On Finding the Right Time to Write

6 min read

I have been writing in English as a second language since 2016, so for the past seven years. When I first started, I had very little knowledge of the English language. Consequently, I experienced numerous false starts. I embarked on a journey of experimentation, both in writing and publishing, primarily through trial and error. It was through learning from my mistakes that I discovered a multitude of insights about the art of writing.

Writing is an intricate endeavor—and when I say intricate, I mean that achieving excellence in writing entails mastering a multitude of skills, all of which must be executed simultaneously. While a firm grasp of both the arcane and contemporary rules of grammar is beneficial, it alone is not adequate for producing exceptional writing.

Likewise, having a writing mentor, despite its potential challenges and costs, is not a panacea for achieving writing excellence. Although writing regularly and prolifically can certainly establish you as a writer, it offers no guarantee of becoming a good writer. Furthermore, voraciously and intensely consuming literature can certainly shape your literary aspirations, but, much like grammar, it is a necessary yet insufficient component of superior writing.

The Importance of Timing

Recognizing that writing is a multifaceted endeavor demanding the simultaneous mastery of various skills, and having delved into the extensive literature on English composition, which frequently emphasizes aspects such as grammar, punctuation, and style, I have concluded that one of the most frequently overlooked facets of effective writing pertains to the question of timing: When should we write?

Given the complexity of the writing process, there are numerous activities that precede it and many that follow its completion. Editors, including both copy editors and developmental editors, typically handle post-writing tasks with great care. However, there is not a similar designated term for those who assist with the preparations preceding the act of writing—although they are occasionally referred to as mentors or coaches.

Consequently, it is crucial for writers to be attuned to their personal writing rhythms, as each writer possesses a unique rhythm. Some writers find themselves more productive during the night, while others draw inspiration in the morning, and still others experience bursts of motivation at various points in between. Understanding which category aligns with your own tendencies can enhance your writing craft.

It is important to reiterate that no one is born a skilled writer; writing is inherently a learned skill. As with many human abilities, some learners may excel more than others in this domain.

Therefore, I believe it is wise for every writer to engage in introspective work to discern their own writing rhythm—the time when they are most productive, insightful, and prolific. Some writers establish a rigid daily writing routine, steadfastly committing themselves to writing every single day. Others adopt a more flexible approach, allowing their idiosyncratic creative impulses to guide their writing schedule. Many writers fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Regardless of where you personally fit on this spectrum, conducting this introspective analysis is an essential step in honing your craft as a writer.

In my own experience, I have observed that my writing is at its best when I engage in two specific practices.

First, I tend to produce my most inspired writing after immersing myself in an extended period of reading. As an example, there was a time when I read the book Take Command: Find Your Inner Strength, Build Enduring Relationships, and Live the Life You Want. This book held my undivided attention and I read it cover to cover in a single sitting. Following this immersive reading experience, I felt compelled to compose a letter to one of the authors, Joe Hart, expressing my appreciation and initiating a conversation with him.

Hart, who currently serves as the CEO of Dale Carnegie and Associates, and who is understandably a busy professional, was moved by my letter. He took the time to respond and even agreed to meet with me virtually. During our meeting, he mentioned that he receives numerous requests from people seeking to connect with him, most of which he typically ignores due to their generic nature. However, my letter stood out to him.

In hindsight, I believe my letter resonated with him because it reflected the spirit of his book, which I had just immersed myself in before composing the letter. I thus concluded that the most effective activity I engaged in before writing the letter to Joe was reading his book and immersing myself in his world of words, thereby preparing me to invite him into my world of words.

What’s more, I find that I often write effectively when I have had a poignant experience, which serves as a catalyst for introspection about my emotions. This concept ties into psychology. Drawing from my background studying undergraduate psychology at the University of Miami, I recognize that I lean more toward introversion than extroversion. Consequently, when I encounter a significant experience, I tend to process it internally rather than verbally.

Writing serves as a medium through which I can not only express myself but also delve into the depths of my emotions. When my mind becomes inundated with a multitude of emotions, it often finds release through the act of writing, transforming my thoughts and feelings into words.

This brings me to the intriguing intersection between experience and theory. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota—so though I try to leverage my experiences to write effectively, my studies place me firmly within the realm of theory as well. The interplay between theory and experience can be likened to the classic chicken and egg dilemma.

In my personal approach, I tend to prioritize experience over theory, drawing inspiration from Albert Einstein’s wise words: “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.” When faced with a contradiction between theory and practice, I almost always give precedence to practical experience.

In conclusion, whether you are a novice writer embarking on the journey of learning the craft of writing or a seasoned writer seeking to enhance your writing productivity, I argue that it’s prudent to pay attention to your personal writing rhythm, or the time and circumstances that allow you to write most effectively. This aspect of your writing process is just as crucial as mastering other writing skills such as grammar, style, punctuation, and editing.

For experienced writers, especially, understanding and optimizing your writing time might be the missing piece in the intricate puzzle of the art and craft of writing—or even publishing.

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