Barack Obama has authored three memoirs throughout his political career, the most recent titled A Promised Land (2020). Without the aid of a ghostwriter, how does the former president transform his experiences into narrative?

Obama explains his writing process in a recent video clip on Instagram. A few gems of advice here for aspiring writers:

I’m old-fashioned. I write in longhand initially. I had an outline for how the book would proceed. I took out some yellow pads. I was very particular about the pens I use. And then I’d just — with my left-handed scrawl — write out a bunch of stuff and then transfer it onto a computer and it was usually during that transfer from writing to computer that I did my first edit. I’m a night writer. So usually my best writing was done after Michelle and the girls had gone to bed. I’d probably stay up until two o’clock in the morning. From about 10 to 2 is when I could really lock in and I didn’t have a lot of distractions.



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This nightly routine is similar to the one that Obama kept to write speeches and read during his presidency.

According to this New York Times article, the former president spent approximately four solitary hours every night in the White House writing speeches, reading novels, watching ESPN, and snacking on “seven lightly salted almonds.”

Obama joins a list of several famous writers who found quiet inspiration after dark.