Inspiration Engagement Pieces 2018-07-17 00:00

Are You a Night Owl or an Early Bird?


When is the best time to write—early in the morning or late at night? Or in other words, what kind of "fowl" are you: a night owl or an early bird?

Well, there are several schools of thought, but the universal agreement is:

  • Pick whichever time works best for you and STICK TO IT.
  1. Use others’ "fowl" routines to guide you
  2. Where to find other "fowl" routines
  3. How you can capitalize on your personal "fowl" routine
  4. Final thoughts

Use others’ "fowl" routines to guide you

I enjoy studying other writers’ process because it helps to inform how I might create my own. So I avidly consume posts that display writing routines of some of the best writers of our age and those from the past.

But it’s taken me several years to understand that what works for someone else doesn’t work for me. And by attempting others’ schedules, I’ve learned how to narrow my own approach down into a semblance of routine that fits.

My writing schedule changes with the seasons. I haven’t found too many others who adapt their schedules to the hours of daylight, but that’s what works best for me.

In the winter, I wake around 4:30am and get to work almost immediately. I find the cold mornings huddled around the fireplace the best time of day to crank out words.

But in the summer, I switch to a night owl. Everyone in my house sleeps in during the summer; kids are out of school, and my husband and I both work from home, so there’s no reason to get up early. I try to get up around 6:30am to get an early morning run in before the heat of the day descends. After working out, I try to get down to business, but rarely hit my writing stride until the afternoon.

In my years of scouring other writers’ routines, I have found no one who changes with the seasons. The majority stick to a specific schedule every single day regardless of how they feel and how motivated they are. They’ve identified if they’re a night owl or an early bird, and they make the most of it.

Where to find other "fowl" routines

Mayo Oshin did a fascinating study of "The Daily Routine of 20 Famous Writers (and How You Can Use Them to Succeed)" on Medium that everyone should read. The takeaway? Everyone has a different routine that works for him or her—regardless of who they are and how successful they’ve become.

What works for Stephen King doesn’t work for me. Nor does what worked for Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Maya Angelou, or Leo Tolstoy . But I could use their routines—and many others’—to find my own. I took several years to figure out what is best, but now I know, I stick to it religiously.

How you can capitalize on your personal "fowl" routine

Regardless if you’re an early morning riser or a late night writer, here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your best time to write.

1. Write every single day

Commit to writing every single day. Whatever your routine is, early bird or night owl, commit to writing for a certain amount of time or a number of words or pages. Then make sure you stick to it. No exceptions.

It’s OK to put your writing first. I know a lot of parents out there who feel guilty spending time on their writing when the kids are awake. So write after the kids go to bed or get up before they wake. But be consistent and get the writing done.

2. Minimize or eliminate distractions

Social media calling your name? Turn off wi-fi. Research taking you down rabbit holes? Shut down your browser. Focus instead on your work in progress. Save your non-creative endeavors for some other time and always make sure you stop with an idea in mind of where your story goes next.

What if you discover your best writing time is in the middle of the day when your toddler is at his most active? If you have a place in your home where you can hole up and someone else to watch the children, isolate yourself.

If you don’t, hire a babysitter and head to your local library or coffee house to write, whichever offers the least distractions. The key is to find out what works best for you—and STICK TO IT.

3. Set aside time for physical activity

Physical activity is just as important as your writing time. Many writers build in workouts during their days that help them clear their minds and face the grueling brain work needed for writing.

Try yoga, running, swimming, walking, taekwondo, hiking, bicycling, roller skating—whatever catches your fancy. If you like it enough, you’ll want to do it every day. Again—STICK TO IT.

4. Take regular breaks

Write solidly and without interruption for a predetermined amount of time and then take a 10-minute break. This helps clear your mind so you don’t get tunnel vision. You can come back to your work refreshed and with a whole new outlook.

One of the most famous methods for regular breaks is the Pomodoro Technique founded by Francesco Cirillo. You can learn more about it here and how to implement it for your own routine.

Final thoughts

What is your writing routine? Do you have a certain place and time you devote to your work? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and write whenever you have a free minute?

If you’re a seat of the pants-er, try figuring out whether you’re an early bird or a night owl. Then devise a set time to commit to your writing and STICK TO IT. If you haven’t figured it out by now, that’s really the only rule to creating your perfect routine.

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.