The benefits of early morning writing can often seem like preachy, unattainable, eye-roll inducing positivity. But I have brought together some real examples of this life-changing process for your writing, just to give that eye-roll some evidence first…
Rachael Herron has written eloquently about how crazy the idea of early morning writing sounds and how well it worked for her once she tried it. And her day job (before she quit to write full time) started even earlier in the morning than yours does.
“Every time the alarm went off, it was completely impossible to get up. I refused to do it. Then I ignored myself and swung my feet to the floor. I started the coffee.
Impossible wasn’t that big a deal.
By the time I got to my desk, mug in hand, I was ready to work. I found the dream-like feeling of still being sleepy helped in my writing. I went deeper into the work, faster. The world was quiet and dark and completely, utterly mine.
My coffee tasted better. The cold in my office was crisp and I refused to turn on the heater, preferring to pile on the sweaters and blankets…” (read the whole thing here)
Raul Pacheco-Vega is an evangelist for getting up at 4 a.m. and writing before he goes into his university campus. And I know he is not alone in this. I have also known moms who get up around 5 a.m. to have some time to work on their own things, or just have some alone time, before their household is awake.
Personally, I am in the “5 is a four-letter f-word” camp (4 is, too). However, I am such a big fan of 7 a.m., that this is the first number I taught my daughter to recognize.
If the four letter unsavoury word is more your feeling, you can stop reading this right now and go do something else, you have permission.
If you want to try it
First, determine whether this is likely to work for you.
Have you ever been a morning person? Does your lifestyle support an early bedtime? Are you a napper? And are you willing to nap in your office at work if necessary? Do you even have an office with a door where you could nap?
(Raul may be an evangelist for 4 a.m. writing, but he also bought a napping sofa for his office.)
If you are still here, treat it as an experiment. Give yourself a time period to try it for.
This time period needs to be long enough for your body to adjust to a new sleep schedule. And you might want to make the transition during the summer break, on sabbatical, or when you have a relatively light semester.
How long do you need to try this to work out if it’s working for you or not? 6 weeks? 8 weeks?
When will you start your experiment?
How is the morning going to work?
What do you imagine doing between opening your eyes and starting writing? Are you going to make coffee & toast, wash your face, and write in your pyjamas? Or do you need time for a shower and more food first?
What needs to happen between finishing writing and leaving the house for the university? Shower? Breakfast? Organize your kids and get them to school? Something else?
What time do you need to be at the university? What time do you need to leave the house?
Given all of the above, how long do you want to write for in the morning? And what time do you need to get up to do that?
Getting up early to write is not about sleeping less.
It’s about adjusting your sleep schedule so that you are awake earlier. That means adjusting your bedtime, which means adjusting your evening routine.
How much sleep do you need?
Given the time you want to get up, what time do you need to fall asleep to get enough sleep? And what time do you need to start winding down and getting ready for bed, so you fall asleep at that time? What will that mean for your evenings?
If you are still committed to giving this a try, consider how much of a change you are making to your current routine. You might want to shift gradually. That might mean starting with a shorter writing time in the mornings which gradually extends to your target time as you shift your sleep schedule.
Then add things to your calendar, create reminders, get your family on board if you live with other people, and go for it.
Would it help to be writing in a virtual community?
A Meeting With Your Writing is my virtual writing group that gives you 90 minutes of writing time, with a 15 minute opening exercise to get you started as well as a 10 minute closing exercise at the end.
Participants tell me it has transformed their lives.
There is A Meeting With Your Writing session on Mondays at:
- 5 a.m. Eastern
- 6 a.m. Atlantic
- 4 a.m. Central
If that fits with your plan, join the Academic Writing Studio to participate. We already have a few members join us at that time from the Atlantic and Newfoundland time zones, along with the Europeans for whom it is mid to late morning.
FYI, this is not the only Meeting With Your Writing time. If you live on the west coast of North America, there is also a session at 7 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. Not quite so early, but if you don’t need to teach before 10 a.m., it could work for you.
There is also a Twitter hashtag for virtual support at: #5amwritersclub.
On Morning (and Ice Cream) Habits – Rachael Herron
Why did I switch to starting work at 4 a.m. and how did I do it? – Raul Pacheco-Vega
Edited May 2021.