I have, at one time or another, both stayed up until and gotten up at every small hour of the morning.
The former of the two – the staying up late – seems to happen, or has happened, mostly in relation to a deadline of some sort, be it one of school or a self-imposed project with a time constraint (e.g. a homemade birthday gift for an out-of-town friend).
(I also recall, during university, having stayed up and out way late at some club, party, or other manner of social gathering, but those days, alas, are largely over now.)
My times of getting up obscenely early, meanwhile, are more so associated with places I need to get to on time: to work to set up for a special event; to the airport for an early flight; to make it first in line for the walk-in clinic.
Of the two possibilities – remaining up late or rising early – up late will always be my preference.
The same goes for when it comes to deciding when to do my writing – this both despite and in spite of the less-than-celebrated status of the nighttime writer.
Bright as day
There’s a certain esteem within the writing world associated with those who write in the morning compared to those who do so at night. This is further emphasized in those who get up very early – 4:00 or 5:00am – that 11:30pm/midnight/onward writers like myself never get to enjoy.
Morning writers are viewed as go-getters. They’re said to be starting the day off right – using the best and freshest of their energy to be creative.
They’re also are seen as sacrificing sleep and embracing the darkness of early morning in advance of a long day at work and/or with demanding children and spouses to live life the way a true artist should, i.e. in suffering.
Morning writers are always legitimized by articles and blog posts about their exemplary time management. Their success, these pieces seem to imply, is all but assured one day if for no better reason than the earnestness of their devotion and self-denial.
They are regularly reminded of and equated to famous writers, artists, inventors, thinkers, and other such influential people, both past and present, who also start(ed) each day by doing their craft.
Dark as night
How come those who write at night never receive that kind of love and admiration? How come no one ever writes about the gamblers, swindlers, and malcontents who also got up early?
Nighttime writers are seen as coming to their craft much too late in the day – after many long hours at work, after the kids and other home obligations – at a time when morning writers are much too spent for anything so important as the composing of deathless prose.
Nighttime writers aren’t celebrated. They aren’t seen to be giving up anything other than perhaps a night at the club or a binge session of Netflix, neither of which should they partake in anyway.
When praising famous daytime writers, people conveniently forget that those who lived prior to the modern era probably had to write when they did since the artificial lighting options of the past, depending on the era, ranged from monstrously expensive for the average person to blindness-inducing in the long term besides.
Early-morning writers and nighttime writers should have no problems relating to each other; surely, the very difference between the two is just a matter of semantics to begin with, for often enough, the night ends and the new day begins and the nighttime writer is just getting a second wind.
A nighttime writer’s embracing of darkness – which is no less dark than that of the early morning – isn’t applauded, however.
Night writers are seen as putting their craft last – as not really living the artistic ideal, but perhaps coming very close indeed to the vampiric ideal, subsisting on strong coffee, weak cigarettes, and broken dreams, bent over his/her desk with incredibly poor posture, scratching or tapping away furtively as if at work on a traitor’s confession.
I am, perhaps, exaggerating with that last bit.
But I am a nighttime writer and honestly feel I couldn’t be any other way without a drastic change to my lifestyle.
I see writing as something to look forward to over the course of the day.
It’s how I unwind after a long day at work, and my best ideas come both a) when I’ve had the day to mull them over while doing other things and b) when I translate these ideas to actual words in a slightly tired state.
Slightly tired, not bone-weary, it’s-so-early-I-don’t-think-this-is-good-for-my-heart, cold-as-death-in-winter tired.
Ultimately, the time of day one writes doesn’t matter so long as the writing actually occurs.
When do you write and/or do your other creative work: daytime or nighttime? Why does that time work best for you? Let me know in the comments.