Most of the productivity advice articles I’ve seen online advocate making the most of your mornings to get work done, even getting up earlier to pack in as much as possible.
But what if you’re a night owl, like me?
Quite frankly, the idea of getting up an hour or two earlier to work on my writing makes me miserable. No matter how much I love to write, there’s just no way I’m sacrificing my already limited hours in bed.
And I actually find that I work better at night. There’s something special about immersing myself in my novel after everyone else has gone to bed. The house is quiet and I can climb completely inside my story. It’s when I become most focused and creative.
The downside of working at night is that the day will often get in the way. After a long day at the office, commuting, a work out, cooking etc., it’s so tempting to just collapse in a heap in front of the television and ignore the urge to write completely.
But if getting up early to work on your novel just isn’t for you, there are a few things you can try to make the most of your evening writing time.
Switch off the TV
It sounds obvious, but once you’ve relaxed into that comfortable spot on the sofa, or been sucked into the beginning of a Netflix binge, it’s going to be much harder to fight the urge to veg. Do yourself a favour and avoid the distraction altogether.
Wait until everyone else is in bed
Much as we love our family and friends, they can be a huge distraction when it comes to writing. It’s easy to feel guilty that you’re not spending enough time with them.
Even having your other half beside you on the sofa watching the football as you plug away on the laptop can break your concentration.
But if you focus your energy once they’ve gone to bed, it is possible to get a lot done, even in half an hour.
Write before you get distracted
If you don’t fancy staying up late to write, make it your priority as soon as you get home. I’m terrible for coming in from work, plonking myself down on the sofa and picking up my iPad. Three quarters of an hour later I’ve scrolled through Facebook, checked my email and read a dozen meaningless stories in the newspaper.
Imagine all the work I could get down in that time if I had a bit more willpower!
Have your own writing space
It can be tempting to think that you can write while other people are in the same room, but it’s not always easy to do, especially if you work best in the quiet. It’s usually better to shut yourself away for an hour to write, before spending the rest of the evening with your loved ones, rather than trying to do both at the same time and ending up feeling like a failure.
Give yourself time to relax
We all lead busy lives, but it’s important to take the time to unwind too. You can’t expect to spend all day at work, then come home and focus on the computer for the rest of the evening, day after day. It’s just too much.
Make sure you take an hour off; it will help your brain to focus. And often, if you’re exercising or taking a shower, your subconscious will continue to chew over your story, so you have fresh ideas waiting whenever you’re ready to get back to work.
Listen to music
Whenever I work late at night, listening to music on my iPod with my headphones plugged in always increases that feeling of being in my own little bubble, focused on my story while everyone else sleeps.
After a while, I barely even hear the music, it just lulls me into the right emotional space that I need to be creative.
Don’t drink caffeine
At least, don’t drink it too late at night. You want to be alert enough to write, but not so wired that you can’t sleep when you finally fall into bed.
Keep a notebook by the bed
If you do choose sleep over the urge to write, make sure you have a pen and paper to hand so you can jot down any important ideas that come to you in bed. It’s usually the way that you feel most inspired when you’ve decided to have an early night and your brain becomes so busy that it keeps you awake.
Writing down your ideas means you won’t forget them and you can finally switch off and get some rest.
So, what about you – are you an early bird or a night owl when it comes to your writing?