“Night-time awakens a more alert chemistry in me.”
– Thomas Wolfe
I’ve always heard that writing in the morning is the only way to go. Many famous writers (including some of my favourites) do their best creative work during the day, often first thing when they wake up. But you don’t hear too much about those writers who choose to get their work done when the sun goes down, a routine that I’m slowly warming up to and starting to really enjoy. So I was happy to read about some of these night-writers in the book Odd Type Writers by Celia Blue Johnson.
Some authors write at night for pretty logical reasons, like Robert Frost who was scared of the dark: “I always wished we had two moons. To see ’em weaving in the sky, it’d be quite a sky.” Also, J.D. Salinger wrote at night with the help of a flashlight while under the covers. Sounds like he may have been scared of the dark, too.
Another good reason to write at night is because you’re busy during the day, like Fyodor Dostoyevsky who wrote at night after being in school all day. He’d sit under his blanket and write page after page while other students slept in their rooms. Joan Didion was busy working at Vogue during the day, so writing at night was her only option. William Faulkner actually had a pretty sweet little system going. He worked as a night supervisor at a power plant, but instead of sleeping on the job, he wrote. So his job was essentially paying him to write and then he got paid again when As I Lay Dying was published (which he finished writing in just six weeks!).
Writing at night means I can easily justify writing in bed, just like Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, and George Orwell. (Learn more about the advantages of writing in bed here.)
Franz Kafka liked to write at night. He said, “Only in this way can writing be done, only with such coherence, with such a complete opening of the body and the soul.”
So while I still stand by my morning writing ritual, I’m beginning to like the sound of a nightly writing ritual as well. I’m sure that I’ll occasionally fall asleep while typing, but that doesn’t sound so bad. Kind of like falling asleep while reading. Nothing wrong with that.