The Perks and Drawbacks of Night-Owl Writing


Goodnight, moon. And stop staring over my shoulder while I’m working.

By the time most of you read this, you’ll be awake for the day and I won’t. The average MCC entry goes live between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Eastern, depending on numerous factors. A large portion of my audience is asleep and won’t see the results till morning at the earliest. When it comes to feedback, I’ve had to learn to live with delayed gratification. Sometimes I have a fanciful nighttime daydream in which small crowds keep clicking “Refresh” and asking each other, “Is the next one up yet? How about now? Now? Now?” My life doesn’t quite work that way, so I have to wait a day for results, pacing back and forth inside my mind all the while.

I write almost exclusively at night, after everyone else in my time zone is asleep, shortly before I pass out myself. The MCC archives would reveal a minority of daylight entries (most of those on weekends) if the current blog template included time stamps. Part of the blame rests on my circadian clock, which has been set on “evening person” ever since my previous job, where I found myself scheduled and honed over time for night-shift work out of necessity. Thanks to years spent as a restaurant closer, mornings are anathema to me; evenings, I come alive. Afternoons vary.

From a quality-time standpoint, sequestering myself at day’s end allows more free time to spend with family or hobbies during sunlit hours or the early evening. At 11 p.m., no one complains that you’re ignoring their needs, not if you’re prioritizing the preceding hours correctly and emphasizing what matters most. I don’t always get it right, but I try to space my failures weeks apart.

Conversely, nighttime is also when outside distractions are at a minimum. All other household devices are turned off, other beings are asleep, and telemarketers don’t come a-callin’ quite so persistently. Few things knock an inspired train of thought off the rails harder than a poorly timed question or a sudden emergency. Studies show sleeping families have fewer emergencies and therefore fewer disgruntled writers than wide-awake families who demand Dad help them find the TV remote or settle an impromptu debate about which Marvel super-hero movie was best.

On weeknights I have to procrastinate writing until later because my day job is spent in front of a monitor. Following up an eight-hour computer day with even more consecutive hours’ worth of computer is, believe it or not, frequently not tempting. Some semblance of life needs to be lived apart from machines, or else the machines will be the only things defining my life. That way lies social media codependency and a shallow pool of writing topics.

This method has its downside. If my memory fails me or I need a second opinion, my best muse (a lovely morning person) is unavailable. If the day’s major news story inspires a line of thought that I think is worth chasing, odds are I’ve already been beaten to the punch by several million other bloggers. As mentioned above, reader response will be minimal till the following day, assuming MCC isn’t buried on the reading list below hundreds of other, timelier blogs.

Worst of all, if I’ve had a long day packed with activity from start to finish, I’m lucky if I have any energy left for writing time, without resorting to late-night snacking that will leave me a zombie in the morning after the effects wear off. Today was nearly such a day — errand-running, multiple task completion, a solo theater outing, and five-star dinner with delightful friends combined into one very enriching Saturday. After all that, though, I’m still faced with my nightly writing commitment for as long as I can maintain the schedule, come what may.

With the activities said and done, farewells recited, and no more chores remaining, it’s just me, this screen, and the moon shining down upon me and asking, “Is the next one up yet?”

Goodnight and shut up, moon.


11 responses

  1. Pingback: The Perks and Drawbacks of Night-Owl Writing « West Coast Review

    • Good afternoon from here, kind sir! I forget too easily that fellow writers span the full spectrum of time zones, in welcome defiance of the regretfully narrow perspective of this piece. I appreciate the reminder that in a true global community, one reader’s dusk is another’s dawn.


  2. “I write almost exclusively at night, after everyone else in my time zone is asleep, shortly before I pass out myself.” This is my habit as well. It’s impossible to write with kids running around during the day.


    • I had those days myself. Concentrating on writing was a lot harder when my son was littler. Now that he’s a senior on the verge of heading out into the world, we’re cool with giving each other more personal space, but the years I waited to reach this point required a lot of patience and workarounds…


  3. When I was in college, I would do daytime research, but would never start writing a paper until midnight before it was due. Now, I do my most creative work (my fiction) first thing in the morning. I write my post after lunch, then take a nap. I reserve evenings for reading and commenting on other blogs. I’ve settled into a nice routine. I hate to think, though, how it might get interrupted if I get a paying gig and have to work for a living.


    • I like the idea of having my writing and reading on an organized schedule like that. Now if only I could shrink the day-job time slot to a much, much smaller part of my day, that’d help me out tremendously. I can dream…


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