Thursday, March 18, 2010

Your Best Writing Time

Camy here! As I write this, it’s late evening in California, because I’ve discovered my best writing time is usually in the evening and early morning hours.

For years this really frustrated me because who in their right mind writes best at 2 a.m.? Especially when I had to get up at 8 a.m. to go to my biology job. (Pain and suffering ...) Why can’t I be like Ruthy who can get up at (Godforsaken) 4 in the morning to efficiently zip off a chapter before breakfast?

Alas, God has a sense of humor. It’s why He gave me and my husband a buttheaded dog for our first family pet and why I out of all my cousins has a behind the size of Alaska.

I write best between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., Pacific Standard time. It’s always been this way for me. Even when studying in college, I was most efficient around midnight.

So how about you guys? (I know I’m going to regret this because I’m going to be insanely jealous at all you early morning writers, but oh well.) What is your best writing time?

And if you don’t know your best writing time, here’s how you can find out:

1) Take a few weeks and deliberately schedule to write at different times. Morning, afternoon, evening. Lunchtime, dinnertime. 2 a.m. (I’m kidding on that last one!)

2) Try each time period more than once, because it IS possible to have just a bad writing day regardless of the time.

3) Look at not just your efficiency—how many pages/words you cranked out—but also how good you felt about what you wrote. For example, my best words (the ones that need the least amount of revising/editing) tend to come out before midnight, but I crank out the most pages after midnight.

4) Keep a notebook or a Word document file to record your thoughts and progress for each time period.

5) See a trend? You also might have several different times that are good writing times for you (and if that’s true, I am going to come after you and shoot you).

So what’s the point of knowing your best writing time?

I mostly take advantage of it during crunch time, when I’m on deadline or I just want to finish a project quickly. I prepare in advance so that it’s okay for me to be up and working right after dinner until the wee hours of morning, and then I go for it. Hubby is always a bit sad to have to wait to watch some of our TiVo shows, but he suffers in silence for my art. :) And I get a lot done—I’ve written a book in about 3 weeks utilizing my best writing time.

So what’s your best writing time?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi and Deadly Intent are out now. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveaways!


Iapetus999 said...

My best time is between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. 3 novels so far.

Tina Pinson said...

My best time used to be during the day when the kids were younger and in school, but I find the 10 to 2 hour works for me. I try to work in some earlier times, but it pretty hit and miss on the writing. I can do the revisions then though.

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm most productive when my teacher hubby is at school, the cats are napping, and the house is quiet. However, I'm a night owl, so when the creative energy is surging, I've been known to stay up until the wee hours writing. I know you do, too, Camy, because I've seen you online out here in CA when I've been up late. :D

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

We can see who the night owls are by checking the comments time. LOL

Lapetus999, well done. Although I gotta say you are leaving some rich untapped time between Dec 1 and October 31. But a guys gotta do what a guys gotta do.

I write and live in two hour increments. It's been that way since I worked in a nursing home and we did rounds every two hours.

So my best time is any two hours, then I need a long break. And so on.

We're really sharing some dirty secrets here ...

Nicola said...

Hi all

Great to hear and share how we all work. I'm usually best 2pm-5pm for writing. I'm a night owl too - I seem to love pottering around after others go to bed. (And it's a great time to curl up with a good inspirational novel too!)

love Nicola


Debra E Marvin said...

My best writing time is...
hard to say. I just grab every moment I can. Definitely more creative the closer to sleep time - 4-6am or 7-10pm.

Janet Dean said...

Camy, you and I are complete opposites! My creativity shuts down in the evening though I can revise when a deadline looms.

I prefer to write after I've gotten other stuff out of the way so 10:00 in the morning to about 4:00 in the afternoon works best for me with periodic breaks.


Rose said...

My most productive writing time is 1PM to 5PM, which makes it hard to get much writing done during the week because of my day job.

But I do utilize those hours on the weekends. However, I do write in the evenings, it's just always in need of HUGE revisions but at least I have something to revise.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Camy,
I am definitely a morning person. When you're getting started, I'm going to bed. LOL

But I find I write best in my slowest time because my mind can stay focused on the story. When I'm all alert I tend to side-track like think of the grocery list, when I'm going to get the chores done, etc.

So ideal, I'm like you Janet. Late morning-afternoon.

But like so many of you. Its when I can catch the free moment between elder care and hubby. smile

Glynna Kaye said...

Another early morning writer here. Too exhausted from day job by end of the day. Never been a night person, especially in the winter when the days are so short. Totally solar-powered.

Melanie Dickerson said...

My best writing time is before I get tired. Usually 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

I'm not a morning person. And I'm definitely not a night owl. I'm very good at sleeping, though. I like sleep. I wish I only needed four hours of sleep a night, like Mary.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Camy,

I'm all over the place when it comes to best time to write, but I have noticed that when I am closing in on the end of a book, I have no problem whatsoever writing ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT until about five in the morning. My husband calls it the zombie stage of my writing, so I think it's more the fact that I'm racing toward the end of a book rather than the time that I am doing it.


Pamela Mason said...

If I can't sleep & manage to fling off the covers to get out of bed, I'm great with the words! I notice that once the radio/alarm goes off, then the morning silence dissolves into noisenoisenoisenoise, & my writing suffers. My head fills with every distraction possible, including thoughts that I could & should be doing something more productive.
I think I'll try your suggestion & take note of productivity at different time periods. Thank you!

Lindsey said...

I haven't been able to find my best writing time yet!
I'm trying though I have a feeling I would work better at night.
But I do know that I need to be totally alone and every thing has to be absolutely quiet!:)

Mary Connealy said...

I wrote late into the night to save my sanity for years. I have terrible insomnia.
I still write in the afternoons and evenings mostly. I spend the mornings doing marketing, bloggins, all the other jobs of writing.
But I've found that I need to step away from it the last hour or two before I go to sleep. Writing is very energizing to me, gets my mind buzzing. So if I don't get away from it I'm NEVER going to sleep.

Casey said...

My best writing time is about 9 to 11 in the morning. I have found that if I work on my blogs in the early morning, write, then get all my chores/ enjoyment activities in the afternoon. :)

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I write best mid morning after coffee and blog surfing. I did way to much bog surfing today and not enough writing ooops.

Myra Johnson said...

Interesting to read all the different writing habits, and nice to know there are other writers who also find the afternoons more productive.

Like Mary, I prefer to get the "busy work" of writing and life in general out of the way during the morning hours. That way, all that stuff isn't nagging me to get it done when I'm ready to work on my wip.

So my "normal" (and that is ALWAYS a relative term) weekday routine is to have breakfast with hubby, read the paper, do a couple of crossword puzzles to get the brain in gear, spend an hour or so on devotions and journaling, fire up the Wii Fit for 30 minutes or so, warm up the computer with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and favorite blogs, and take care of any other errands, etc., that need doing.

Then after lunch I open up my wip and get to work. I stick with it till at least 5:30 or 6:00 and then call it a day. Also like Mary, I can't let myself work into the evenings or I'd never get to sleep.

Laura Frantz said...

Wonderful post, Camy. I chuckled at the Alaska comment as I suffer from the same sitting in my writing chair day after day:) One of the hazards of the job, I guess!
I'm a bit like Julie with writing time - all over the place. My preference is 5am-noon but I have to squeeze homeschooling and house stuff in there (which sometimes doesn't get done). I long for a quiet, clean house with reams of paper and pens and a laptop that never breaks down!

Vince said...

Hi Camy:

I’m on Spiritual time: when the spirit moves me, I write. Nothing beats Spirit time.

Actually, there is a big difference between ‘the best writing time’ and ‘the best time to write’. These are often not the same. If you’re in the zone, that is the best time to write even when it is also the worse of writing times. (“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”)

Catch the wave. Ride the wave. Be the wave.

A book in three weeks? That’s warp speed. What does time mean at that speed? Any faster would be time travel.

I am curious by your comment, “I write best between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., Pacific Standard time” I assume this means that if you were visiting New York, you’re best writing time will be between 2 am and 6 am EST.

As Mr. Spock would say: “Fascinating”.


Sarah Forgrave said...

A book in three weeks? Wow! This best-writing-time thing is something I need to figure out!

I haven't done any official observation, but in general, it seems my brain and fingers get in sync around late-afternoon. The only problem is that's the time I have to pick up my son from daycare and make dinner (We eat early in our house).

So if I'm ever in a bind, I'll just put my hubby in charge of the house and see if I can crank out my own book in 3 weeks. :-)

Myra Johnson said...

Vince, if some of us wrote only "when the spirit moved us," we might never finish our books!

I'll never forget a Robin Lee Hatcher workshop I attended several years ago. She said writers have to treat writing like a "real job." If you had an office job, you'd have to be there and do the work whether you were in the mood to do accounting or type letters or do inventory or whatever.

So if you want to succeed as a writer, you have to give writing the same commitment.


Vince said...

Hi Mary:

You wrote:

“Writing is very energizing to me, gets my mind buzzing. So if I don't get away from it I'm NEVER going to sleep.”

This is also true for me when I am writing romantic comedy. When the funny stuff flows the writing actually entertains me so much that I don’t want it to stop. It’s like watching a TV show. I just wonder: where is this stuff coming from and how much of it is there?

Sometimes I can feel a similar flow when reading your writing. The words read as if they were popping into existence fully formed requiring no editing and I think, “She had to have had a lot of fun writing this passage.

When the writing process entertains you as a writer, what a joy that is.


Helen Gray said...


Since retiring I've developed some nocturnal habits.

I tend to do most of my writing--get my daily page quota--during the afternoon and evening. Then I spend time at the computer and read after it's late and totally quiet.


Vince said...

Hi Myra:

I wrote advertising to daily deadlines for a decade. Sometimes you have to give your spirit a good kick in the pants. This really motivates a sleepy, lazy, spirit.

A professional just has to be proactive with these spirits. They’re no different than anyone else. Don’t be a lazy spirit enabler. Tough love works best.


Erica Vetsch said...

My best time is between noon and four pm. Which works out good because school and bookkeeping take up the mornings, and family and fun are for the evenings. :)

Holly Rutchik said...

I'm with you! 10pm -2am! Best time!! I think it is because everything is done for the day, the kids are in bed and I finally feel like the "rest" of the day is "mine"
But, even when I was 11 I was up all night reading, so I think we were just made that way!

Tracy Krauss said...

For years, while my childrn were young, I looked forward to their afternnon nap time, which was really my only time for writing - about 3 hours per day. Now that they are all grown up and I am working full time as a teacher, I find that evenings (sometimes into the wee hours work best). My biggest time for writing though is my summer holiday. It is a wonderful big CHUNK which I take advantage, starting at around 10 am each day until the wee hours ... I'm sort of compulsive that way, and find it hard to quit once started. Not too balanced, I know, but that's me.

Debby Giusti said...

Camy, thanks for providing such a fun post today!!! I've enjoyed learning when others write.

I'm best in the early morning. Love to get up really early when I'm on deadline, although often I have to stay up late, as well, to keep on schedule. The adrenalin kicks in and I'm pumped.

But I am freshest in the AM. Afternoon's can drag if I'm at the computer. After dinner, I sometimes get another spurt of energy.

Merrillee said...

I'm with you. Late night is my most productive time to write.

Camy Tang said...

lapetus--ROFL! Yes, I tend to be uber productive during NaNoWriMo, too.

Tina--do you mean 10pm -2 am too?

Keli--Busted! We should form a night owl productivity group. :)

Tina--LOL too true! Or else they're just up super early. I also had to be productive in short bursts when I was working in biology, because I'd have random time here and there to get stuff done, but I didn't always get good stuff done, unfortunately.

Nicola--You can work both in the afternoon and late at night? I wish I could!

Debra--I'm trying to shift my schedule to those times instead, but my brain isn't keeping with the program!

Janet--no wonder you're so full of energy at those writing conferences! You're always so perky. I don't really get my energy until evening.

Rose--that's too bad! Can you take a late lunch and write for an hour?

Sandra--I'm easily distracted, too! That's one reason I do so well late at night, b/c there aren't as many distractions.

Glynna--You know, considering I get a bit of seasonal depression, I'm surprised I don't write during the day very well. I can relate to being tired at the end of the day, though. I always felt that way after coming home from biology work, but I'd usually find my second wind just when it was supposed to be time for me to go to bed!

Melanie--I hear you! I could have majored in sleep in college. :)

Julie--LOL Zombie stage? That's so true! I can usually write more near the end of the book, too.

Pamela--I hope it works out for you and that you can find a great writing time!

Lindsey--I'm the same way, I need absolute quiet, too!

Mary--Wow, I didn't realize you wrote later in the day. I kind of assumed you were like Ruthy and wrote early.

Casey--good for you! I'd have a hard time not doing my chores and stuff first b/c I'd get too easily distracted!

Myra--You're so disciplined! I totally need some of that!

Laura--Writing is tough when you have homeschooling, too! As for my behind, it's still big, but I've been standing at my desk rather than sitting lately, which I think has helped my behind not expand exponentially. :)

Vince--yes, I've been known to not shift gears in different time zones. When I visited my friend Danica in Colorado, I was still writing between 10-2 PST and staying up way too late.

Sarah--sometimes we can't hit our best writing time every day but only during certain times when we coordinate with the rest of the family, so don't feel bad if you can't hit it all the time. But if you do need an extra productivity boost, definitely give it a shot!

Myra--Thanks for that! I like Robin's words on that. Helps me determine to be more disciplined!

Helen--that's great you've found your "sweet spot" and can hit it!

Vince--LOL tough love indeed!

Erica--that's awesome! And it's true, I tend to see you tweeting about your writing in the afternoons.

Holly--I would stay up all night reading too!!!!!!

Tracy--You're a lot like Cheryl Wyatt, she takes advantage of whatever writing time she has, but she's best when there's a gigantic chunk of time she can write, doesn't matter what time of the day as long as it's several hours in a row of uninterrupted time!

Debby--I'm so jealous! I wish I was an early morning writer. :(

Merrillee--that's cool! I totally didn't know that about you!


MJ said...

I've always been a night owl. Even when I had to get up at 4am (that was crazy) for a job, I still was up all night and read all night as a kid even though the bus came at 6am. I think one commenter said night seems right because its the end of the day, the family's in bed and the night is MINE!

Now, if I don't putter around, I write from 930-midnight or if I'm on a roll 1am. Then I shower and go to bed and usually, the next scene will come to me there, but since it's so late, I just get up and record my thoughts on my voice recorder so I can go to sleep.

2am, I'm betting, would be a great time for me, but my toddler gets up at 7-8am and she already has to work at dragging me from bed, so I can't justify staying up any later, unfortunately.

Tina said...

I am an early morning type, although I try to write several hours a day. If I don't get those words in early, the whole writing day goes bad.

Mia said...

I've found that I write best about an hour after I get up. It doesn't really matter if I get up at 4:00 or 8:00. About an hour after waking, I seem to be really creative and awake enough to do something about it :)

I'm also a night owl though, so I like writing anywhere from 9:00-midnight. Past that, I'm too tired to write clear sentences! LOL. After posting this comment, I plan to work on my WIP and it's nearly 11:00 PM where I live, so I guess I can prove my point :)

It's definitely interesting reading about everyone's writing habits :)

lynnrush said...

Great post.

My best time to write?

Most of the time it's right after a big workout and I usually workout in the mornings, so I'd have to vote for then.


If an idea hits, I'll start writing whenever and not stop until I get out what I was to get out. :-) So, I've been up 'til 2am writing as well...

I'm kinda driven by the story/ideas, is what I'm trying to say, I guess. LOL.

Pepper Basham said...

Hey Camy,
My best time?
Right now. No one's screaming for me, supper is in the oven, the laundry's done, and my lecture is prepared for the next day. Ask me in five minutes and I'll probably have a differen answer ;-)

Seriously, my best writing time is from 10-12 at night. It's usually my ONLY writing time :-) Occassionally I'll sneak in other moments, but kids are way too much fun to miss and work HAS to happen.

Tina Pinson said...

Yep Camy,

I find the the late pm to early morning hours (10pm to 2am) are wonderful for my imagination. My husband thinks they're awful.

Camy Tang said...

MJ--I get scenes in the shower too! It's always after I've been writing and I need to go to bed so I shower but my brain can't shut off! I do what you do, I just write it down and then try to pick it up again the next day.

Tina, we cannot be friends anymore. (Just kidding! ;)

Mia--Wow I'd like to be able to do that! I couldn't write when I get up to save my life.

Lynn--I also will write whenever an idea hits me, but half the time they're when I'm in bed. Aargh I hate that. Hubby got me a glow in the dark pen so I can write on a notebook I keep under my side of the bed for late night ideas.

Pepper, with kids I can imagine it's even harder! I'm so impressed by all you get done!


Camy Tang said...

Tina P--my husband too!!!!!

Sherrie Lord said...

9:00 PM to 3:00 AM. I sleep until 10:00 or 11:00 AM.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Best time is late-night like you. I'm a night owl but have a family so writing at night isn't always an option.


Camy Tang said...

Sherrie and Cheryl, my late-night sisters! I will think of you when I'm up at 3 am writing. :)

BK said...

I'm a 4a riser unless it's one of those freezing 50/60 degree mornings (hey, to an Arizonan, that IS cold!) So 5-6a is good for me. Most productive time in terms of page output have traditionally been my 2 breaks and lunch at work. However in the last couple years with the financial crunch have had to give up my lunchtime writing session to go home and let the dog out in lieu of a pet sitter. Haven't had the same kind of productivity since.

Still working to establish my new "best time". Evenings are never good. By the time the highly stressful day job has finished chewing me up and spitting me out, my brain shuts down. Have often wished I WAS an evening writer!

April W Gardner said...

Hi Camy! You make me sleepy just reading about your midnight hours!My best writing time is whenever I can manage to string more than a few minutes together. It's take 'em or leave 'em around here!

Missy Tippens said...

I say I'm a testimony that you can change. And I guess life situations dictate it.

I started out when my now 15-year-old was an infant. I wrote at night after everyone was in bed (except for said infant who nursed every 2 hours, so I typed with one hand!). Way back then, and through till about the time I sold in 2007, I wrote my best starting about 11pm. I'd usually write till about 3-4 am. No distractions! It was perfect.

But now I'm getting, ahem, older. :) And it's harder to stay up late. But I'm also not teaching anymore, so I've learned to focus my writing time during the day while my kids are at school. I did it out of necessity, and it's worked great. Now I see the kids off to school,eat, drink coffee, watch a bit of GMA, check a blog if I have one that day, then jump in to write about 9 am. I work, sometimes through lunch, until I have to shower so I don't embarrass my kids when I pick them up about 3:30 pm. :) And then I do email and such at night. (Well, that's the goal. I usually check during the day because I can't resist.)

Great post, Camy!

piratequeen said...

Hi there,
My best time is usually 9pm-12am but due to scheduling conflicts, I've also starting working at about 6pm and try to squeeze in some at lunch time 12pm.But I have always been a late night writer.

Georgiana said...

I'm not sure I have a "best" time. I suppose it's late into the evening because I don't feel like I should be doing something else. Now that I think about it, it WOULD be late at night, like you, except for the fact I have to get up early with the kids. If left to my own biological clock, I'd get cranking around 10. The other night I stayed up super late, but the next day I took two naps. TWO!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Wow three weeks!?!

And I though I did well with 4 months LOL.

My best time has always been mornings - mainly because that's the only time I had.

I just may try your exercises and see if I can do better/differently.

Great advice.

Camy Tang said...

BK, I think it's fabulous you can get up early to write! (and yes, I will concur, 50/60 IS DARN COLD!! :)

April--I can imagine! That's like Kristin Billerbeck, she's gotten really good at just being able to write in 10-15 minute increments because often that's all she had during the day. But she wrote several full novels that way!

Missy that is so fascinating! So that means there's hope for me, yes? :)

Piratequeen--sounds like me! I'd stay up until 1 or 2 but have to get up at 7 or 8 for work, depending on what procedures we had to do that day. But I just couldn't get up early to write. I'd either not get up when the alarm went off or I'd stare comatose at the computer screen for an hour.

Georgiana--Naps are VASTLY underrated! ;)

Pamela--I did try exercising and it was great when I was in brainstorming mode, but for pure writing, it didn't really help me write any better or be able to switch my writing time schedule, unfortunately.


Roxo said...

I am a night person. I usually write my best beginning in late afternoon until I drop asleep on the desk. I didn't try writing in early morning but i believe it might work, it does with maths, anyway.