When Do I Write?

The conversation continues in the comments field of my last post, “Why do I write? Because…” That post was inspired by the process of writing a guest post for the blog She Started It. I’m flattered that Anjali Enjeti invited me to appear on her great blog. She asked me to answer a seemingly simple question: “When do you write?”

That’s a sensitive question for me right now, as I am working on building a creative-writing life around a new full-time job. You can read my answer here.

Why don’t we continue last week’s conversation about writing below. When do you write?

45 thoughts on “When Do I Write?

      1. She Started It

        It was my pleasure, Patrick. This conversation has helped me to hone in on my own strengths and weaknesses as far as when I write.


  1. Okay, I’ll bite. It’s an interesting question.

    I write whenever I have poetry in my head, whether it’s an image, a line, a single word, an idea. If it appears in my brain I have to write it down. Two nights ago, I had just gone to bed, a train whistled, an idea floated through, I swore, got up and wrote the idea down. And, then a line or two.

    If I am dry, I go back through my notebooks and jot notes here and there, so that my brain is always thinking in terms of writing and poetry. I keep a notebook in the car and in a purse if I am traveling.

    It was a whole lot harder when I worked full-time. The energy I needed for job and poetry was immense and got harder and harder to find. I reached a point for about three years when I had no energy left to give to my poetry. I became pretty desperate with the need to write and my husband and I decided we could get along with me retired from paid work.

    When do I write? Always, whenever, anytime.



        1. I mentioned in a post the other day a favorite anecdote, that Thoreau kept a notebook under his pillow, to capture those fleeting middle-of-the-night thoughts. So you both are in good company!


  2. This changes all the time for me and depends what I’m working on. Right now my preferred rhythm is writing by hand in a journal with coffee every morning before I start my work – and then throughout the day whenever something needs to be released through my pen. If I’m working on a major project I push everything else aside as much as possible, become quite anti-social and spend insane amounts of time on my writing.


    1. Hi Milli! I love this: “If I’m working on a major project I push everything else aside as much as possible, become quite anti-social and spend insane amounts of time on my writing.”

      I think every creative can relate to those moments of being anti-social. But really it’s about needing to spend one-on-one time with our muse, right?


  3. I go to the library right after work to catch 30 minutes to an hour before dinner, and I write during naptimes on the days I’m home with my baby.

    But I get all my best ideas in the shower! It must be the ions.


    1. That is fantastic discipline, Jeannie, hitting the library each day. And as for the shower, that is also your subconscious at work. A recent book titled Imagine talks about this; showering is one of the few times in the day we can’t be tempted by distraction, such as a smartphone. Our brain is forced to just sit there, so that’s when all of those ideas we were ignoring can bubble up. Many an Artist’s Road post was born in the shower!


  4. dignitarysretreat

    Programming yourself to “write” in your sleep is a technique that has worked for me, as well. I often find that once I have made the decision to practice my writing, the ideas to come to me during other, mindless activities and then, which I sit down at the computer, the words flow easily. As Patrick said, a bit like dictation…An important element to “when” to write has to do with my mood–if I’m distracted or drained by some other part of my life, the writing energy evaporates.


    1. Always good to hear of another “programming” writer!

      Ah, mood. Yes, that’s a good point to bring up. I’m working on trying to find a firewall for my muse, so I can protect her from the stresses of life–the day job, bills, issues with the kids. I am not always successful. But it’s important that we forgive ourselves when we fall short there, as well, and recognize that there may be times when the writing energy simply isn’t there.


  5. Melissa Marsh

    When do I write…strangely, I define that as writing my novel, which is bizarre, considering I have a lot of freelance writing projects.

    I usually do the bulk of my writing on the weekend, when I have all day long to putter away. I also will write a few nights during the week.

    Writing with a day-job is challenging, to be sure, but completely do-able.


  6. Great post over there, Patrick. I recently gave a very similar answer as a guest interview for Judy Clement Wall over at Zebra Sounds. I, too, believe creativity is a muscle and that writing daily makes writing easier than waiting for inspiration to strike. When I’m in the midst of a project (novel, usually), I have a minimum word count of anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 words a day — although what time of day I sit down to get that done varies greatly for me.


    1. Ah, J, yes, I’m a fan of hers, and like Zebra Sounds. She’s never invited ME to be interviewed! 🙂

      Kudos for setting a word count. I have not done that for each day, per se, but I have a timeline with days that certain sections or drafts must be done. I track it on a white board that dominates one wall of my writing space.


  7. I find I’m at my best first thing in the morning. I’m usually up by 6am most days and as the house is nice and quiet, it’s a perfect time. In the summer I’ll often sit in the garden just after sunrise and listen to the birds while I write 🙂



        1. I lived in England for a few months in the 1980s. I arrived in late August and thought “Wow, look at all of this sun!” It disappeared around mid-September, and pretty much literally, since I’d get up at noon, and it would already be overcast. I remember cycling home to my basement flat one November afternoon when the sun slipped through the clouds. I had sunglasses I hadn’t worn in months, and I wanted to wear them, just to have the experience. I had moved from the Arizona desert, so let’s just say I noticed the difference! Yes, if I lived in England now, I would be outside whenever it was sunlight.

          (And I guess I should note that I wasn’t always a morning person; during that time I woke up at noon and stayed up until 4 or 5 am. So we can change!)


            1. The U.S. Mid-Atlantic isn’t always sunny. But it’s beautiful right now–sunny and about 68 degrees F–and I’m inside at my computer. I can see the sun outside, though; does that count? 🙂


  8. ikelobidike

    My most productive writing time is at night. When I am writing a novel (I am about to start one now), I tend to write through the night! I am not a morning person hence I do most of my reading then.


  9. jolinapetersheim

    Really enjoyed this post, Patrick. Once Baby Girl is sleeping through the night, I would like to write late at night again after she’s fallen alseep or early in the morning before she wakes up. Until then, though, I am having to snatch little moments of personal writing time, and it is training me to switch the creativity on or else the time is wasted. Which I hate, since there is so little of it in a 24 hour day.


    1. Jolina, great to see you again! Yes, the challenge of finding time to eat, shower, sleep, let alone write, with Baby Girl in the house. In my Creative Flux personal essay, I wrote about how I used to write sometimes while my daughter slept; I’d sit beside her crib and scribble away (I’m a bit older than you, laptops were not common then!).

      Go easy on yourself if you find your mind a little too frazzled to create, even if you carve out a moment. And enjoy every moment of your time with Baby Girl!


  10. I get up at 5am to write. I usually need to start work by 9, but early morning is also when I’m sharpest, and it seems to be a magical hour for me; the world is less distracting, no phones ringing, oursides noises are far away and muted. Sometimes, if I get the time, I write later in the day as well, but I’m usually too tired by then, even if the time is there, the inclination often is not.


    1. We’re on the same schedule; I woke up at 4:50 am this morning, but I’ll confess I was at my day job by 7:30, so I cheated my writing time a bit. And as I said to ikelobidike above, later in the day I usually only have the energy to read (although I hope to write a little tonight, because my MFA deadline is approaching). All told, our schedules are in sync, Cynthia.


  11. I’m a really undisciplined writer. I’m retired, and I putter around a lot, watering flowers, scrubbing the kitchen counter, and deliberately not writing. At some point, usually late morning or early afternoon, the critical mass of guilt and creativity reaches the point where I pick up my pen or turn on my computer. Once I’ve got my fingers going, I can work for several hours, but it’s the getting started that’s hard.


    1. Anne, you sound like every creative there is! I would argue you are still creating while you putter, water, scrub. That’s why, when you actually start, the words flow; you’ve been lining them up, readying them to march, while engaging in other activities. See, you are disciplined!


  12. Fancy meeting you here, Anne! (Anne is a great writer, btw — and told me about your blog). I’m also undisciplined in the following way: I have no set writing schedule. An idea comes to mind at the most inopportune times — say, 11 pm after my daughter is in bed — and I have to go with it until everything that’s “in there” comes out onto the page or screen. I go through dry spells … but when the spicket turns on, it’s on. That said, sometimes when I think I’ve “got nothin'”, I go to my computer, pull up a blank word document … and just start, not knowing where I’m going.


    1. Hi Terri! Glad to have you here, and a big thanks to Anne for connecting you to me.

      To be honest, I’m envious of you finding a way to honor the muse when she knocks, and find a way to get those words down when you need to. I think it was my years of journalism, of having to write on a certain schedule with a fixed deadline, that put my on my routine, but I think your approach is more “true” for a creative not boxed into routine.


  13. I do my best work very early in the morning, when the house is quiet and there are no distractions. I think about what is on my writing mind before going to sleep, and my brain works overnight while I’m sleeping. When I do this, I usually wake up way too early, stagger out of bed straight to my desk to scribble a few key word notes, then head for the kitchen to grind coffee beans.

    By the way, I discovered your blog via Charlotte Rains Dixon’s excellent blog. I had forgotten how much I like the WordPress “elegant grunge” theme until I saw it again here. It has a great feel for a writer’s blog.


    1. A ha, you do the subconscious programming trick as well. It’s marvelous, isn’t it!

      So glad you found your way here via Charlotte! I’m a huge WordStrumpet fan. And yes, I do see “elegant grunge” elsewhere; Cynthia Robertson (a commenter above) uses it as well. I personalize it by changing the color of my links to crimson, however; such a rebel!


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