The Health Diaries

Roxane Gay and the Case for Night Owls

Why the author writes best when the sun goes down

Jenni Gritters
Published in
5 min readAug 13, 2019

There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.

IfIf you’ve ever read an article, book, or piece of commentary by Roxane Gay, you know she doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. Feminism, body image, sex, gender, race, and so much more are all fair game. Gay — who has many jobs, including editor of Gay Magazine — has written several acclaimed books in recent years (Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and Hunger).

Why is she so prolific? “I think I stay motivated with all of my work because of ambition,” she says. “I’m very driven by success — or not even success, but I think working hard is important for me. And seeing the fruits of that labor is also important to me. That keeps me working.”

Gay started her career as a professor at Eastern Illinois University, where she taught for four years before becoming a professor at Purdue University, then at Yale. These days she lives in Los Angeles, where she’s writing a young-adult novel and consulting for various TV shows. She spoke to Elemental about her daily routine, including her favorite meals to cook, how she handles being so busy, and her tricks for falling asleep (clue: Nyquil).

I usually use an alarm clock, but I’ve been waking up before my alarm for the past couple of months. I’m up between 6 and 7 in the morning, which is an absolute nightmare. It just happens, I don’t know why.

The first thing I do is look at my phone, which is not great, but here we are. I read the news and check my emails because I live on the West Coast, so emails have started coming in already.

Then I get up and, more often than not, I do cardio. My trainer comes at the end of that session and I do 45 minutes with them. For cardio, I use a recumbent bike. With my trainer, I’m doing weightlifting and sometimes more cardio, but usually it’s a range of things.

For breakfast, I eat a granola bar and drink water. Once in a while, I’ll have a FAGE yogurt, 2%, too. I do drink coffee but not necessarily in the morning.



Jenni Gritters

I’m a writer and business coach for freelance creatives based in Central Oregon. I write about the psychology of small business ownership.