The Morning-Night Owl


I don’t know about other writers, but I’m a perpetual night owl. I like the idea of mornings — the idea of getting up and sitting next to the window as the sun rises with a hot cup of coffee in one hand and a pen in the other. I just can’t seem to make that idealization a reality.

Two nights ago, I vowed that I would go to sleep “early,” especially since I had class the next day. Early (for me) turned out to be 2 AM, and I was all set for a good night’s sleep. However, while on my way to the kitchen for a glass of water, I happened to glance out the window. Big mistake. Gone was the dark, shadowless night. Gone were the remnants of the spring day. And gone was my desire to go to bed. A fresh layer of snow (a lot of snow, given that there hadn’t been a drop of it left for weeks) covered the ground, the cars. It settled upon the branches of the distant trees and glistened bronze in the streetlight. Before I could stop the poetry from forming, a stream of words — usually flowing subconsciously somewhere in the back of my mind — sprang forth into form and shape, syntax and diction. Bedtime would have to wait.

I grabbed my notebook and sat next to the window, and I wrote until the words stopped writing themselves onto the page. That wasn’t until 4 AM.

It was then that I realized that I am a morning person. Just not the sunrise, early bird kind. I’m a morning-night person. While the rest of the world is sleeping, I come alive. Beyond my window, the morning-night is a time of subtle, quiet colors and muted city life. Everything stands so still, especially in wintry months. For my process to work, I have to wait for the analytical, constant questioning part of my brain to fall silent. When this happens, something within me gives way to poetic thoughts, to my quieter, more abstract musings.

When spring arrives, I lament the melting snow. The loss of blurred, white lines against the horizon. I mourn the disappearance of the crisp syntactic air filled with wood smoke, the crunch of my boots against ice, and that specific biting way the wind strikes me awake. But, more than anything, I miss the shades of darkness: the ever-shifting layers of shadow — yellow and red and gray-blue — coming and going with the in and out of day. Many people despair over eighteen hours of darkness. The darkness that arrives suddenly in the heart of winter and seems to blend everything together. But I have always walked in the darkness, in my nighttime mental passages. It’s where I’ve always felt most at home, free and invisible. When my muse finally exhales all the words that I carry within me.

So I’ve learned over time that, yes, perhaps the early bird does catch the worm, but the morning-night owl takes flight among the stars.


What time of day do you come alive? When do you prefer to write? When does your muse seem most active? Let me know in the comments!


21 thoughts on “The Morning-Night Owl

  1. I’m happiest in life when I can sleep and wake on my own schedule (for me it’s about 20 hours awake, 9 asleep) I prefer to write late in the evening when my body and brain are focused. However, with the day job, that isn’t possible, and I do miss it. I try to stay up on the weekends, but after days of 7:30 alarm clocks, my brain is as cranky as a tired toddler. One day, I’ll get my “natural” schedule back. I hope.

    • Yeah, understandable. 😦 Darn day jobs . . . If only the world would just let us writers do what we wanted.

  2. I’m a morning person, but only if I’ve stayed up all night to see the sun dawn (night owl with aspirations for a second shift job). There’s something beautifully simple about the extreme late night and early morning. Activity dies down and the natural world comes alive to my senses. When I was younger I would take middle-of-the-night walks through my small town’s downtown. A poem about it has danced in my head for years and I’ve never written it. I really should.

    • Mmmm. Middle-of-the-night walks are some of the best. No one’s there. Just lights and darkness. Here the middle-of-the-night walks can sometimes happen at “dawn.” Especially during June, when first light cracks into the sky at about 3.00.

      You should indeed. If the poem is still there, then that means you should have put it down onto paper a long time ago. 🙂

  3. It’s presently 6.30am and I’ve been awake since 4.30, working on a translation. The sun’s not yet up, though by sun time it’s only 5.30 (we’re still on daylight saving time). But the birds are awake – they can see the light changing on the horizon. This is the best time of day for me to write. Everyone else in the house is still asleep…

    • Wow! An early riser then? The morning birdsong is a wonderful sound to have in the background when writing. Though I stress how much I love when the world is asleep, watching the outside world awaken carries its own beauty. It’s a shame that I often don’t get to see it. What do you translate?

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      • Some of my favorite fiction is 19th-century French fiction. The greats, of course. That’s amazing that you do that. 🙂

  4. I am captivated by darkness. It comforts me, wraps its arms around me, and shelters me from distractions. I was recently over at Epcot (go figure, huh?) and was completely enamored with the transition from day to night. As the sun fell below the horizon and darkness crept into the space around the lagoon, I suddenly felt cozy, like I was in my own little hobbit hole of sorts. When the warm lighting arose to just barely shed enough light on my surroundings, it kept me safe, but still let my imagination run wild at the same time. Controlled darkness, quiet, and writing, there is my sanctuary 😉 Wonderful post, as always 😉

    • Thanks for stopping by! It’s interesting to see how the places around us change when compared to night and day. We notice different things; we see the setting differently. Glad to know I’m not the only one who uses the darkness as a blanket. Maybe it’s an introvert thing? 🙂

  5. I really like how descriptive you were in this post–I could definitely imagine and even picture myself in the moment you spoke of. I am definitely a morning writer–I feel my best work is done right before the day begins and things become busy. Really when my environment is calm and peaceful, I find motivation and inspiration to write, which is usually the mornings!

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your process! Ah, another early bird, then? 🙂 It seems that a lot of writers work best in the early morning or the late evening, when our daily lives die down or haven’t interfered yet (or, as you said, everything is “calm and peaceful”). To have that “alone” time with words is an intricate part of our everyday writing, I think.

  6. I’m extremely jealous of the beauty of where you are. Not that I don’t like where I live, but we don’t get many snowdrifts and I have to catch a train to get to the countryside and a good sunrise. Your writing really evoked that beauty!

    I find I’m at my most productive in the morning when I’m fresh or in the evening when I can feel time running away from me. One’s a positive psychological boost, the other’s a pressure, but they both work.

    But one of the things I’ve discovered since becoming a freelance writer is the joy of working in the middle of the night. When I was working a regular job, if I couldn’t sleep I’d just get up and watch TV. Sure, I could have got ahead on some work, but I didn’t care enough to do that. Now if I can’t sleep I’ll often go and apply for freelance jobs, or write an article, or add something to a story, because it’s something I own and that I’m passionate about. I wouldn’t say I’ve done great work struggling with insomnia at 2am, but it’s not been too shoddy either.

    • Thank you! If it makes you feel any better, Estonia only averages 60 days of sunshine a year, and our winter this year was dismal (North America stole winter!). On the bright side, the past two weeks have been full of sunshine, so I can’t complain too much. And the sporadic snow is a bonus, though it has already melted (it’s +13 today), leaving everything a bit soggy.

      Ah, yes. The pressure. That’s usually the best way to enhance productivity, especially if you’re a procrastinator like I am. At least if you’re having trouble sleeping, you’ve found a way to use that time to your advantage. I can’t say my work has been too great at 2am either, but at least I’ve put something down on the page that I can work with when I’m more “awake.” Getting words down — that’s the important thing for us as writers, no?

  7. That’s one of the things about being a writer – you are a slave to the whims of your mind. If it is 2 am when your muse says ‘write’ and gives you the tools to do so, who are we to disagree?
    Creativity is a precious and fragile thing, and it cannot be managed according to when the world says we should be awake / asleep / working / writing…

    • Sorry I’m a little late in answering. I’ve had a busy week! You’re absolutely right. We can’t dictate when our minds are going to say, “Write.” And when they do (or the muse calls), we can’t help but answer.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  8. My creative writing brain appears to work best from about 8:00 am-12:00 pm, then again after maybe 11:00 pm. Afternoons not so much. Unless I’m really in the zone and then I can write all day. I think my brain think it only needs 5 hours of sleep haha.

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