Author-in-Training: 5 Reasons Why I Write First Thing in the Morning

I write pretty much every day. Even in between drafts, I’ve gotten in the habit of using that time for writing-related activities, such as reading a book about publishing, or composing a blog post. For me, the best time to getting writing done is right after I eat breakfast and get dressed. Even on the weekends, when I tend to be a little more relaxed, I usually get my writing done in the AM hours. And sure, this took a little effort to get going, but I found it to be 100% worth it in the long run.

And here are the reasons why:

The crippling effects of age
When I was in college, night time was when I had the MOST energy. Those late night hours were chock full of playing video games and watching anime with my boyfriend (much sympathy to the person who slept on the other side of that wall). The morning was for rolling out of my bed, and dragging my exhausted ass to chemistry class, where I would struggle to stay awake, mentally cursing myself for not being one of those “morning people.” You might be able to see where the error in my thought process was.

Fortunately/Unfortunately, now that I’m in my 30s, staying up that late isn’t even an option.

After an eight-hour day at work, I’m not going to say that I have NO energy, but I’m not usually up for doing something that requires a lot of creative juice. And although my eighteen-year-old self would faint in shock at the idea, I really do get my best writing done first thing in the morning, after a good night’s sleep.

Just get it out of the way
A lot of conventional advice says that you should get writing out of the way first thing in the morning, because it allows fewer opportunities to procrastinate throughout the day. And well, that’s not wrong.

For me, the longer I procrastinate something, the easier it becomes to put it even further off. Seriously, just look at every time I have to call the handyman to take care of a house problem. I put it off once, and before I know it, weeks or even months have gone by, and those damn garage door openers are still broken.

They say that perfection is the enemy of done, but the same can be said for procrastination. So just sitting down and doing the damn task before you have a chance to put it off is probably going to be your smartest move. On top of that, writing first thing in the day symbolizes that you have made it a high priority in your life, which is a great way to get in you in right mindset for taking writing seriously as a career

The power of daily habits
I’m a big fan of daily habits. And I’m not talking about the spa-like morning/evening routines that beauty vloggers tend to post on youtube, but the idea of if you do something every single day, that it gets easier in the long run. In fact, I’m such an uber-fan that I have daily routines coming out of my ears during the work week, including in the morning, my lunch break, after work, and in the evening. All of these daily habits help me get my shit together, exercise, keep my house from descending into chaos, and of course, get that writing done.

Getting into a routine can be tricky, but once you’ve done it for long enough (the number I seen thrown around is twenty-one days) it simply becomes a habit, and doesn’t require as much thought. I’m not saying that there are never any days that I don’t feel like writing, but nine times out of ten, it’s just something I get up and do in the morning.

Of course, I am also an extreme creature of habit, so creating routines might take a little more effort for you. So if the idea of getting up a full hour (or more) earlier and using that time to write sounds daunting, make it twenty minutes, or a half hour, and work your way up.

It leaves you with the most time to work with
During the last NaNoWriMo, I found myself dealing with a plot that required a very specific type of structure. To make sure every scene fit in the right place, I’d outline a chapter or two in advance (and it worked! for the most part). Unfortunately, I soon realized that if I wanted to get in my daily word counts, I just didn’t have time for both writing and outlining in the hour I had available every morning. Fortunately, because I got my writing out of the way first thing in the morning, I had the rest of the day to work with when it came to outlining. Had I done my writing at night, it would just mean staying up even later, exhausting myself during an already intense month (not only was I writing a novel, but I started a new job!). Oftentimes being a writer is more than just writing, and if you want to have time to do all that extra stuff (blogging! social media!), it’s good to have a lot of time to work with.

Happiness
This one may sound strange, but I tend to be a happier person once I’ve gotten my writing done. Obviously, it takes a good day of writing to get me to that point, but even after a bad day, at least I feel as if I’ve accomplished something. And if that makes me a more pleasant person, than I guess that means that writing every morning isn’t just good for me, but for the people who spend time around me too.

So those are my reasons why I make it a point to write every morning.  And sure, I know that this isn’t possible for everyone, but if the only thing holding you back if the fact that you don’t feel like getting up earlier, I would still recommend giving it a try for three weeks to a month. See how you feel at the end of it. If anything, you’ll have gotten a whole bunch of words down, and when is that a bad thing?

 

This post is part of the new Author-in-Training Project, where I document my path to publishing Red and Black, and the lessons I’ve learned on the way. Please click on the Author-in-Training tag for more posts.

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On Creating a Regular Writing Habit- Part Two

Welcome Back! This post continues my tips for creating a regular writing habit– such as writing every day. For part one, click here. Part two begins now!

Tip #4- Eliminate Time Wasters– One of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing every day is simply finding the time. And it’s not that surprising. Between the regular responsibilities of juggling family, friends, a career, and something resembling a full nights sleep, the idea of carving out  time for daily writing may seem impossible. Fortunately it isn’t. You just need to be honest to yourself about what’s really a worthwhile use of your attention, and what’s just wasting that precious time.

To me, time wasters include spending a lot of time on social media, mindless shopping (online and in real life), or marathoning TV shows or movies. While participating in these activities may be beneficial to a certain extent (social media allows us to connect with friends, shopping allows us to take care of necessary purchases, and I’m the last person to look down on someone for having a favorite TV show!), people have a habit of taking things too far, which ends up eating into precious writing time. For me, my biggest time waster is youtube. I’ll start off with one news show, and before I know it I’ve fallen into a black hole of movie trailer reactions, and haul videos. And while watching a video or two can be a nice way to unwind, I know that I push things too far, eating into time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Recognizing what these time wasters are requires us to pay serious attention to how we spend our time. Be honest with yourself. Do you spend more than an hour a day on social media. How many weekends have been lost to maratoning the latest Netflix series? If you’re really going to make writing a priority, that means taking these time wasters, and minimizing them.

Tip #5- Create A Visual Representation of Progress (or your lack thereof)– This one is super simple. I have a calendar, and each day I write down how much I’ve written (either in time, or how many words). This visual representation allows for an extra layer of accountability. If I miss a day, I put in a big X instead, and seeing too many X’s when I’m not dealing with a planned break (more on that later) really shows me where I’ve fallen short. On the other hand, seeing several days all lined up in a row where I managed to get in an hour or more of writing is a real motivator. My old fashioned method may not work for you, so there’s always the spreadsheet option. And there are great aps like “Don’t Break the Chain.” The actual method is up to you. It just really helps to have something to keep track of your progress.

Tip #6- Be Aware of Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses- This one is going to be the most personalized one of all of my tips, because when it comes down to it, we all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing. For example, I am an extreme creature of habit, in love with my precious, precious routine. An example of this is when I was in grad school, I spent most of my waking hours in the library. There were several glassed in doors at the front of the building, and I would always enter using the same one. After a while, one door stopped functioning property. They locked it, and posted a sign asking people to use another one. The first day I came across this, I, being a creature of habit, ignored the sign, went right to the locked door, and walked right into it. And then I did that the next day. And the next. And the next.

Fortunately, what makes me a horrible person at opening doors, makes me a great person for creating a writing habit. I just need to to write at the same time every day long enough, and eventually the habit will stick. Of course, it something occurs to break my beloved routine (say, ahem string of snow days mid-February), I often find its not so easy keep up my habits, and need to take serious effort to refocus.

Another thing I struggle is with is finishing. Once I come to the end of something, I have a habit of mentally checking out before I’ve actually reached the finish line. As a result, when I get to the end of something, I need to really push myself to get through those last few pages. To get it done, and get it done well.

Finding your own strengths and weaknesses is something that will happen over time as you spend more time writing. For example, you might discover that you struggle to get over the hurdle of that first blank page, but once you get going, everything falls into place. You might discover that you do really well at write-ins, and that writing with other people is a great way to keep you motivated. Or you might discover that you’re like me and need to do all of your writing solitary, in silence, oftentimes with the lights off like a creepy vampire hermit. Picking up on these quirks is something that will take time, but try to be aware of them so you can know when your writing will be the smoothest, and when you will need to push through a rough patch..

Tip #7- Work Towards Planned Breaks to Keep You Refreshed, and Focused- Writing every day has so many benefits. It makes makes my writing flow much better, and helps me when it comes to keeping all of my plot lines and character arcs straight. And it makes it a hell of a lot easier to finish things! But the idea of doing something every day for the rest of my life can be daunting. And like everyone else, I feel the urge to skip a day every now and then. Only, once I’ve skipped one day and the habit is broken, it becomes very easy to skip two days. Or three. And then, before I know it, the habit is broken and I’m back at square one again.

That’s why I’ve really come around to the idea of taking a planned break. Here’s how it works for me. I separate my writing into chunks- with an ideal chunking lasting about a month. Then I take a week off to do something fun, and come back at the end, refreshed and refocused.

 

Those were my tips on how to create a writing habit. I hope that they’re helpful to someone! Writing on a regular basis has helped me so much, not just as a writer, but just in general. I find I’m overall a happier person when I’m writing on a regular basis, which I’m sure makes life a of easier for my loved ones as well.

I would love to hear if anyone has any other tips for writing every day/creating a regular writing habit. As mentioned previously, these may be what works for me, but everyone is unique. Finding what works for you can be a hell of a challenge, but there’s no denying that rewarding feeling that comes with finishing something good. Creating a regular writing habit is completely worth your effort!