Crystal Kamm

Written by

Crystal Kamm

3 August 2021


Writer’s Routines: Writing in the Small Hours

sheer curtained window looking out over water at dawn

Are you a writer who works best after everyone else has gone to bed? Does writing in the small hours yield your best ideas? If your favorite time to write is just after midnight, but before dawn, you’re keeping good company. Famous authors like Diana Gabaldon, Toni Morrison, Tim Ferriss, and more, share this time with you. Keep reading to see whether any of these authors’ processes remind you of your own.

“It took me a long time to accept 1-5am as my best hours, which was the only timing that provided consistent progress.”

Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is a productive writer who has published four books over the past decade or so. He writes primarily non-fiction. For him, getting up in the middle of the night and working until morning is preferred. He says he sometimes turns on the TV and mutes it. This helps him fieel like he isn’t alone in his work.

Diana Gabaldon, the writer of the Outlander series, has been working hard on her craft for decades and writing after her family has gone to bed is a system that works best for her. For many writers who labor in the small hours, the time is mainly about having silence and privacy.

Toni Morrison is also one to write in the small hours of the morning, although she would keep at it after the sun came up as well. She said that it was always important to her to get up when it was still dark out and watch the sun rise. It was a means of entering the day.

Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.”

Toni Morrison

Other writers who consistently work in the small hours, like Haruki Murakami and Honore de Balsac, actually do / did keep crazy writing hours. They would wake in the dark of the morning to write, go about their days, then return to the writing process when time allowed.

This group of writers may come off as being rather more serious about their processes. Possibly more rigid in their systems as well. But that makes sense. It’s HARD to get up in the morning when it’s still dark. Those who do must really take their need to create very seriously.

Are you a small hours of the night writer? How do you feel about the assessment that writers who get up before dawn take their work extra seriously?