Why You Ought to be Writing in the Morning (Part 2)

This post follows on from my last post on why I ended up writing in the mornings (even though I’m a night person). You can read that post here.

Starting a routine that includes writing in the morning is not easy. As I said in my previous post, I’m not a morning person. I’ll repeat:

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If you’ve read my previous post, you’d know that for me, the writing was on the wall (pun intended!). I had to find some writing time, and mornings was the only option I had left. I know I’m in the same boat as all of you other lovely writers out there; we all play the ‘find some writing time’ game – trying to shoe-horn writing time around a hundred other things: work, children, our partners, cleaning and all the other myriad of jobs and tasks that make up life in general. The amazing Kate Forsyth wrote in the park while her children played. J K Rowling wrote in a café while her child slept. Other people write on train commutes, or during lunch breaks. Like everything else in life, we decide how important writing is to us and make time (or not) accordingly. When there’s no boss looking over your shoulder, no KPIs to meet, or bills to pay (of course there’s always bills to pay, but for must of us writers, it isn’t our writing that’s paying them), it’s easy to let writing drop down on the priority list.

Every writer decides what they’re willing to sacrifice to get words on the page. So, for me, after realising that the only time I had to write was mornings, I set my alarm clock for 5am (which gave me a solid 2 hours before I needed to get the kids up for school at 7am) and got up to write. Two hours of sleep was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

I’m not going to lie to you. Getting up in the morning sucks. It’s cold, it’s dark, the bed is warm and your brain is fuzzy. You trip over the dog. You scald yourself pouring coffee into your cup. And when you get to your computer, you’ve no ideas other than how nice it would be to go back to bed about now. Once, again, it’s a bit like this (but far less cute):

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But you’re up, and you’re at your computer, so you write. Everything you write is pretty much drivel. But you figure your first drafts are usually drivel anyway. You push on, keep going and before you know it, an alarm goes off, or a child gets out of bed, or the dog starts barking to go out, or the sun will rise and you’ll have to stop what you’re doing (sometimes mid-sentence, but even that isn’t as bad as I imagined it would be) and say to yourself ‘that’s it for today’.

And, if you’re like me, you’ll find that after 2 hours of solid writing (minus breaks for coffee and the bathroom and a piece of toast and some internet research), you’ll have written between 1000 and 2000 words (maybe a little bit more on a good morning). And best of all, you don’t have to think about writing for the rest of the day, because your word count is already done! How awesome is that?!

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Instead, you can use your time to enjoy what you’re doing with your day and let your story simmer at the back of your mind, knowing you’re going to revisit it again tomorrow. Your energy goes into thinking about your story, rather than worrying about whether you’ll have the time or energy to physically sit down at your keyboard (which can be enervating in itself.)

If you need further encouragement to switch to mornings, why not check out this article here, which explains why science thinks we ought to be morning writers (and don’t despair if mornings aren’t really your thing, if you read the whole article it has plenty to say about the value of routine building regardless of the time).

So you’re sold on morning writing now, right? But still not sure how you’re going to get out of bed? My next post includes my top 6 tips for early rising writers and how to make the switch to morning writing.

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Why You Ought to Be Writing in the Morning (Part 1)

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You’ve heard it a hundred times right? Everyone (and sometimes it feels like everyone) tells you that you’ve GOT to get your writing done in the morning. Get it out of the way. Get those words down when you’re fresh. Get on with your day.

Well – I’ve pretty much been ignoring that advice for as many years as I’ve been alive. I’m a NIGHT OWL. Always have been. At high-school, all my best study was done between the hours of midnight and 6am. University was the same: in that quiet, dark time when it feels like the rest of the world is asleep, that’s when the magic has always happened for me. Most of my writing has been done between the hours of 10pm and 2am. I pretty much wrote and edited the entirety of my novel White Eyes during those hours.

And honestly, who in their right mind wants to get up early if they don’t have to? Getting up before everyone else has always seemed to me to be a form of strange and unusual torment. It’s scientifically proven that the human body doesn’t mind staying up late (something to do with our sleep patterns and natural body clock, I think) but struggles to get up earlier. Especially when it’s cold. And dark. Or dark AND cold. (I just made that last bit up but it works for me).

BUT:

Night writing does take its toll. Full of ideas and fuelled by caffeine, I’ve always found it very hard to switch my brain off after a late night session, hard to get to sleep. That makes mornings a bitch – a tired, sleepy, grumpy, sluggish stumble to the kitchen for more caffeine. I’d often delegate morning routine with the kids to my hubby (I’m very lucky he works close to home) so that I could get at least 5, perhaps 6 hours of sleep. It was hard, but it felt worth it – writing is sacrifice because the rewards outweigh the cost – and losing a little bit of sleep isn’t the end of the world.

I could have gone on like that indefinitely, but for two things:

  1. My eldest daughter started school. My kids are great sleepers, and up until that point, they’d generally not wake until 8am, but now she’d need to be up at least an hour earlier, and there were sandwiches to make, uniforms to prepare, hair to do. I was going to HAVE to get up earlier.
  2. This was the big one. My husband and I decided we’d like to add another child to our family.

I cut down my cups of coffee to two  – the recommended limit for pregnancy (don’t ask how many I would normally have in a day – it’s not a pretty number). And we waited. I went to visit an acupuncturist who specialised in fertility. She was adamant. I needed to get more sleep. I needed to be in bed no later than 10pm. And I ought to give up the coffee. I laughed in her face (in a good-humoured kind of way).  I’m a writer. Caffeine is the very substance I transform into words, and 10pm is my Prime Time. There was no way I could give those things up.

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And there was no way I could get more sleep. There weren’t enough hours in the day. But the acupuncturist was clear: I was 37 and had a low egg reserve – if I wanted the best chance of a baby I ought to listen to her.

Begrudgingly I gave up the coffee. Not quite cold-turkey, but close enough that I got terrible headaches. I still wasn’t quite ready to give up my nights though. I figured I could start writing at 8pm, be finished and in bed by 10pm. But without my usual afternoon coffee, by 8pm my brain had left the building. My eyes were drooping and all my ideas had already gone to sleep. I was like this (but not so adorable):

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It was all I could do to scour eBay for a few Review fit n’ flare dresses and check Facebook, before I’d drag myself to bed, or park myself in front of the TV (or just skip the middle man and not bother sitting down at my computer at all).

Something had to give. With two kids, I was getting no writing done in the day. I’d lost my prime night writing time. There was only one thing for it.

Set the alarm clock.

It was time for morning writing.

(pop back next week to read part two)