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Learning to Write First Thing In the Morning
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I remember when I was in college about to graduate with a degree in English, I dreamed of being a writer for a living.

The funny thing is, although being able to write helped me in all sorts of ways in traditional work situations, it wasn’t until I started working online that I actually started to write on a regular daily basis, day in and day out and developed a need to maximize my writing productivity.

We talked a few weeks ago about what we can schedule our writing time like professional writers, but there is one secret trick that I see so many professional writers talking about that I think deserves elaboration–early morning writing.

I have tried writing in the afternoon, after I’ve finished most of my other work, or in the evening, or in the mid-morning, but I must say that when I started writing in the very early morning I saw my writing output, focus, and quality of work take off like a gazelle through an open field! It was just amazing the difference writing at a particular time of day has made.

Why does writing early in the morning work?

  • Our minds are not tangled up in the details of the day yet.
  • It’s quiet (most other people are sleeping :-) )
  • There is some evidence that sleep stimulates creativity. To write soon after waking up allows us to capitalize on this.

Sounds good–Sign me up, you say! But how?

Writer Leo Babauta from Write to Done has some great tips on how to write first thing in the morning (these are Leo’s tips and my commentary):

  1. Wake earlier. From personal experience, I find that the earlier I wake up the better things go. I wake up at 5am, but Leo wakes up between 4am-4:30. Sound impossible (or at the very least just unpleasant)? Steve Pavlina has a great article about how to become an early riser that I’ve found very helpful.
  2. Topic. Establish what you’ll write about the afternoon or evening before. This is a biggie. At least for myself part of what makes it easier for me to get out of bed is knowing that I have a specific thing to write about. If I am winging it, I find that I dread getting out of bed because I know that I have to get over the hump of determining what my writing topic is. Also, if you decide what your writing topic will be the night before, you have a chance to mull the idea over in a casual, relaxed manner at night and when you’re sleeping.
  3. Research. I also do my research the night or afternoon before. My goal is to wake up and have everything I need to get started without having to go online to look something up. Believe me, if I go online to search for something there is a good chance that I’ll get distracted!
  4. Start with an outline. Oh, this is a good one! An outline will save your life, especially since it’s so intimidating just looking at a blank page on a screen. Writing out your outline for your article will also help you finish faster, because you know what comes next in your argument. I used to never use outlines, but since I’ve started I’m addicted to them.
  5. Don’t check email. Or whatever you normally want to do first thing when you turn on the computer. Believe me, if you get pulled into your inbox or start surfing the web or playing in Facebook or Twitter, it can be hours before you can wrestle yourself free. Resist!
  6. Have it open. Leo uses the writing program WriteRoom, but I’m usually working in either Word or Pages (on my Mac). I have my outline open on my desktop, and my document open too. I don’t have to look anything up. Even putting a temporary title on the page the day before helps get things started. Remember, when you wake up you want to be able to hit the ground running with minimal distractions.
  7. Get a glass of water or coffee. I look forward to waking up and making a cup of coffee–that’s one of the things that helps me get up (even though I drink decaf)! It’s just the smell of it that makes me feel good and alert. Making a cup of coffee to carry to my desk is also a little ritual–it just helps me ease into the day.
  8. Focus. I’ve learned the hard way that when I’m writing I should not venture into email, get up to watch TV, play around on the internet, or do anything that is not the task at hand (which is writing). It’s so easy to lose that writing rhythm. It does take discipline to resist the urge to wander, but with a lot of practice I’ve trained myself to focus in like a laser beam on what I’m writing.
  9. Check email (or another reward) when you’ve done an hour. I reward myself with a break after an hour or an hour and a half. During that break I’ll have a snack, sit outside, play with my dog, or do something else that is relaxing and fun. I don’t check my email until after my writing session is done (I am easily distracted by email!), but you may be a stronger person than I am :-) . Just remember to reward yourself with something after an hour or so.

Do you have your own best practice for getting your writing done? Please share!


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6 Responses to “Learning to Write First Thing In the Morning”

  1. [...] So definitely, read that post about scheduling your time like a professional writer, and also this one about learning to write first thing in the morning.  Yes, a trick of professional writers is to write in the morning (often very early in the morning) while their brain is still fresh and distractions are at a minimum. I can attest–I do write first thing in the morning, and it works! [...]

  2. As an early riser anyway this will be an easy transition for me and I also take note that going to the Inbox too early is also a distraction I can do without so that will be after the writing session from now on.

    Sometimes you just need a gentle reminder about how to make most use of your time and creativity.


    Trevor Willoughby

  3. Caleb says:

    Tried doing this at 5:30 but made the mistake of checking my email after checking the weather! Thanks for the tips, back to writing…without the weather site and gmail :-)

  4. I have been writing text and articles in the beautiful language of Swedish. As I have started to write articles exclusively in English, the phrases are so different. First I wrote in Swedish and translated it. But it took too much of my time. Now I am writing directly in the lovely English language and hopefully bringing all phrases in place. But discipline is important of course. However I enjoy writing very much and thank you for lines I read above on habits hmm.
    Best regards
    Anders Jacobsson
    Sweden (south)

  5. Somehow, of late, I have been writing and contributing articles to various article submission sites very early in the morning. I find the tips which you have given are very practical and feasible. Especially, the point that we need to do all the ‘looking up’ the previous evening or night and have an outline before writing during the wee hours of the day.

    Thanks for the tips.

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