Tolstoy, reported in A. B. Goldenveizer's Talks with Tolstoy -- “I always write in the morning. I was pleased to hear lately that Rousseau too, after he got up in the morning, went for a short walk and sat down to work. In the morning one's head is particularly fresh. The best thoughts most often come in the morning after walking, while still in bed or during the walk. Many writers work at night. Dostoevesky always wrote at night. In a writer there must always be two people – the writer and the critic. And, if one works at night, with a cigarette in one's mouth, although the work of creation goes on briskly, the critic is for the most part in abeyance, and this is very dangerous...”
What's irritating about this passage is that Tolstoy didn't have to work for living, whereas Dostoevsky did. So Dostoevsky had less choice about when to write.
But is Tolstoy right that one creates briskly at night, and is insufficiently critical? If so, wouldn't it make sense to write at night, and edit one's writing the next morning? Suppose an important part of the difference between Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, as writers, turned out to stem from what time of day they wrote at...
Kate Morgenroth here describes finding it easier to write prolifically at night, the attendant disadvantage being an increased sense of isolation from the rest of the world...
3 thoughts on “Diurnal Versus Nocturnal Writers”
I generally write more and better in the mornings, but that's because I'm a morning person. I know many people who can't even spell their own name before ten in the morning and I don't think they would be productive writers then. They would probably just get started at nine or ten at night. Everyone needs to find what works for them.
I find I have the most stamina for researching in the morning and serious writing at night. Consequently I'm asleep all afternoon.
Even if you're not a landowner and a count, you have the option of writing in the morning before going to work, cf. Khaled Hosseini.
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