Find your most creative writing time
What’s this episode about?
Welcome to the middle of the second season of The Pen Garden podcast. Listen to the full third episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.
Today, 22nd September, is “Dear Diary Day” – a day in the year when people journal with extra passion or turn to journaling for the very first time. Letting the stresses of the day pour out of you or putting your hopes for the next waking hours has been long believed to be therapeutic. A blank page doesn’t talk back and doesn’t judge. And today is a great day to talk about writing – and especially about how to pick a time to write so you’re most productive. Both journaling and creative and business writing require you to sit down, take your writing implement and transform the blank page into something new. But before you do that today, come join me in the Pen Garden.
This episode is about exploring what your most creative writing time might be according to your personality. I will also talk about some interesting research into creative times and sprinkle some celebrity inspiration to help you get in the mood of thinking how you can best utilize your most creative time in your daily writing habit.
So bring up in your head the memory of your personality type. I will be using the terms set out by 16personalities.com – there is a table below where you can double-check your type if you forget its name or its letter combination, as well the group your personality type falls into. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, before you continue listening to this, go listen to episode 2 from Season 1, where I explain why your personality type is important and how to find yours.
MBTI personality types table
|Architect (INTJ)||Advocate (INFJ)||Logistician (ISTJ)||Virtuoso (ISTP)|
|Logician (INTP)||Mediator (INFP)||Defender (ISFJ)||Adventurer (ISFP)|
|Commander (ENTJ)||Protagonist (ENFJ)||Executive (ESTJ)||Entrepreneur (ESTP)|
|Debater (ENTP)||Campaigner (ENFP)||Consul (ESFJ)||Entertainer (ESFP)|
Most creative time by personality
Website 16personalities.com asked its readers whether they agree with the statement “You are most creative early in the morning.” It turned out few people find early mornings conducive to creative activity: only 37% of readers overall agreed with that statement. What I found more interesting in this was their breakdown of the data by personality type.
Out of the four big type groups, Sentinels had the highest rate of agreement – 42%. The personality trait behind this result is the Judging trait – one that is not often associated with creativity, but Judging types find comfort in structure and routine, planning their days deliberately, which is usually what you would expect from a morning person.
Explorers, on the other hand were on the opposite end of the scale – only 30% of them agreed they’re most creative in the mornings. 16personalities.com says “Explorer personality types share the Prospecting trait, which makes them open to change, opportunity, and inspiration at all times of the day. Because they can engage with creative projects quickly and spontaneously, they may like to relax in the morning, let inspiration come to them, and begin their efforts when they’re ready to.”
And this is an important thing to note – the fact that only 37% of responders claimed they were most creative in the morning doesn’t necessarily mean they’re night owls. The way the question is phrased means that disagreement might mean people do like to work in the evening or at night, or it might mean they don’t have a preferred time. Or it could mean any other time in the day – lunch time or maybe afternoon.
The responses from Analysts and Diplomats matched with the overall average – 37% agreed. 16personalities.com explain that “driven by curiosity and imagination, these personalities generally spend more of their time and energy on creative pursuits than the Observant Sentinels and Explorers do. But since they also have a tendency to defy convention, they can have widely ranging ideas about whether morning or night is the best time to be creative.”
Night owls have it harder
Whether you’re an early bird, a day-time warrior or a night owl, you will face challenges when creating the routine to write. And this is inevitable, because writing is hard work. As I was looking into this episode, I came across some very interesting research that argues that people who do work at night face some unique challenges that might sometimes prevent them from doing their best work.
This is because society generally sleeps at night and is active during the day. The journal article suggests that our historical entanglements with the night led to the overall view that it is not a time to be working, thus creating a space where day work was viewed as safer and healthier.
“In medieval times, night was feared; it was inhabited by supernatural creatures and people therefore rather remained indoors. With some exceptions like harvesting, night work was illegal due to religious objections.” It was time for moral introspection and prayer. Poor quality of light like candles and oil lamps made night work dangerous due to risk of fire and lessened the quality of everything produced. “Night work was considered arduous and unhealthy, while sleep […] was considered important for the body and mind.”
So as you can see, a lot of the issues with night work were practical issues and had nothing to do with personality and creativity. Nowadays, working at odd hours is more accepted but it still poses challenges brought by it being outside of the general societal norm. If you have a day job, you will probably have to get up early no matter what creative endeavors you were pursuing just hours before. If you live with other people, your wakefulness might cause tension if it clashes with their sleep. If you’re a light sleeper and everything else aligns, the world might prevent you from getting your much-needed sleep as it wakes and produces it’s normal, loud day sounds. Night-time writing also limits your writing spaces options – cafes and libraries are closed and parks, if open, might not be safe enough.
In any case, for most writers it is ‘write when you can fit in the time’ – and if that’s late at night when the distractions are less, go for it. As I said before, no practice is without challenges, you just have to make it your own and stick to it.
Commander Steve Jobs
I want to continue with some inspiration from one of the world’s most famous Analyst types, Steve Jobs. He was an ENTJ, a Commander, the type which had the highest score of all when asked whether they are most creative in the morning. And this link between his personality type and the way he led his life is very apparent when we look at his daily routine.
He would wake up at 6am, put the same outfit every day and then work from home until he had breakfast with his family an hour later and then set off for the office. Then he would do his work, listen to people, innovate, make decisions and then he would be done with all that by 5pm. After that it would be family walking time, meditation, listening to music and general things to relax. No productivity expected and no productivity really needed after a day well done.
Make your writing time count
Most writers say they never have enough time to write. I know, because I say it too. Even writing the notes for this podcast had to be squeezed in-between other things. But it’s not time as in the scientific measure of minutes and seconds we all lack; it’s the ability to use the time we do have as efficiently as possible.
So your perfect writing time is not simply a calendar event in your diary – it is allowing yourself to foster a mindset that will allow you to unleash your creativity and have a productive writing session. After you identify when you want to write, make sure you know what, where and how. Having a clear idea of what your writing tasks are will free up your mind and help words flow, bringing inspiration and minimizing the time you spend staring at that scary blank page.
Picking a space to write which suits you is also important – and a topic I will discuss in the next episode. This space has to minimize distractions and make you feel comfortable. And finally, how are you going to write? Pen and paper? A laptop? Old-school typewriter? Whatever your writing weapon of choice is, make sure it’s ready and functional before you begin. If something fails it will break your flow – and no writer wants that.
sO, TO SUMMARIZE…
Not many of us are morning people, and that’s okay. Listen to your gut feeling when picking a time to write and make sure it doesn’t introduce additional stress into your life. Always make decisions that align with your personality and don’t contradict your life – although it’s not as easy as it sounds, try things and you’ll get there eventually.
There’s a lot of inspirational quotes by Steve Jobs out there but I want to leave you with this one: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” So pick a time and an idea, and stay focused on your writing. Stay by your choice and trust yourself to have picked the best idea from all the others battling for attention. And if not, accept that, learn from it, and try again.
Next Tuesday, in the next episode I will explore what the perfect writing space and social environment look like for all the personality types. I know I’m not the only one who searches for that elusive place, the one that is just the right amount of loud for you to be inspiring and comfortable enough to keep wrist and back cramps at bay so health issues don’t distract from your ultimate goal of sitting down to write.
If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.
If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.
- 16personalities.com (website)
- Dawn or Dusk: When Are Personality Types Most Creative? (website article)
- Night and Organization Studies (journal article)
- Day in the Life: Steve Jobs (post)
- 10 of the Top Steve Jobs Quotes About Innovation (list)
Listen and subscribe
Listen to all Available episodes of season 2:
Or the episodes from season 1, beginnings: