn’t work.

    I’ve been a morning writer and an evening writer and sometimes burned the candle at both ends. It all depends on kids’ schedule. Now that they are in school, I write during their school day.

    It seems from comments here that it is more a matter of your schedule than your inclination. If I had my way, I’d write from 6-9am every day, because I know I’m most productive then. However, the kids don’t leave for school until 8:30, so I do what I can.

  6. 6. Laura Reeve

    1) Mornings. When I decided I was going to write “seriously” and sell my work, my day job of software engineer was mentally exhausting. After work, I was lucky if I could find the fridge for dinner, much less hold a simple conversation. If I was going to get any words onto paper, it HAD to be in the mornings. So, around 1997, I started the habit of getting up between 4 and 5 a.m. and writing like crazy before I had to go to work.

    2) About two years ago, however, my husband and I decided that we’d saved enough money for me to quit my day job. I flirted around with writing in the afternoons and evening — but I already knew, from the day job, that I turn numb around 4 p.m. Working in the mornings is still the best, and only, schedule for me, but now I’ve moved wake-up back to 5/5:30.

    3) Quantity/quality is a frustrating topic. I find I don’t get any writing done if I don’t start early in the morning, so the choice of WHEN is obvious. However, I’ve been tracking my output for years and I’ve hit a plateau for quantity, although I like to think my quality has improved since I’ve finally become published.

    4) I’d love to improve my output (speed, quantity) without sacrificing quality. I’ve tried “exercises” and changing my writing time, my writing place, my environment, etc. Nothing has made any measurable change, other than staying pressed to the grindstone and persevering. So I continue…

  7. 7. Karen Wester Newton

    I think the quality of my output has more to do with the chunk of available time than the actual time of day, although I should say I never write early in the morning, even on weekends (please, I could barely write my name).

    I write best when I have a 2-4 hour block of time and a clear idea of the story in my head. If I only have an hour before bedtime it’s annoying to have to stop just as things are flowing, but I get tired easily after a full work day. On weekends, after about four hours, I have to take a break and do something else for an hour or so.

    I think it would be interesting to compare time constraints for the creative process of getting the story out of your head and on the page (disk) versus for going back and editing for things like typos and grammatical errors. I find I can edit okay when I’m a little tired but writing takes to much energy to do well without being fresh.

  8. 8. Ben Cirillo

    I try to write in the morning, when I’m the only one home and there’s few other distractions. Since I always have an extremely limited time to write, my best trick is one I stole from Ernest Hemingway: I always stop writing mid-sentence (or at least mid-thought) so I know exactly where to pick up the next time. That saves about 20 minutes of staring at a blank page., and gets you going no matter what time of day.

  9. 9. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    I used to write a lot at night after everybody else went to bed and when there was nothing else on TV and no one to call on the phone. Then I had kids and my teaching schedule moved to a.m. So then I wrote in the afternoons during naptime (after school and in between the grading and prep schedule for school) and then a LOT on weekends. Now the kids are getting older. This summer I plan to switch to a get up at 5 a.m. and write until they wake up schedule, and then see if I can maintain that into the school year. We’ll see.

    I didn’t really notice a change in quality or output on account of hours. More it was on account of needing to utilize my time more efficiently. I just tried to focus on the writing when I was writing and not let other things creep in. Changing times didn’t really overturn me at all, except that it always takes a week or two to adjust my body rhythms.

    I think that it always makes it easier to get up earlier when it’s not winter (and in Montana, winter lasts at least nine months). So I don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain the get up very early thing in the face of shortening days in the fall, but I have hopes.

  10. 10. Kristine

    Thanks for all the comments.

    I used to be a morning person, and for the most part still am. I also download plotting from the backbrain during the wee hours, and have lost count of the number of times I wished I could have gone with the flow and sat down to write instead of going to work.

    Of course, now that I want to get this experiment underway, I have developed a head cold. Not sure if I’ll be able to start tomorrow or not…although the early-to-bed part sounds pretty good.

  11. 11. MO.THER>

    1) when do you write?

    In the morning, for about 30 minutes, after I’ve had coffee, but before I shower.

    2) did you always work at this time, or did you make a switch (morning to night? night to morning?)?

    No. I just didn’t write. This is the only time that works for me. The goal is four pages a day every day. Usually I stop after four unless it’s the weekend.

    Also, I always try to leave something to write the next day, never finishing anything and never having a blank page. Doesn’t work out like this much, but that’s what I’m aiming for.

    3) did you notice a difference in quantity or quality of output? Did the time change make things better, the same, worse?

    A scheduled time makes writing possible for me.

    I write 2-4 pages in 30-40 minutes in the morning. Sometimes on the weekend I add more to this. It is supposed to add up to ~25 pages a week, minus holidays and such. So far, four months for 250 pages.

    I work on a typewriter. It’s going to be more expensive than a computer, because I have to get someone to put the pages into the computer, because I’m not doing that myself; it takes too much time, but if I want to write and write well this is the way it has to be, even if it costs 75 cents a page.

    4) any comments you’d like to add.

Author Information

Kristine Smith

I'm a scientist by day, spec fic writer by nights and weekends. Author of the Jani Kilian SF series. Owned by two overgrown puppies. Visit site.

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