If you’re working to create a regular writing practice, you’ve probably given some thought to one important question: When is the best time of day to write?
You’re a busy person. You want to get the most bang for your buck, so you’re curious when your brains are the most likely to come up with the best writing.
Lucky for you, the connection between your body clock and your creativity is something that scientists have studied.
And while this is something that continues to be studied, most agree: our creative brains are at their best in the mornings. (Sorry, nocturnal friends).
The concept of “morning pages” has gotten plenty of traction in recent years. This is the concept of writing longhand, first thing in the morning, for approximately three pages. The idea is to just get words on the page, regardless of whether they make sense or if they go together. (Think more “stream of consciousness,” and less editing).
The goal of morning pages is to get your creativity stimulated early on in the day. Science tells us that our prefrontal cortexes — the part of our brains responsible for creativity — are more active early in the day. So it makes sense to get into a routine that gets that piece of your brain firing to start the day. Ideally, you build off that early momentum throughout the rest of your day, and keep the creativity and words flowing.
Not to mention, much of creativity and writing is about willpower. It doesn’t take a scientific experiment to know that many of us struggle with sluggishness and lack of motivation as we slog our way through the late afternoon. So trying to squeeze in writing time during that mid-afternoon lull after lunch maybe isn’t always the best plan.
If you don’t consider yourself a morning person, there’s no need to retire your night owl habits just yet. Science also tells us that the analytical sides of our brains tend to be more active later in the day. So those late-night writing sessions might be the best time to better organize your thoughts, outline your structure, or edit your stream-of-consciousness pages from earlier in the day.
Still, no matter how many patterns scientific studies find, everyone is still different when it comes to when they perform and create the best. One author explains it this way: we’re all guided by an internal body clock, and we’re all essentially divided into three categories (“early-rising larks, night-dwelling owls, or somewhere in between”).
The most important part — especially at the beginning of your writing practice — is to figure out what works best for you. If you’ve known for decades that you can absolutely not function at 3 p.m. most days, even if that’s when you get a break from work, don’t put your writing time into that part of your schedule. If you’ve tried for years to write in the mornings and it just doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too!
Experiment with different patterns, and find what works for you. Maybe try mornings for a month, then evening time for the month after that. Which month produced the most words? Which month produced the best words?
If you need a little help to get going, don’t forget we send out a Monday Motivation writing prompt each week. We send it in the morning for all you larks to have available — but there’s no shame in opening it up later in the day if you’re a night owl.