Wake Up, Writer Girl!

A fabulous writer friend of mine has been trying to wake up early so she can get more writing done. Talking to her about her difficulties made me realize that I’ve learned a lot about early-morning writing since I first began doing it nearly a year ago. Here are some reasons to wake up early and write, and some tips that can make the process more bearable.

Reasons to wake up early and write:

  • You’re most creative early in the day.
  • Your kids sleep ’til 7, so 6-7 belongs to you. Or, your kids get up early and you might as well get going, too.
  • When you write first thing in the morning, it jump-starts your brain on writing tasks. Even if you don’t write again until much later in the day, your subconscious solves story problems all day long.
  • Repetitive stress injuries are least troublesome early in the day.
  • You hate exercising before breakfast and writing gives you an excuse not to.
  • It’s the only time you can carve out for yourself.
  • You’re useless after 3 p.m. (my most compelling reason)

Tips to help you wake up early and write:

  • Get a coffee maker with a timer. We used to have one that actually ground the beans for us—the new one just brews coffee. Set it the night before to produce your coffee five minutes before you wake. The scent of freshly brewed coffee helps with wakeup, too.
  • Set the clock next to your bed forward ten or fifteen minutes so it seems later than it is when your alarm goes off. I know I’m incapable of getting up before 6, but if I wake up at 5:50 and stretch for a few minutes, I can convince myself I’m sleeping ‘til six. Then, to buy myself extra time, I set the clock forward, so I actually wake up at 5:40. Weird, but it works.
  • Shower, stretch, eat breakfast or do whatever helps wake you up first, before you write. On the other hand, if eating makes you dopey, don’t eat first.
  • A cold house is a major disincentive for getting up early. If your house thermostat is on a timer, make the heat come on at least twenty minutes before you wake up. Put a super-warm robe & slippers RIGHT next to bed so you can grab them easily.
  • Have lots of light wherever you are working. I use a full-spectrum light all winter—it’s like sunlight and wakes me up while I work. Bonus: No seasonal affective disorder, if you’re prone.
  • Have Twitter friends who also get up early to hold you accountable (I feel guilty if I don’t show up for my early morning friends). But make sure you only check Twitter/email briefly before buckling down. Being productive is so rewarding that it will help you get up more easily the next day.
  • Have a word count goal you have to reach in the time allotted. Figure out how many words you can write in your early morning window, then hold yourself to it.
  • Don’t give up if you don’t get up on time (or have trouble concentrating) the first couple of days. Your brain will adjust to waking earlier.
  • If you aren’t having any luck waking up an hour (or more) earlier, try waking up ten minutes earlier and writing for just ten minutes. It’s something! And then once you can do that easily, shift it back another ten minutes, until you have the window you were looking for.
  • Know thyself. If you do your best writing in the afternoon or evening, you probably won’t do great writing if you wake up early. Instead, apply your willpower to becoming more disciplined about writing during the hours you are most productive. If you’re having trouble getting motivated in the evenings, could you write before you clean up the kitchen after dinner? Or what about lunchtime?

Do you wake up early to write? Do you have any tricks that make it easier? How do you discipline yourself to write at the time you’ve chosen for yourself?