I’m a writer, and a lover of early mornings. And I believe that these two fit together perfectly.
Writing in the morning (be it for work or not) is one of the best ways to start the day, improve yourself, be less stressed and more creative and positive in general.
And why not do your best work during or right after your morning routine?!
Some of the most famous writers have created a morning writing ritual. And once they see the benefits it brings to their work and life, they quickly decide to make it a permanent part of their day.
So here are the habits and rituals you can do each morning to become a better writer, get more done, feel accomplished before others have even woken up and make your days successful:
The Best Writing Morning Habits You Can Develop
I will share them in 5 different categories.
I’ll talk about:
- why do it first thing in the morning;
- how to get inspired and actually get yourself to work;
- how to change your environment for success, creativity and productivity;
- things to do to be disciplined and organized and how to take your work seriously (especially if you work from home);
- how to have a mindset shift, enjoy your work and be present.
1. Making The Most of The Early Morning.
Get up early.
The first hours of the day are a big inspiration for creative souls.
Many writers have done their most productive work before dawn. Here are some examples:
“Every day for years, Trollope reported in his “Autobiography,” he woke in darkness and wrote from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., with his watch in front of him.
He required of himself two hundred and fifty words every quarter of an hour. If he finished one novel before eight-thirty, he took out a fresh piece of paper and started the next. The writing session was followed, for a long stretch of time, by a day job with the postal service. Plus, he said, he always hunted at least twice a week.
Under this regimen, he produced forty-nine novels in thirty-five years. Having prospered so well, he urged his method on all writers: “Let their work be to them as is his common work to the common laborer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving,—as men have sat, or said that they have sat.” ~ Anthony Trollope [source]
In The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers (And How They Can Help You Succeed), James Clear has collected a few powerful and inspiring examples:
- “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours.” (Haruki Murakami);
- “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. (Ernest Hemingway);
- “I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00…” (Kurt Vonnegut);
- “I tend to wake up very early. Too early. Four o’clock is standard. My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it’s because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head. So getting to my desk every day feels like a long emergency.” (Barbara Kingsolver);
Most of the times even reading about such people’s routines can be an inspiration boost and get you to your desk.
The early morning is the best part of the day for such creative activity (but which is still work) for a few reasons:
- no one distracts you;
- you’ve just woken up and your mind isn’t overwhelmed with the daily lifestyle and other people’s problems. So you will be thinking clearly and will be able to unleash the creativity within;
- there’s nothing else you should be doing (which can be a distraction itself);
- you can enjoy the silence and peace that can only be found in the early morning;
- writing and drinking your morning coffee are a great combination.
2. Finding Inspiration in The Early Hours of The Day and Getting Yourself to Work.
To get in the right mood to write productively, do some of these:
Read the last thing you wrote.
Simone de Beauvoir said “I spend a quarter or half an hour reading what I wrote the day before, and I make a few corrections. Then I continue from there. In order to pick up the thread I have to read what I’ve done.” in an interview.
Make an outline.
Do it like A.J. Jacobs:
“I am a big fan of outlining. I write an outline. Then a slightly more detailed outline. Then another with even more detail. Sentences form, punctuation is added, and eventually it all turns into a book.” (source)
Just read something inspiring.
Choose something that can motivate you, give you a productivity boost and just get you to work. Be it poetry, quotes, your favorite personal development blog, just read a few paragraphs/pages.
Then write down your thoughts on it. This will get you going. After that, continue with the writing you do for work.
Get in the mood by thinking how your writing can inspire.
Try morning pages.
This simple practice is one of the top habits you can develop that will turn your life around in the long term.
The benefits are countless – you clear your mind, start your day by doing a creative activity, generate ideas, share your thoughts and thus feel free and relaxed for the whole day, focus easily and improve your writing and creative thinking.
There are health benefits too. You reduce stress. You can complain to the morning pages about everything that bothers you. This way you let your negative energy out and are more relaxed and calm during the whole day.
Morning pages make you use both the left side of your brain (the rational one) and the right one (where creativity is).
When combined, you brain becomes more powerful and you generate ideas, think of ways to solve your problems in life, organize the thoughts in your head, start understanding yourself and the world better.
If you want to learn more about it and build the habit of doing morning pages daily, check out my book Morning Pages: All You Need to Know About Writing in The Morning
It’s a simple guide containing everything you need to know about this exercise.
Journal your thoughts if you’re just staring at the blank page/screen.
Do some research on the topic you’re going to write about.
A.J. Jacobs also advises the following:
“Force yourself to generate dozens of ideas. A lot of those ideas will be terrible. Most of them, in fact. But there will be some sparkling gems in there too. Try to set aside 20 minutes a day just for brainstorming.”
That can be helpful.
It’s a good practice to try to breathe deeply, empty your mind so that there are no distractions and unnecessary thoughts, and start repeating positive affirmations that will get you in the mood or will unleash the creative genius within.
3. Creating a Pleasant Working Environment.
What’s around you has a big effect on how you feel and perform.
In fact, environment is one of the biggest success factors. And if you change it so that it makes you more productive and creative (by experimenting and seeing what works best for you) you can double your results.
Here are some quick environment hacks:
- keep your office (even if that’s your bedroom) clean and organized, especially your desk. If clutter is the first thing you see when you get up, you won’t be able to approach your work with an organized mind;
- let in natural light and fresh air;
- have a place dedicated only for work (usually that’s your desk) and respect it.
And here’s a super inspiring example of the author and poet Maya Angelou shared in her interview:
“I keep a hotel room in my hometown and pay for it by the month.
I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible. Usually a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles.
I have all the paintings and any decoration taken out of the room. I ask the management and housekeeping not to enter the room, just in case I’ve thrown a piece of paper on the floor, I don’t want it discarded.
But I’ve never slept there, I’m usually out of there by 2. And then I go home and I read what I’ve written that morning, and I try to edit then. Clean it up.”
She’s literally created for herself a whole new world. The environment breeds success, productivity, inspiration and creativity.
You can try something like that if you’re easily distracted and find a hard time getting to work.
4. Mini Habits to Help You Build Discipline and Get Serious About Your Writing.
- tell others what time you’re writing every day so that no one comes in the room, calls or texts you during that time;
- when you write, write. Nothing else should bother you. Everything else can wait;
- don’t listen to your inner critic. It has no idea what it’s talking about;
- don’t think about editing while writing.
Be productive online.
- use software that blocks everything else but the document you’re writing on;
- don’t check email or social media all the time. Do it before you get to work and in the afternoon, for example;
- if you’re using the Internet, have only one tab opened at a time;
- be mindful of what you’re currently doing. Don’t think about the next thing you’ll write.
Structure your day around your writing sessions.
- find your most productive time;
- set fixed hours;
- set goals/deadlines – write in 30-minute chunks, then take a break. Or don’t allow yourself to leave the desk before you’ve written a certain number of words or pages;
- track your time and the work that gets done;
- constantly make changes to your routines so that you can find the daily schedule that gives you best results.
Here’s how Henry Miller has built discipline by creating rules to follow:
- Work on one thing at a time until finished.
- Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
- Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
- Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
- When you can’t create you can work.
- Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
- Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
- Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
- Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
- 10.Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
- 11.Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
They’re published in this book.
And here’s how other famous writers keep their writing life organized:
- “Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write. A lot of the time (and this is fully goofy to admit), I’ll write with earplugs in — even if it’s dead silent at home.” (Nathan Englander)
- “When he first started writing, Grisham says, he had “these little rituals that were silly and brutal but very important.”
“The alarm clock would go off at 5, and I’d jump in the shower. My office was 5 minutes away. And I had to be at my desk, at my office, with the first cup of coffee, a legal pad and write the first word at 5:30, five days a week.”
His goal: to write a page every day. Sometimes that would take 10 minutes, sometimes an hour; ofttimes he would write for two hours before he had to turn to his job as a lawyer, which he never especially enjoyed.”
- “First drafts as early in the morning as possible, then second, then third (retyping, I work on a manual). Once the first draft is 80% completed I start on the second, so that there’s a conveyor belt of drafts in progress: this helps me to grasp the totality of the book. I accelerate towards the end, usually because I’m on or past my deadline.” (Will Self)
- “There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he said. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.” (Stephen King)
- “How do you begin writing?
Fitfully. I’ll write something, but it won’t be the beginning or the middle or the end — I’m just getting an idea out on the page. Then, as the words accumulate, I start thinking about how they need to be organized.
Is there any time of day you like to write?
I’ve always written best very early in the morning and very late at night. I write very little in the middle of the day. If I do any work in the middle of the day, it is editing what I’ve written that morning.” (Michael Lewis)
5. Zen Habits for Writers.
There’s also the spiritual side of the whole writing process. And it’s closely related to how much work you’ll have done in the end and how good it will be.
Here’s how to enjoy the process, be yourself and do your best:
- let go of judgement, fear, expectations and doubts while writing;
- be present – don’t think about what you’ve written before or what you might write in the future. Focus on your work now and put pen to paper;
- don’t compare it to someone else’s work;
- be okay with the mistakes you make and know it’s all a learning experience;
- enjoy the process – appreciate having the chance to do what you love;
- turn the whole ritual into a pleasant experience.
Ray Bradbury says the following in an interview:
“My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.”
Susan Sontag prefers to do things slowly in order to fully experience the process:
“I write with a felt-tip pen, or sometimes a pencil, on yellow or white legal pads, that fetish of American writers. I like the slowness of writing by hand. Then I type it up and scrawl all over that.”
Ernest Hemingway describes writing as a journey of self-discovery and a deep life experience, and even compares it to making love:
“You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.” [Source]
Don DeLillo is all about solitude, finding peace and spending time in nature:
“I work in the morning at a manual typewriter. I do about four hours and then go running. This helps me shake off one world and enter another. Trees, birds, drizzle — it’s a nice kind of interlude. Then I work again, later afternoon, for two or three hours. Back into book time, which is transparent — you don’t know it’s passing. No snack food or coffee. No cigarettes — I stopped smoking a long time ago. The space is clear, the house is quiet. A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it. Looking out the window, reading random entries in the dictionary.”
Jodi Picoult denies the existence of writer’s block:
“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
So do I, actually. I think it’s just an excuse we come up with, a way to procrastinate, and is a result of insecurity, fear of failure and other self-limiting beliefs.
And it can be easily overcome with the right mindset and attitude.
So I think I covered all important aspects of creating a writing morning ritual that can help you boost productivity, produce your best work and be in a great mood while doing it.
What else can you add?
Share the techniques that work best for you, other examples of famous writers’ daily routines and morning habits you admire, and the mistakes you’ve done in the past.