Are you a morning writer or a night writer? The Impossible Contract author K. A. Doore is a proud of member of the 5 AM writers club and below she shares how (and why) she stays dedicated to writing in the morning.
By K. A. Doore
Not everyone is a morning person.
Not everyone needs to be a morning person.
I say this both selflessly and selfishly – indeed, if everyone were a morning person, it would break that beautiful morning silence, those dew-damp moments when the day could still be anything, including a day when you actually get some gods-damned writing done.
This is not yet another essay about how if you don’t wake up at before-the-sun-itself o’clock, you’re Doing It Wrong or you’re a Failure of the Highest Order. We need our night owls as much as we need our morning pigeons – otherwise who would keep the coffee shops open past noon? But if you’re wondering whether the cool calm of morning is right for you, you’ve come to the right essay.
It might be hard to believe, considering how much I champion #5amWritersClub and how fiercely I defend my mornings, but I wasn’t always a morning person. I used to stay up until 1, even 2am on a weeknight, writing or coding or drawing until I was beyond exhausted and out the other side to loopy and back again. My study sessions in college often included a second pot of coffee just before midnight.
But times change and so do we, and now I have a small child, a 40-hour workweek, and vanishingly slim free time. Between meetings during the day and a child who really absolutely 100% does not want to go to bed at night, the only time I can rely on is that sliver of an hour before the rest of the world wakes up.
It’s not that there aren’t interruptions to my 5am writing time – children get sick, after all, and so do their parents, and both can have lousy nights – but predictably getting my words written first thing means that when the rest of the day falls apart or just becomes overwhelming, I can tell myself: at least you wrote. Because the last thing I need is that extra special guilt that comes at the end of the day when you know you should write, but really, you’re exhausted beyond your mere mortal bones and spending another micro-second outside of your bed feels like an exquisite kind of torture.
Writing first thing in the morning means that almost every day, the thing that’s most important to me gets done. And that’s worth getting up too damn early for.
So if you’re intrigued by the relative calm of 5am, if you’ve wondered if it might help in your own Sisyphean journey to hit your wordcount and meet your deadlines, if you’ve ever thought “maybe I could be a morning person,” then I have a few tips for you:
- Have a really, really good reason to start getting up early. You’re going to need some solid motivation those first few days and/or weeks, because your body’s not used to these pre-dawn hours and neither are you. Write this reason down somewhere or – better yet – have it as the name for your morning alarm.
- To get up earlier, you have to go to bed earlier. Blasphemy, I know, but just because you’re waking up before the songbirds doesn’t mean you’ve found the One Neat Trick that will deceive your body and time itself. You’re still operating a complex and sensitive meat suit and that suit requires a specific amount of time to function optimally. You can trick it for a few days, but sooner than later shaving those hours off will catch up to you and you’ll be blearily shrugging your shoulders and telling your friends, I guess I’m just not a morning person before you know it. Adjust what time your head hits the pillow accordingly.
- If you like coffee, you should invest in a coffee machine with a timer or delay function. This will become your secondary – and eventually, primary – alarm clock. Imagine coffee freshly brewed as soon as you wake up. Imagine the sound of coffee percolating, as gentle as rainfall. Imagine the smell permeating your household, inviting you to a new day. Hold on, need to grab a cup of coffee.
- As soon as you roll out of bed, put some clothes on and go for a walk. If you can’t go for a walk, set a timer and stretch for a few minutes. Put headphones on or grab a notebook or sit and meditate – just whatever you do, don’t immediately start scrolling through social media on your phone or laptop. Especially in the first few days and weeks, you’ll need some time to properly wake up before you can write. But if you get into the habit of checking your email or other time-sucks, you’ll lose that precious time you got up super early for. Then you might as well have slept in, and then you do, and now any progress toward conquering the morning and becoming its sole dictator is lost.
- Last but certainly not least, it’s time to put your butt in the chair, put on headphones for music or white noise or whatever you usually do, and begin writing. You might need some extra warm-up time and that’s normal! Try writing some micro fiction or free-write for 5 or 10 minutes. Try different things, including reading over and editing through what you wrote the day before.
You’ll find something that works for you and before you know it, your kids or partner will be clamoring for your attention or the sun will be up or the time to get ready for work will be upon you. But most importantly, you’ll have words on the page, words you didn’t have before, and words that you won’t feel guilted into writing when you’re tired and cranky that evening.
If, after a few weeks of adjusting to your new schedule, you start to feel lonely or need extra motivation, you can check in with #5AmWritersClub on Twitter. There, you’ll find like-minded early birds, each struggling with varying levels of grogginess and caffeine addiction, and all sharing encouragement, energy, and cheer.
May your coffee be strong and your words flow free!
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