October 18, 2011
What’s Your Time?
Clock feature on Wells Cathedral
It is said that the closer the brain is to the sleeping state, the more creative it is. For this reason, many writers keep their notepad by their beds and make sure that the very first thing they do when they open their eyes each morning, is write.
The resultant notes are called “morning pages”. Morning pages might contain what a writer remembers of their dreams or perhaps the writer will simply jot down the very first words that come to mind that day. Some writers say that this exercise helps them ‘slip’ more easily into what writers’ call the “rapture” when a writer feels ideas are pouring into their mind from elsewhere.
Just as the waking moments are a bridge from the sleeping state into sober reality – the hour before you go to bed is often a creative time with the brain slipping into that semi conscious state. Hence there are plenty of writers who write late at night.
And just to show that there are no rules, there are other writers who find their most productive hours are in the middle of the day when all of life’s busyness is in full swing (the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling is a good example. She wrote her first book in a busy Edinburgh café).
So, I guess the point is that different times of the day work for different people and it is really of no consequence whether you are a morning, day or night writer. What is important is that you write and that you find your ideal writing time. Experiment. Find what works for you and then set an hour aside each day at that time and write. Likewise, writers have very personal tastes regarding an environment conducive to writing. There are those who like music or TV buzz in the background and those who can only write in silence. Find whatever works for you.
From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022.
Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer.
Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series.
Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
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October 18th, 2011 at 19:35
for me it is just as I am going to sleep which is funy because in an effort to avoid disturbing my hubby I slide out of bed and walk all the way to the study, do the note and go back, ooops here comes another bit – out of bed, through to the study, jot the note, back to bed, – here comes another – he he I guess it’s all exercise anyway
October 18th, 2011 at 19:38
hahaha, I like the concept- fitness via jottings.
October 18th, 2011 at 19:58
And with my love of puns, I immediately jump to jottings = jobbings. 🙂
October 18th, 2011 at 19:59
Oops, . “Joggings” (blushes)
October 18th, 2011 at 19:43
I have done Morning Pages for 14 years now, ever since reading The Artist’s Way. It’s like brushing my teeth, and gives me a nice warm-up.
As for my regular writing, which is separate from Morning Pages, I prefer mid- to late morning, after I’ve done my physical exercise. Some days that doesn’t work in my schedule, and I move it to afternoon, which also works fine. As long as I get my work done before the 4:00 p.m. witching hour, when I turn to mush for a few hours, I’m good.
October 18th, 2011 at 20:04
Hi Nadine, thanks for sharing this with us. I haven’t read the Artist’s Way yet, though it’s been mentioned here a few times and I plan to get round to it soon. I understand it’s an inspiring read. I’m becoming more of a morning person, but I have to admit, I took my time coming round to that way f thinking…Thanks for commenting
October 18th, 2011 at 19:57
I’m a dual writer I suppose. I enjoy writing late at night best but since I now have the dreaded 9-5 job, I have had to adjust to write during the early evening. I’m still able to reach my desired daily wordcount but I do miss my late night writing marathons.
October 18th, 2011 at 20:06
Yes,I know, it’s the ideal really as we often can’t afford to write during our ‘ideal’ time slot, can we… those pesky jobs keep getting in the way! Oh that it weren’t so… Thanks for the comment!
October 18th, 2011 at 20:56
This discussion about finding times of day conducive to writing led me straight away to thinking about the way varying times of day are related to varying states of consciousness, and so on to considering varying states of consciousness as a whole. Changes of consciousness intimately affect our thoughts and so our writing process. After all, how many writers have admitted that they deliberately employed drugs (and I include alcohol as a drug here, of course) to enhance/facilitate their creativity? Not ignoring that, if badly managed, there can of course be serious drawbacks to this type of approach, there is a whole range of intoxicants that at least temptations.
Perhaps, as with fire, we are looking at something which can be a good servant as well as a bad master. I suspect few of those who read this are teetotallers and several us us probably like to compose with a glass of wine, or whatever, at hand. On the other hand, I know from experience that the creative tap sometimes starts to flow for no apparent reason, while sometimes discipline and routine are required to produce success.Then again, sometimes a little drop of what you fancy hits the creative spot, while sometimes the muse is just too pooped to party. As ever, I bow to her sovereignty and go with the flow.
ALSO: seeing the clock from Wells brought back some happy memories . Thank you.
October 19th, 2011 at 23:50
Your comment made me think of the journalist’s mantra “drink and ink”
October 19th, 2011 at 23:55
October 18th, 2011 at 21:38
I certainly wish that I’d had a notepad beside the bed recently. I’d enjoyed (if that’s quite the right term) a particularly vivid ‘horror’ dream, that when ‘analysed’ as I lay there after waking, seemed to hang together well enough for a story. I even told my wife about it. But by breakfast time it had all slipped away. How I cursed silently: Who knows, It might have been my Harry Potter moment – or at least a Buffy the Vampire Slayer moment.
October 19th, 2011 at 23:49
I think Mary Shelly dreamed of Frankenstein…
October 19th, 2011 at 23:56
So the story goes …
October 18th, 2011 at 22:37
thanks for ‘following’ my blog, sue. i have spent a few nights in waterford and am pretty sure my family came from wexford. it is beautiful, waterford.
anyway, i never really kept such a log except for a period in my life when i had kne reconstruction. the pain meds asured that i slept a lot and i noticed that the more i selpt, the more i seemed to fream, so i started writing all i could recollect of the dreams. some of them are pretty wild to look back at, when i see all the images i detailed…even down to the appearance of the three stooges in one of them! i am a night owl and i seem to get creative spurts at about 1-4am…more ideas and phrases for things to work on when i am less tired but sometimes i really brainstorm, like making lists of 15 or 20 blog topics for the future or articles i want to pitch. workwise, i seem to do best if i just get up, make coffee and commence to writing. the biggest thing for me is the first sentence. if i can stop the procrastination enough to jot down the first line, i often end up with a whole chapter at once, which has been lurking in my subconscious, waiting to come out…that’s how it feels, at least.
October 19th, 2011 at 23:48
It’s a small world, Michael. And the internet makes it so much smaller. I like how you use your time – if I’d had that pain, I probably would have wasted the time feeling sorry for myself.
October 19th, 2011 at 00:45
I guess you could say my writing time is like bookends: I always get my best writing done either in the morning, after I’ve woken up and settled in with some coffee, or at night, before I go to bed, when I wind down about an hour before turning out the light. My perfect writing day starts with writing and ends with it as well! It works out perfectly; work and other things get wedged in between, but the writing becomes the support for my entire day.
October 19th, 2011 at 23:47
That sounds like a sensible routine Ellis. Wish I was just as flexible, and disciplined.
October 19th, 2011 at 13:29
I write a lot when I am in a Taxi and when I have just returned from work,simply around the evening hours but I also jot down some notes whenever a thought knocks my mind. I have not found a particular time I call mine for writing.i just write,write,write and write!
October 19th, 2011 at 23:46
You are lucky you can write on the move. I need silence and stillness. I envy cafe writers.
October 24th, 2011 at 17:37
I find that I’m most creative at nights while the other members of the family are doing quiet (and ..uh, not so quiet) activities all around me, and also during the day at the points where there is a lot of noise and activity buzzing by … like on the bus, in the food court at the mall, or in the front passenger seat driving through the city with my mom. I get my inspiration for new creative works from the things that happen around me, so I find the quiet morning hours aren’t so great when I need ideas. They’re better for expanding on a story or piece I’ve already started. If I’m stuck on new ideas, I just gotta go where people are! 😀