Dear Queer Diary: Finding the Write Time

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

I start each day filled with the best of intentions. I will write in my journal! I will run three miles! I will probably also try a new whole grain and be kind to an emaciated puppy dog that will conveniently wander across my path!

But. I really like to sleep. So when ten o’clock in the evening starts to approach (I have to wake up early, okay?), I gravitate towards my pajamas and my toothbrush, leaving my trusty notebook stashed on my bedside table, tragically unopened for yet another day.

When it comes to a choice between my pillow and my pen, my pillow wins 99.9999 percent of the time. This means that, in order to get any kind of writing done, I need to plan my day around a block of time set aside for journaling that does not — I repeat, does not — coincide with a time that I might be sleeping… or eating ice cream… or doing work… or engaging in the six million other activities that keep me from writing in my diary as often as I would like to.

How could I ever resist such fluffy goodness? (Via Czikicziki)

How could I ever resist such fluffy goodness? (Via Czikicziki)

The same could be said of many things, but the one that pops into my head is exercise. Some people like to get up at five in the morning to go pick up heavy objects and put them back down again. Other people prefer a take a spinning class after work and spend the half an hour from five thirty to six bicycling to nowhere. However, if you don’t have a specified time to engage in salubrious self-torture, you simply won’t do it.

The same goes for journaling, which is basically the same as exercising… except that you can do it while eating Cheetos and sitting on your couch in your pajamas.

The moral of the story is, as always, that you must do you. But in this case, you must do you at a specified time every day (or every other day or every week), so you can’t find a way out of it.

This person obviously found the perfect time for creating pocketwatch doodles. (Via tenored)

(Via tenored)

When should that specified time take place? Well, if you are feeling pseudoscientific, help yourselves to this five-question quiz that will help you get acquainted with your circadian rhythms.

If the prospect of taking a quiz that will neither tell you which Girls character you are nor divulge the secrets of your “true” college major fills you with disgust and alarm, simply try assessing your daily schedule. When are there regularly spare minutes in your day that might be reallocated to writing a few words in your custom-made vegan-leather-bound notebook of glory?

I don’t need no stinkin’ quizzes to tell me that I am a morning person. I was always the kid who woke up at seven o’clock the morning after the sleepover and spent the next two and half hours reading my latest Tamora Pierce book until it was time for French toast. So even though I will freely admit that I don’t spring out of my bed the moment my alarm goes off, I can still attest that my most successfully journaling sessions take place in the early hours of the day.

Although I have never in my life awoken in the morning feeling like P. Diddy, I regularly wake up in the morning feeling like the author of the next great American novel (or the first great queermerican novel?), a feeling that I wish I spent more time preserving in my journal before I put on my sensible work shoes and walk out my apartment door. If I wait until the afternoon, my feelings of writerly genius tend to turn into questions about my self-worth and/or dinner plans.

The beautiful handwriting of 'Straddler Lisa suggests that she may have woken up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy on more than one occasion.

The beautiful handwriting of ‘Straddler Lisa suggests that she may have woken up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy on more than one occasion.

A single glance at this sweet chart depicting the sleeping and working hours of famous writers should be enough to convince you that different times of day may be productive for different kinds of people, meaning that the key is really just to know thyself.

I recall reading somewhere that Virginia Woolf (otherwise known as my homegirl) typically wrote in her journal in the late afternoon, as she enjoyed a very English cup of tea and reflected on a day of brilliant modernist wordsmithing. Although this sounds like it would totally rock, my current schedule means that I am usually at the low point of my energies around 4:30 p.m., fit only for reading articles by my number one celebrity crush Mallory Ortberg and eating honey wheat pretzel sticks dipped in almond butter. Morning Pages, a stream-of-consciousness three pages of writing you complete immediately upon waking up, are probably more my speed.

When you do your best journaling, my dear queer diarists? Are you night writers? Morning scribblers? Lunchtime diarists? When do you find time to fill your notebooks with all the glorious feelings in your hearts?

Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

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Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.


  1. The BBC quiz is actually great because I always I was a morning person but the quiz told me that the late afternoon / early evening is the best time for me to work and now that I think about it, that is very true. I’ve been trying to work through mid-afternoon tiredness all my life, this changes everything.

  2. Great post! And thanks so much for the reminder that even journaling is a discipline.

    Aaaah Mallory Ortberg is also my # 1 internet crush. I can’t read the Toast or @mallelis at work anymore, because it confuses my coworkers when seemingly without provocation, I throw my head back and guffaw uncontrollably at my computer 3x a day (I work with software, it’s not really funny).

    I used to do morning pages, but now I spend my mornings catching up on articles, like this one. Maybe one day I will start again. Today? Brb…

  3. “I was always the kid who woke up at seven o’clock the morning after the sleepover and spent the next two and half hours reading my latest Tamora Pierce book until it was time for French toast.” Ditto to the max; I got a lot of reading in this way.

    I love this column!

      • Absolutely! I originally discovered her work when I was in middle school, and I actually re-read the circle of magic series earlier this year..basically a decade later. XD

  4. I love this column! Writing totally is an exercise… A brain exercise! I need to schedule a time for it.

    Also… I wanna be the next great queermerican author, too. ;)

  5. Lately, I’ve been making myself journal every night before bed (for the past..3 weeks?). However, this is only because I’m going through a break-up atm and am recording my healing process for posterity or whatever.

    Extenuating circumstances aside, I’ve had success with journalling on weekend mornings – sleeping in a little bit, grabbing a snack and some juice, and returning to bed to journal for, well, as long as it takes. I don’t like starting school work immediately when I wake up on the weekends, but my body doesn’t let me sleep in much past 9, so this seems to be a good compromise :)

  6. I’m a night writer, totally. I started properly journalling when I was having disgusting insomnia, so my ‘sleep hygiene’ routine (any other insomniacs get really, really sick of that term?) at night was to get ready for bed, have a hot drink and journal until I was all mentally tuckered out and could presumably then sleep. And now I don’t do that anymore b/c lol what is self care but I’m -still- a night writer by way of “it’s 4am and there’s fuck all else to do”.

  7. I’ve never been an expert journaler, but I used to have a thought journal that I would only write in when struck with inspiration. So I’d write six pages in one sitting…or go three days with nothing. I didn’t feel the pressure to keep it updated, but it was still a super awesome outlet and my collection of thought journals from over the years is really neat to look through if only because they’re so varied. BUT you are inspiring me to write more, and in the morning, which is totally my best time, too. I loooove this column!

  8. In order for me to journal anything besides the contents of my day with robot-like precision, I have to be at least a little tired (or drunk) in order to be vulnerable/self-aware enough. So my afternoon-dip time (according to the circadian rhythms quiz) sometimes works, but otherwise it has to be in the evening.

    Or on a plane. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, I’m always very introspective on transit.

  9. I write while on my commute — train or bus. I only write a few times a week, but it helps the time pass pleasantly and also gives me a chance to get certain frustrations out before I get home and dump them on my girlfriend, haha. I’d like to write more, but for now having that association helps me at least write a few days/week.

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