Strangers in the Night: How Freelance Writers Balance Demand for Writing or Sleep

Posted on February 7, 2015 by Joe B

writing or sleep

Many well-meaning writing blogs recommend that well-disciplined freelance writers get up a few hours before the rest of the world awakens and start churning out perfect copy.

This is a nice theory, but the complete opposite of another well-meaning suggestion: “Always get 8-10 hours of sleep a night to be at your most productive.”

Realistically, neither is going to happen to most of us freelance writers, especially if we have other a.m. duties, like getting kids and spouses out of the door, getting ready for your own day job/to-do list, or trying to squeeze in a little more sleep, since we were up so late writing.

The process may repeat itself in the afternoon and evening, but in reverse, when people start coming home, and disrupting your peaceful writing time. Your next round of productive professional content writing may not begin until everyone else calls it a night.

Whether you force yourself to be an early bird or a night owl, your brain may be ready to be a blog writer for hire, but your body may have other ideas.

Active freelance writers can face conflict between wanting to be productive and listening to their body’s demands. Usually the writing wins, even if sleep deprivation can turn us into zombies.

I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing – it’s up to the individual writer to look at their own internal rhythms, household duties and household budget to decide whether they can write better on a few hours of sleep, or by being fully rested.

Here are some strategies to keep the midnight oil burning a little longer and the words mostly articulate:

  • Give yourself a boost. Coffee/caffeine is the easiest legal stimulant and good for hours of energy. But it could make the next morning a little rougher. Energy drinks, which typically are loaded with even more caffeine plus sugars and other mysterious chemicals, can also give you a bump in productivity but wear off fast.
  • Exercise. You may not be able to go the gym or a walk around the block at 0 Dark 30, but you can stretch for a few minutes or do a few circuits around your home.
  • Consider your light. Surrounding yourself with blue light can sometimes tell your brain that it’s daytime. Optical experts also suggest that blue electronic lights can stimulate our optical nerves. Technology experts say this is bad for people who look at their phones or tablets right before bed, but good for those wanting to stay alert longer.
  • You’re in good company, kinda. History is full of famous creative people who declared that life was too short for sleep, or at least for more than power naps. Thomas Edison was a champion of doing more with less, and averaged 3-4 hours a night. Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart are in this camp. On the other end, other go-getters who proclaimed that everything is better when you’re fully rested included Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill.

Joe B is a night owl pretending to function in a day person’s world. He’s written at all hours of the day and night, and once wrote some excellent stuff and didn’t remember doing so.


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