Writing Analytics
Blog | 20 September 2021

How to Create a Morning Writing Routine That Works

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Many writers choose to get their writing done in the morning. This signifies how much of a priority writing is for them — they want to start their day knowing that they've accomplished the most important task.

It's practical, too. When you're starting out, you likely have a full-time job or something that takes at least as much time and energy — maybe you're raising a family, running a business or are still in school.

Getting your writing done as early as possible reduces the chance that something will come up and disrupt your routine. For most people, the morning is one of the most controllable parts of the day. We do roughly the same things every single day. It's the perfect time for a writing habit.

Finishing your writing early makes the rest of your day a lot more relaxed. You don't have to stress about when you'll have the time to write.

That said, writing first thing in the morning is far from easy. In this post, you'll learn how to overcome the challenges and set yourself up for success as a morning writer.

Get up earlier

A successful morning writing routine starts the night before. You may have to get up hours earlier than you're used to. To make that sustainable, you will have to start going to bed a little earlier too.

If your usual bedtime is at 1 a.m., getting up at 5.30 to write will be very difficult. You may be able to drag yourself out of bed, but you'll almost certainly procrastinate that time away.

Writing is a cognitively demanding activity. When you're too tired to focus, you will struggle. Sometimes, you can power through for a few days or weeks, but it won't be sustainable.

Get enough sleep so you can start getting up earlier. Depending on how fast you work and how many words you're planning to write every day, you may need an hour or even two of extra time in the morning for your new writing routine.

Have a plan

Plan what you're going to write about ahead of time — doing the night before is the best. It may be a complete outline or just a rough idea — something to get you started and make sure that you can use the time in the morning efficiently, even if you're not feeling inspired.

Some writers go to bed thinking about what will they work on in the morning. The theory is that their subconscious mind will keep churning on that idea while they're asleep. In the morning, they're more likely to get new ideas and be inspired to work on the project.

Regardless of whether you subscribe to that theory, it's a good idea to think about what you'll be working on anyway. Having a topic ready make it much easier to get going in the morning.

Eliminate distractions

It's frustrating to get up two hours earlier only to spend that time by replying to urgent email or scrolling through social media. If you find these things hard to resist, eliminate them from your morning routine entirely so that you don't have to resist them.

Switch your phone into airplane mode in the evening and unlock it at the end of your writing session. Use a website blocker to stop yourself from accessing sites where you tend to go to procrastinate. Most blockers allow you to schedule this in advance so that you don't have to do it manually.

You made an effort to get up hours earlier than usual, don't feel obliged to check your email or respond to anyone after you wake up. Previously, you wouldn't even be awake.

Nobody else has to know that you're hard at work on your writing project. Let them think you're still asleep. This is your time when writing is the top priority.

Create a ritual

When you repeat a sequence of actions frequently enough, your brain will start associating them together. Many writers have a small ritual that they perform every time they sit down to write. It may be as simple as brewing a cup of tea, going to the library or coffee shop, playing a specific playlist or arranging the windows on their screen in a certain way.

Joanna Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, has listened to the same album of rain and thunderstorm sounds when writing in the morning for the past 10 years. These are subtle things that can have a big impact, particularly on days when things aren't going so well.

Other writers have a warm-up routine before they start. They free-write or journal for 5-30 minutes to exercise the 'writing muscle' before moving on to working on their project.

Write with a timer

When you sit down to write, make sure to set up a timer. Seeing the clock makes you aware of time passing by. It gives you urgency to focus on writing before your time runs out.

Since you'll be doing this regularly, it's better to use time as your measure of success instead of trying to hit a specific word count goal. How many you'll be able to write depends on many factors, not all of which are under your control. Some days are 200-word days; some days are 2,000-word days. It can be demotivating when you fail to reach your word goal several days in a row.

With time-based goals, just sitting down to write is a success, regardless of how many words you produce during that period.

Writing Analytics editor and dashboard.

Sessions in Writing Analytics are great for this. The editor has a timer built into it that starts as soon as you start typing. You can set a time goal for each session before you begin writing.

Goal progress in Writing Analytics
Goal progress in Writing Analytics.

What to do when you're not feeling like writing?

There will be days when you drag yourself out of bed, make coffee and sit at your desk, struggling to do anything. That happens to everyone at some point.

If you can, go through the motions anyway. Make your coffee, play your writing music and sit with that tension for a while. Wait until you're so bored that writing something — anything will become the better alternative. Neil Gaiman does that. He sits there until the words come out. Sometimes, they don't, and that's okay too, but he has to sit there regardless.

In case you can't bring yourself to go through the motions either, take time to reflect on why you're not feeling up to the task? What could you change to improve the situation tomorrow? Do you need to go to bed earlier? Do you need a more comprehensive outline?

Alternatively, do something very different. Hit the gym. Go for an early run. Cook breakfast for everyone. Don't just sit at your computer, watching videos online or scrolling through social media. If this happens more frequently, your brain will start associating those behaviours together. You will transform your morning writing routine into a morning mindless scrolling routine.

Final thoughts

Not everyone is a morning person, but if you can do it, getting your writing done as early in the morning as possible is a great way to finish your book while working a full-time job. Mornings are more predictable than other parts of the day. When everyone else is fast asleep, you're less likely to be interrupted. It's the perfect time for a writing habit that you'll be able to rely on for the years to come.