Do you write at night or in the morning?
Would you like to wake up early to write?
For years, I wrote in the evening or late at night. I enjoyed the idea of writing into the wee small hours with only Frank, the moon and the blank page for company.
Yes, I am a night person.
There was just one problem with this way of working.
A job and the demands of family life make it difficult to write late at night.
For me, it wasn’t practical to write past midnight and then get up the next day, go to work, and function with a family.
If you want to become more creative, science is on the side learning how to wake up earlier.
The American philosopher and psychologist William James said:
The great thing, then, in all education, is to make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and to guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague.
For writers, this useful action is getting up and starting to write before the demands of the day take over.
Famous early morning writers and creators include the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and American author Ernest Hemingway.
Are you ready to wake up early to write?
How to Wake Up Early To Write (No Matter What)
1. Write down your ideal morning routine
Here’s mine: meditate for twenty minutes, make coffee, write for one hour, record ten ideas, and then make breakfast, and get the kids up for school.
Your ideal morning routine may not look like this.
However, the act of thinking through an ideal morning on paper will help you visualise your day and increase your chances of getting what you want.
2. Lay the ground work the night before
If you want to become a more creative writer, your nighttime routine is almost as important as your morning routine.
Each night, I prepare the following day’s writing by:
- Tidying up where I write
- Reading what I worked on last
- Writing a short note to myself saying what I’m going to write tomorrow
This is something American choreographer and author Twyla Tharp recommends in her excellent book The Creative Habit.
No, I don’t succeed at this at every night, but this routine helps me sleep.
Writing down what you are going to write the next day primes your subconsciousness to work on the idea even when you’re asleep.
If you need some inspiration for your morning routine, check out the blog My Morning Routine.
3. Set an alarm clock for going to bed
You set an alarm clock for getting up so why not one for going to bed?
I set an alarm clock for half nine.
Once this alarm clock sounds I stop checking emails, using my computer, drinking caffeine and doing anything else that will keep me up late.
4. Pick your target time for waking up early
My ideal rising time is half five.
If I rise any earlier, I’m too exhausted to function during the day.
If I rise any later than six AM, I’m either running behind or I don’t have enough time to write before the working day begins.
My target rising time gives me a half an hour window between half five and six am for allowances.
One thing I haven’t experimented with yet is using a device like the Jawbone Up to wake at a time that naturally suits my body.
5. Start small and then go big
If you set your alarm clock for four AM tomorrow morning you may get up, but you’ll be exhausted and unlikely to repeat this heroic feat of endurance the following day.
Instead, set your alarm clock for half an hour earlier than your normal time.
On the following day, set your alarm for 45 minutes earlier than your normal rising time.
And so on.
Like pennies gradually filling a jar, these small incremental gains will help you reach your desired rising time and starting your day early feels easy.
6. Put your alarm clock in a different room from where you sleep
When your alarm goes off first thing, you will have to get up out of bed and go into the other room to turn it off.
The act of moving makes it harder to press the snooze button or roll over and go back to sleep.
All you have to do is avoid going back to bed.
7. Track your progress like a boss
You can create a good habit faster if you know what works, what doesn’t and how close you are to realising your habit.
For the first few weeks, I recorded when I got up, how long I slept for and when I went to bed.
I found out checking email and social media late at night is a bad idea because I find it hard to sleep afterwards.
8. Walk lightly over failure
I don’t get up early every day, 365 days a year.
I sleep late at least one day at the weekend, and there are times when it’s not possible or practical to get up at six AM because of the demands of the previous day.
I accept these days for what they are (a time to rest or sleep) instead of seeing them as setbacks on my journey towards creating an ideal morning writing routine.
What You Get for Rising Early
I told a friend once when you rise early “you give the best of yourself to yourself.”
I’m aware this sounds ridiculous, but it’s the job of a writer to sit in a quiet room and come up with something from nothing.
If you’re physically and mentally exhausted from the demands of work and of day-to-day life, you’re less likely to sit down and create and when you do, the quality of your writing will suffer.
But what if you really are more productive writing at night?
If you’re happy with your late night writing routine and the demands of day-to-day life aren’t intruding, stick with what works.
Every writer and creative person is different.
Tharp sums this up in her book The Creative Habit.
In the end, there is no ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself.
However, like a lot of writers I know, I was able to double my weekly word count when I learnt how to wake up early to write.
When you get up early in the morning to write or to create, you will be at your peak.
Here’s the best part:
No matter what happens or what goes wrong during the day, you’ll already be ahead because you today you created.