I’ve always hated mornings. We had to get up before 6 for our school bus and I had the same conversation with my mum almost every single morning, words I barely knew I was saying through the mental fog:
‘It’s too early, I don’t want to go to school today.’
‘I know. Let’s just stay here in bed today.’
Then she’d leave me alone for a few minutes before waking me a second time with a cup of tea. My mum is ace. And very patient.
Later I discovered it’s really hard to do important but non-urgent work at work, the thinky stuff. You’re constantly interrupted by phone calls and people asking for things, and it feels like you spend your whole life fighting fires rather than doing your actual job. So I started, very grudgingly, arriving an hour early sometimes to work uninterrupted and discovered it was by far the productive part of the day.
It’s just the same for creative work. People say that they don’t have time to write, that there are always a thousand other things that need to be done that seem more urgent and that make writing too easy to put off. Well, there’s one very simple thing you can do that will massively increase your writing productivity.
Get up early.
I know, mornings are hideous, you already have to get up early for the kids or that thing that pays your bills… but it’s by far the easiest way of carving out time for writing.
And you don’t have to get up hours earlier either, even 30 minutes a few times a week is a few hours more writing than you’d have squeezed in otherwise.
Benefits of writing early in the morning:
Your head is clearest when you wake, giving you the mental space needed for creative work.
You still have the whole day ahead of you and you can get the writing done before all the stresses and shoulds of real life get in the way.
You will feel smug and super-productive. This may even make you more productive in your non-writing life. Even if you’re great at making time to write, getting a jump-start on the day is an easy way of adding to your writing time that will make you feel great about your progress.
You’ll feel brilliant because you’re…well, writing. And writing is nice. We all know not-writing is a sucky feeling. As soon as you start doing this you’ll be treating your writing as important, and it will feel good.
Early morning is the time of the day when it’s easiest to write consistently, and habit is good. Having to turn down yet another night at the pub in order to write is more than most people’s willpower can cope with, whereas unless your friends all work in a market and like to booze at 7am it’s not an issue in the morning.
How to make it work
If you’re an earlybird, you’ll find this easy. Just wake up earlier and write for 30 minutes. If not…
Think about ways of making morning easier for yourself. Can you make lunches and iron your clothes the night? Shower at night? Take cereal to work for deskfast? Go to bed early 3 nights a week?
Set 2 alarms. Don’t kid yourself, you’re so going to switch the first one off. Turn a light on when the first goes off.
Prepare. Put cosy slippers by the bed. Write the first sentence of tomorrow’s work before you finish each day. Turn off the internet the night before.
Don’t do anything but write, and maybe get coffee. No turning on the TV or checking email. If you can’t write, freewrite whatever’s in your head or stare gormlessly into space. Anything but allowing in distractions.
Keep trying. If you’re anything like me it might take a few attempts, but trust me, you won’t regret it when you realise you’ve written 15,000 more words than normal in a month. Very few people are unable to train themselves to be early risers.
Take a look at this article I found about getting up early, which talks about early-risers being productive and proactive. Thing is, even someone like me who hates mornings (and, incidentally, washing up after dinner, another thing those proactive go-getter types are annoyingly good at) can become more productive and proactive by acting like someone who is. One day I hope to realise I’ve become one of those people. It’s a work in progress….
A lot of people dismiss the idea of waking early and writing because they’re night owls, but have you actually tried it? As a writer you need to learn to tap into your creativity on cue, and the simple fact is that there are fewer distractions early in the morning, meaning it’s easier to write consistently.
That magic that exists in the stillness between 11pm and 3am, my favourite time to work, also exists early in the morning. Go on. Try it for a week and if you don’t feel it’s good for your writing productivity tell me and I will eat figs.
I really hate figs. Grainy, weird, just…. ew.
Having said that, are you a late-owl AND super-productive? If so, I’d love to hear the techniques you use to write consistently…