Sleeping Habits of Famous Writers

atkins-bookshelf-literatureBenjamin Franklin, a real creature of habit, woke up each day at 5:00 am. Writing under the pseudonym of Poor Richard, he shared this wisdom with the world in the form of a memorable proverb: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” (first published in the 1735 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack. Does following this proverb have an effect on writers? Glad you asked, because the ever-curious Maria Popova (the brains behind and in and her team recently completed a study that asked: is there a correlation between the wakeup time of famous writers and their productivity (measured in number of works published and number of literary awards received)? The data, presented in a colorful infographic, clearly shows that taking heed of Franklin’s proverb did not necessarily make these writers healthy, wealthy, or wise — but it certainly helped them (on some level) to become more prolific writers (and some even won prestigious literary awards). Although the infographic does not indicate when these authors went to bed, their very early wakeup times demonstrate their dedication and discipline. Whether they were in any condition to write that early in the morning (reaching for aspirin, a cup of coffee, or a Bloody Mary) is another matter entirely. Not surprisingly, one of the biggest party animals, F. Scott Fitzgerald, slept in the latest. So the next time you sleep in, imagine how many manuscript pages Balzac or Morrison would have cranked out in that time.

Some highlights (author named followed by wakeup time) from the study:

Honore de Balzac: 1:00 am
Sylvia Plath: 4:00 am
Toni Morrison: 5:00 am
Ernest Hemingway: 6:00 am
Kurt Vonnegut: 6:00 am
Vladimir Nabokov: 6:00 am
Charles Dickens: 7:00 am
Franz Kafka: 8:30 am
Ray Bradbury: 9:00 am
Leo Tolstory: 9:00 am
James Joyce: 10:00 am
F. Scott Fitzgerald: 11:00 am

Read related posts: Most Prolific Author in the World
The Most Expensive Book in the World
How Many People Read Books?
The Benefits of Reading

For further reading: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster (2013)

One response to “Sleeping Habits of Famous Writers

  • bookshelfbattle

    There’s probably something to that. I generally find that if I need to do something, I have to get up early and do it. If I wait until after work, I get inundated with people asking for help with this and that and everything I want to do for myself, including writing, gets tossed aside. Write at 5 am while everyone else is sleeping, the house is quiet, and no one is awake to bother you.

    Fun blog, new to blogging myself, feel free to drop by sometime at:

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