Writer’s Routines: Writing in the Afternoon
Writing in the afternoon is often overlooked. In movies and books, writers are seen typing away late into the night or getting up early in the morning, fully inspired.
In reality, plenty of writers do their work in regular daylight hours, including many well-known authors. Afternoons are my personal favourite time for writing, so this list has a special place in my heart.
If you prefer writing in the afternoon, you keep the company of a wide variety of authors, from Margaret Atwood to Jack Kerouac, who at first glance, don’t have a lot in common. Read on to discover how they use their afternoon writing time and how they differ in their reasons and approaches.
Early risers who procrastinate
Margaret Atwood, a prolific writer known for her fantastical literary fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, is known for being an early riser who takes her time easing into her daily writing routine. She usually doesn’t fully settle into a rhythm until the afternoon.
[I] spend the morning procrastinating and worrying, then plunge into the manuscript in a frenzy of anxiety around 3:00 when it looked as though I might not get anything done.Margaret Atwood
In Atwood’s case, writing in the afternoon isn’t necessarily a part of her plan, but it works out that way. She wants to be a morning writer, and the delay in getting going isn’t exactly to her liking. She finds herself plunging into a “frenzy of anxiety” over her lost time. But, as she still keeps publishing work, she’s obviously doing something right!
The bad reputation of the afternoon writer
Afternoon writers are often associated with bad habits like binge drinking and drug use. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a well-known late-riser, would often stay out late drinking just like the characters in his books. Because of his late nights, he’d often sleep in until about 11 am before starting his day.
Jack Kerouac, another afternoon writer, was also known to be a heavy drinker and user of narcotics. This habit kept him up well into the night. He didn’t usually get up until the afternoon and immediately began the cycle again. Kerouac wrote in the afternoon because he had the most clarity and wakefulness. It was the time in which he was most productive.
An intentional approach to writing in the afternoon
Not every afternoon writer is an addict barely making it through life. There are a lot of stereotypes out there about writers, and we have to learn to sift through the popular rumours for ourselves. Many writers who find their focus in the afternoon are simply otherwise employed, and some may have to work mornings or night shifts doing something unrelated to their writing work.
For many writers, their focus time comes in the afternoon when the sun is shining and they are well-rested, well-fed, and finally have some free time to themselves. James Joyce is an excellent example of this. He worked with intentionality without subscribing to the belief that one must get up at the crack of dawn to be productive.
Joyce liked to rise a little later, around 10 am and preferred lying in bed to think through his writing plans for the day before getting up and attempting to do anything. By planning in advance, it was easier for him to get up and immediately begin putting his thoughts down on paper. In this way, he kept a consistent writing schedule throughout his life.
Why I do my writing in the afternoon
I am one of those productive afternoon writers myself. I’m not a drinker with wild late nights. In fact, I typically go to bed quite early, around 10 pm. I work as a writer in a professional capacity, so I like to use my mornings to work on paid projects. By the time afternoon rolls around, the ideas that have been percolating in the back of my mind all day are ready to come forth! Or, at least, ready to be explored.
I usually sit down and begin to journal about my ideas and play music that inspires me first, and often take a walk in nature with my dog while I think through what I want to write next. Nature is a massive part of my creativity, especially in the afternoon when the sun is at its highest. Then, when I’ve finally cleared my head and focused my thoughts, the writing begins to flow. Sometimes it’s a page, and sometimes it’s ten pages; there’s really no way of knowing until I sit down to do it.
What about you, my fellow afternoon writers? What is it about writing in the afternoon that inspires you? Or is it a matter of the afternoon being the primary open time in your schedule?