By Leo Babauta
As I write these words, it’s a little after 4:00 a.m. and my wife and kids are sleeping. The house is dark and quiet, with no TV or music playing, no conversation to distract the voice in my head.
It’s the perfect writing environment, for me at least.
When we write, we are speaking with a voice in our heads, and that voice is communicated through our fingertips and onto paper or the digital whitespace. The more noise that’s around us, the more difficult it is to hear our voice.
That’s why the morning has always been my favorite time to write, before anyone awakes, before traffic starts up or the chickens start making crowing noises. It’s the still of early morning that allows my voice to come through.
Why Write So Early?
Sure, it can be done at any time of day. For some people, noise is a welcome relief from the heavy silence. For others, the quiet of late night is preferred. I won’t argue with these people, as everyone has to find a writing time that works for them
But here’s why “first thing in the morning” works for me (and that doesn’t have to be 4:00 a.m. — it can be whenever you awake):
It’s quiet. For me, that’s super important. There’s no better time than when the world is still asleep.
Work hasn’t gotten in the way. By mid-morning or afternoon, a ton of stuff has come up that must be done now … pushing back the writing. First thing in the morning, nothing has come up to push back my writing.
Life hasn’t gotten in the way. It’s not just work that pushes back writing, but everyday stuff, like errands and paying bills and parties and family and kids. If you wait until the evening to write, what happens when a social engagement comes up that evening? Writing gets postponed.
Tips for Writing Early in the Morning
So you want to write in the morning … but need some suggestions? No problem. Here are my favorite tips:
Wake earlier. If you normally wake up just in time to start getting ready and then head out the door, you’ll need to wake earlier to make time for writing. That’s why I wake at 4:00 or 4:30 … it gives me a good two hours. Wake just a little earlier at a time — see my tips on doing this here.
Topic. Don’t wake up in the morning with no idea what you’re going to write about. Have your topic chosen and give it a little thought the night before. It’s great to sleep on it anyway — let your subconscious do the work for you.
Research. Do your research the afternoon or evening before. That way, you’re ready to write and don’t have to be distracted by going online to look something up. Just look everything up the day before, and save it all to a text file, so you can write without having to go online.
Start with an outline. It’s hard to just start writing with a blank screen staring at you. So I start typing out notes or an outline, so that it gets my brain and my fingers moving. Once I’ve done that, the actual writing is much easier.
Don’t check email. Whatever you normally have the urge to do first thing in the morning … resist the urge. For me, that’s email. But that can take an hour of your time, and then your morning writing time has been pushed back again. Instead, close your email program and just have the writing program open. Resist the urge!
Have it open. I like to have my writing program open (I use WriteRoom, for its lack of distractions) so that it’s right there when I wake up. I put the title on the screen, along with any research I might have done the day before. Then everything is ready to go … I just need to start writing.
Get a glass of water or coffee. Before I start writing, I make my coffee and drink a glass of water. The water gets me hydrated, and the coffee makes the morning writing experience that much more enjoyable.
Focus. While you’re writing, resist the urge to go on the Internet or play games or watch TV or get up and do something else. It takes a lot of practice, but with practice, you’ll get good at focusing on the writing at hand. Practice makes perfect.
Check email (or another reward) when you’ve done an hour. If you tell yourself that you will be able to check email (or whatever it is you have the urge to do) after one hour of writing — or until you’re done with the thing you’re writing, whichever is sooner — you’ll be motivated to get your writing done. Then you can reward yourself with email (or whatever) and feel good about it.
I think you’ll find that writing early in the morning is a habit that will make you a better and more productive writer.
Credit: Write to Done