Some say you should write when you feel inspired. Others believe you should write every day of the week, whether you feel like it or not. Some prefer morning pages while others work best at night.
There are a lot of arguments on the best time to write.
I count myself as an early-bird writer. I do most of my writing in the morning, right after having breakfast. It’s when I find myself least distracted and come up with the best ideas. Once in a while, I still write at night when I can’t help putting the words down. But the result is never as good as the morning pages.
And I’m not alone. Many famous writers are advocates of a morning writing habit. Anthony Trollope woke up at 5:30 a.m. and wrote diligently for three hours, producing 10 pages before going to the post office where he worked full-time.
“All those I think who have lived as literary men, — working daily as literary labourers, — will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.”— Anthony Trollope
Another famous morning writer is Maya Angelou who rose around 5:30 a.m. and had breakfast with her husband before starting to write in a hotel room from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. “It’s lonely, and it’s marvelous,” she said.
There’s also the talented Irish playwright and novelist, Edna O’Brien, who preferred writing in the morning because it’s when “one is nearer to the unconscious, the source of inspiration.”
So, whether you want to churn out 47 novels and 17 books of nonfiction like Trollope while stuck at a full-time job or hit a 500 or 1,000 word count per day, getting up a bit early to write will do you well.
But before you get too excited to set your alarm clock for 5 a.m. tomorrow, let me walk you through six compelling reasons to adopt a morning writing habit.
Regardless of whether or not you are a morning person, writing first thing in the morning can make you a more productive and creative writer. And if you are not a morning writer, you might find these benefits outweigh the drawbacks of having to get up early.
Your mind is cluttered with random thoughts after waking up. Why not get rid of those thoughts before your day begins? You’ll be more focused and productive if you don’t get stuck in your head.
Just sit down, open your laptop, phone, or notebook, and start scribbling. The goal is not to complete an entire post but to let all your thoughts out. Most of the time, what you write is just a bundle of meaningless text. But once in a while, you may end up with a full-fledged article without much editing later on.
Discipline is hard to build, especially in this age of distractions. There’ll always be something tempting you out of doing what you’re supposed to do. A good TV show, for example, can make you want to skip a guitar practice.
The good news is that if you succeed in disciplining yourself at one thing, it’ll be much easier to discipline yourself at another. By setting a morning writing habit and sticking to it, you’ll find yourself more committed to other good habits during the day.
As a personal experience, I tend to eat healthfully, do exercise, and spend less time on the internet if I’ve done my writing in the morning. Perhaps the sense of accomplishment has powered me up to achieve many other things.
To begin with, writing immediately after waking up, especially about things that you’re grateful for, can put you at a higher energy level. You’ll feel more positive toward life, and less likely to give way to negative thoughts. You’ll also become more generous to other people, which brings you even more happiness in return.
Writing also helps you to reduce stress. Research suggests spending 20 minutes per day writing about positive things can lead to a decrease in anxiety. So if you’re currently in deep stress, start your day with a positive writing session. You’ll find yourself in a much calmer state for the rest of the day.
According to Daniel Pink, author of the best-selling book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, a person’s typical day is divided into three stages:
So early morning is when your productivity level is at its highest. Taking advantage of the first few hours of the day to write can, therefore, improve your performance. You’ll find yourself concentrating better, coming up with fresher ideas, and less likely to hit the writer’s block.
Even if you don’t feel too creative to write in the morning, you can use these early hours to edit the work from the day before. An alert and fresh mind after wake-up will help you to spot mistakes and rewrite your piece more effectively.
In 1996, psychologist Roy Baumeister carried out an interesting experiment. Two groups of participants were led into a room filled with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate cookies. On the table before them, there was a plate of chocolate-flavored confections and a bowl of radishes. While one group was treated with the sweets, the other was required to eat the radishes. After that, both groups were challenged with a very difficult geometry problem.
The observation was astounding: Those who ate the radishes (and, therefore, craved the tantalizing cookies) made far fewer attempts and spent less than half the time on the puzzle compared to the lucky chocolate-eaters.
What can be concluded from the experiment is that willpower is a limited source. Much like a muscle after a training session, your willpower loses strength and gets fatigued the more you make use of it.
If you postpone your writing task to a later time of the day, chances are you don’t have a lot of will to do it. The best bet is to do your writing in the morning when your willpower tank is still full.
Wanna know the biggest perk of writing in the morning?
Silence is important for any writer. It’s hard to get into the zone when you’re surrounded by a plethora of noises—from your kids, TV, traffic, pots and pans in the kitchen, loud parties in the neighborhood, etc.
While working in the morning, there’s less noise to distract you. You can concentrate solely on transferring your creative flows onto the paper.
What’s more, fewer phone calls or text messages can break through to you during these hours, so you won’t feel tempted to check your phone and email every few minutes. You’re completely free from all obligations to go wild with your imagination.
Not everyone is up to a morning writing task. If you’re a night owl, you might not fancy the idea of rising early to write at all. Still, give it a shot for a couple of weeks. The result might surprise you.
And if you’re a morning lark or willing to be one, getting up early to write can bring you tremendous benefits. Here’s how to set up a morning writing habit.
The first step of developing a morning writing habit is to wake up early. However, it may prove a challenge if you’ve been used to rolling around bed until midday. The key is to find yourself a reason to rise at the crack of dawn.
For example, you might want to get up a bit sooner to finish that blog post you’ve been working on forever, take advantage of the peaceful morning hours to write, or simply get a fresh start to the day.
Most of the time, you sleep in not because you’re lazy but because you don’t know what to wake up for. If you have a reason to rise early, you won’t keep hitting the snooze button when the alarm goes off.
Another way to motivate yourself to wake up earlier is to create small rewards. Treat yourself to a tasty breakfast or a steamy cup of coffee right after wake-up. Having something to look forward to can make you feel more pumped up to get out of bed in the morning.
Waking up early can save you from disturbing noise, but it won’t save you from the internal distractions (e.g., the temptation to check email or reply to Facebook messages). So make sure you take care of these before getting down to write.
Take everything that might distract you to another room. This may include your phone or iPad. By keeping these items out of sight, you can resist the temptation to use them while working.
Keep your desk clean. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Getting rid of the clutter occupying your workspace can prevent you from fidgeting around and help you focus on your work.
If you write on your laptop, make a rule: Open one tab at a time. If you have to research, do it before writing. Once you’re done researching, open your text editor to write and close all other tabs.
You can write for as long as you write: 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or even the entire morning. But during this time, you must write and write only. You can’t switch to a Facebook page, watch YouTube videos, or check emails every few minutes. By being present in the act of writing, you can write faster and come up with better ideas.
Don’t write with a mindset of completing a blog post. Write to express yourself, and to clear your mind of all the clutter. Don’t worry if your writing doesn’t make sense. Don’t worry about grammatical mistakes or misspelled words. There’ll be other times to edit your work. But as you write, your only job is to put words on the paper.
Breaks are important. Having breaks can prevent you from getting too stressed out. When you write for too long, your brain gets muddled and the ideas you come up with are not as good as when you start out. So take a break to recharge yourself.
Many writers recommend the Pomodoro Technique in which you write for 25 minutes, rest for five minutes, and resume writing. Such short bursts of writing can help you avoid writer’s fatigue without getting too distracted from your work.
Feel free to extend the focus time according to your preference—30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour. The key is to listen to your body’s signal and stop when it’s time to do so.
Writing in the morning can be a demanding task, especially when you’ve just started out. You may come up with lots of excuses to skip writing for a day.
One effective way to maintain the habit is to reward yourself. After each writing session, treat yourself to something that you like: Order a drink at your favorite coffee shop or eat a delicious meal.
Whatever you intend to reward yourself with, do it without delay. Going to a movie at night as a reward for finishing your writing in the morning won’t do the trick. The time interval is too long. Chances are you won’t feel too eager to stick to your habit.
If you want to be a more productive writer, and are willing to give up a few precious hours of sleep, then don’t delay for another day. Set your alarm clock a bit early tomorrow and start writing now.
Not only will you benefit from the best state of mind and willpower but you’ll also enjoy the least distractions to write.
And it’s not difficult to set up a morning writing routine either: Wake up early, clear up distractions, and start writing. But as you write, be present in the task, and if it’s your first draft, pour out whatever comes up in your mind. Remember also to take breaks and reward yourself after each writing session in the morning. This ensures you don’t get too tired or fed up with doing one thing over and over again.
By following these tips for starting a morning writing routine, you’ll increase your productivity and improve the quality of your work.
Naomi is a free-spirited soul who believes writing can be fun and stress-free. That’s why she started “Productive To Succeed”, a blog that helps aspiring writers to push back the writing block and create tantalizing content with ease. Her blog is also filled with authentic, experience-based advice about time management, writing motivation and self-improvement. Read more of her work here.