When Is a Good Time to Write?

Maybe you love writing; maybe you have to write; maybe both. If you feel called to write, the first thing you need to do is start writing. Some writers have estimated that a writer begins to be himself after 400,000 words. Yikes, right? Who has time for that? When am I supposed to write, especially if I work full-time? Here are some tips I’ve picked up from inspirational authors who’ve found time when there was no time.
1. Write just after you wake. The classic solution to finding writing time is waking up early. John Gresham woke up at 4:00 AM every morning to complete his opening novel, while working full time for a law firm. The real trick, I’ve found, is heading to bed on time. That’s where the discipline comes in. The great thing about writing in the morning is that you’re in touch with your subconscious. Most writers agree that their writing “sweet spot” is somewhere between sleep and awake.
2. Write for a long time. It takes a long time to get into a writing “flow”. I usually write all my blog posts in one day. I eek the first one out, stumble a little over the second, but by the time I get to the third and fourth words come much more easily.
3. Write just before sleep. J.R.R. Tolkien completed LOTR over many, many years, mostly writing just before bed. If you absolutely cannot wake up early – and some are genetically programmed that way, I assure you – write just before bed.
4. Write after a “creative” nap. Salvador Dali is famous for his “creative naps” (okay, so he’s more famous for his art). He would sit in his chair with a pair of keys in his left hand, held above a glass plate. When he fell asleep, his keys would hit the plate and wake him back up – to him, this was perfect creative consciousness. If you can fit in a little nap in the middle of the day, consider taking the rest of your lunch break to write – that’s how J.K. Rowling complete most of Harry Potter (even though the folk-tale about writing the story on napkins in a coffee shop for lack of paper money isn’t true…sorry).
5. Write when You’re Inspired. Never miss an opportunity to take hold of inspiration. If you’re feeling in the mood to write, don’t put it off. Your brain is telling you that it’s got something to say. Sit down and write your heart out – don’t wait until your “writing time”, and never wait until “tomorrow”.
6. Write Daily. Honestly, the best way to become a better writer and write productively is by writing daily. This way, you don’t have to wait 45 minutes to get in a “flow”. Train your brain to be creative at a certain time every day, and eventually the flow comes quickly.

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11 Comments

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  • Adriana

    Great tips Nick. Since I have five young children, I normally wake up to write and read at 5AM. This is the only time of day when I’m certain to have a stretch of silence which lasts more than, say, 5 mins! AND I’m not frazzled!

    Going to bed on time is key. That’s true.

    • nmcdonal

      Wow, Adriana! That’s really impressive. Do you write for your blog only, or do you do other writing as well?

      • Adriana

        I’m reading through a long list of classics that’s going to take about 15 yrs to complete. I write a summary for each chapter I read and I work on blog posts. I hope to write more when my children are older. Thank you for asking, Nick.

  • jeff Beard

    Nick, Good stuff. thanks. I get up about 4am, and then write as the extension of time in prayer and the scriptures. Mind is fresh, alive, and full of thoughts about God. The mind is best before it is spent.

    • nmcdonal

      Wow, Jeff – 4 AM?? That’s amazing. I sometimes do see writing as an extension of my personal devotion time. Getting my thoughts on paper almost always brings spiritual clarity.

      • jeff Beard

        I think that I inherited one of those ‘little-sleep’ genes. : ) The early morning is without question the best time of the day. Nothing like it. It is also easier when you’re an Empty-Nester.

        • nmcdonal

          Luck you, Jeff! I think I inherited one of those “If I get little sleep I’ll kill someone” genes. Too bad for my inner writer.

  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    My best time to write is whenever I can snatch the time to write. Tautological perhaps, but true. Early mornings won’t work, because my wife and I get up to do prayers together and then we each work out. (My alarm goes off at 4:20. She’s up earlier.) Evenings might work, if it weren’t for the fact that my brain is often fried by then. Snatches of writing time during the day are about all I have. If I do a longer post, you can bet that I’ve either done it over a couple of sessions of writing, or I’ve been able to grab a lengthy stretch for some reason.

    • nmcdonal

      It’s amazing that you’re so consistent, Tim. 4:20? I feel like such a wimp.

      • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

        Don’t. I go to bed before most toddlers.

  • jeff Beard

    That is my secret also. My kids used to snicker at their mom and I for retiring early each evening. Now? They are doing the same. My writing weakness is: focus. I get distracted too easily, or chase a new idea that pops up before finishing the task at hand. I need the extra time in the mornings just to get something done. Life is fun.