Science tells us that we’re driven by cycles, which I believe impacts our creativity. Although we can force ourselves to do almost anything, I think we do our best work at specific times of the day. For me, it’s morning. From about 6am to noon I do my best writing.
After that I can do email, phone calls, meetings, or other work related tasks, but for my best writing, it has to be in the morning. Last week in London, I picked up the book “For Writers Only” by Soppy Burnham. She ran down the list of times of day when a number of great creators were at their peak:
Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote at night.
William Faulkner claimed he wrote only when it rained.
Anthony Burgess wrote in the afternoon, when, for him at least, “the unconscious mind has a habit of asserting itself.”
Aldous Huxley put in three or four hours of writing before noon, and Tolstoy, Henry Miller, and Thomas Mann likewise all preferred to write from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Flannery O’Connor, afflicted with lupus, would write only two hours a day – always at the same time in the same place.
Deciding your best time of day is to discover when you’re at your creative best. I find most creative people like to work either early in the morning or late at night. A smaller number prefer the afternoon. Certainly our work schedules, families duties, and day jobs will impact the time we write, and truthfully, we can adapt to almost anything.
Early on, I knew I was better in the morning, so I wrote my first couple of books coming into the office two hours before anyone else arrived.
Finding the right time does two things: First, it catches you at your creative best. And two, (perhaps even more important) it helps establish a creative rhythm for your life that keeps you working regularly.
So don’t copy others. What’s important is that it’s the right time for YOU. Think about it. When have you done your best work in the past?
Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com.