The typical writer cliche involves a haggard, stubbled writer clutching a coffee mug sometime in the small hours of the late night, writing with the moon on his shoulder. On the other extreme, however, I hear plenty of stories, particularly from poets, about writers who rise with the sun, do a little yoga, and write during the purer, more virtuous golden hours of the morning.
In reality, of course, there's no right time to write; there's only the right time for you. And because our lives are busy and challenging, sometimes that involves shoehorning our writing time into our packed schedules. It simply won't happen, however, unless we figure out whether we are, in fact, naturally morning birds or night owls.
We often get a vision in our heads of that classic bearded writer clutching his coffee mug and think that we have to emulate it. We try to force ourselves to be night owls, and end up producing bad writing in our sleep-addled attempts. While you can change your daily rhythm with concerted effort and creative use of sunlight lamps and naps, it's really easier to figure out when you're at your most alert and creative. For some, it's in the early morning hours; for some, the late night hours. For me, it's in the afternoon, in the bright, not too tired, not too sleepy hours after lunch. I try to leave myself open during that time on most days, because I know I'll be at my most receptive to creative thinking then. As a matter of fact, this post is being composed at two in the afternoon.
In order to figure out which you are, try practicing a little extra mindfulness to your routines in the next week. Write down the time that you find yourself wanting to write, or the time when you find yourself restless and thinking about your story or the book you're reading. Those are probably the times when some writing would do you good. Notice when you feel sleepy and when you feel sharp.
Become the owl or the early bird
Now that you've figured out your optimal time, you've got to find ways to take advantage of it. For example, I'm also an evening writer, but dinner preparations can sometimes get in the way. To make sure I'm available for evening writing, I prepare dinner a little early, or make sure to turn off the TV after just one show following the meal. Treating your selected writing time with sanctity is important. It gives the time a special buffer in your mind - and can help engender a creative mindset. So be the bird that you are! Respect the bird!