Seven Tips for Getting Up Early to Write (Even if You’re a Night Owl)

Seven Tips for Getting Up Early to Write (Even if You’re a Night Owl)

For many years, while I was working full time, I got up early to write before my kids woke up and things got hectic. As a die-hard night owl, adjusting to that schedule was rough. I’m not gunna lie. It took me about eighteen months to settle in, but I know now that I went about it all wrong.

If you’re a writer trying to eek out an hour a day for your work, consider getting up early. Here are seven things I learned along the way that might make the process a little easier:

1.  You don’t have to be a morning person.

I was absolutely NOT a morning person when I started. It was painful, no question about it, but eventually I got used to it because I had to. If your writing is important enough, you’ll get used to it. Here’s how:

2.  PRE-PROGRAM YOUR COFFEE.

If you own a coffee maker, it probably has a delayed start function. Take 10 minutes, google the make and model to find the owners manual, and read up on how to set it to start brewing ten minutes before your alarm goes off.

 You want the coffee to be ready to drink when you drag yourself out of bed. Hot coffee can be a powerful motivator.

3.  Give yourself a foot massage.

I know this sounds strange, but sometimes, when I was too tired to get up and even the promise of hot coffee wasn’t enough, I would pinch each toe for a few seconds. Somehow a quick little foot massage helped drag me into consciousness. I don’t know why. It just did.

4.  DO IT (ALMOST) EVERY DAY.

For the first two years, I thought I was going easy on myself by only getting up early to write every other day. Boy did I get that one wrong. Do it every day, or at least every workday. Just put it in your head that this is how you start workdays. It will be a drag at first, but eventually you will adjust. It will get easier. I struggled terribly with early mornings until I started waking up at 5am six days a week. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s easier to settle into it if you do it (almost) every day. (For the record, I’m a big believer in having one or two mornings a week to sleep in. It gives you something to look forward to, and it’s oh so sweet when you’re waking up so early every other morning. Trying to wake up at 5am every morning forever will just lead to burn out.)

5.  ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

When you wake up super early to write you will be groggy. You will not want to think about anything too much until the coffee kicks in. For me, this meant establishing a routine. I would fill my mug and sit at the kitchen table with my coffee and my journal. I would aim to fill one page of the journal with whatever came to mind – seriously anything. It usually took me about half an hour, and I would notice my pen moving faster as the coffee kicked in. Then, I would close the journal, set the mug aside, and attack my writing.

6.  GO TO BED EARLY.

Depending on how old you are, and how demanding your days can be, getting up super early on a regular basis will start to wear you down if you don’t compensate by going to bed a little earlier. As a night person by nature, I never used to get tired until after midnight. But I knew I needed sleep, so I started brushing my teeth and getting into bed earlier. For many weeks I would sit up and read until my usual crash-out time, but eventually the exhaustion caught up and I started falling asleep earlier. It’s embarrassing for a self-proclaimed night person to admit to going to bed at 9, but you’re a writer, damn it, and you’re doing it for your art.

7.  SET AN END TIME.

For me, writing time ended at 6:30 or when the kids woke up. Whichever came first. If you’re a parent, and/or if you’re working a full time job, you will need to set an end time.

Write as much as you can in your allotted time and then pat yourself on the back. Whatever else happens that day, you wrote. And that is a fucking victory.

 

      Happy Writing!

In Praise of Working on Two Novels at the Same Time

In Praise of Working on Two Novels at the Same Time

Enjoy life

A couple of years ago, I hit a wall with my debut novel, 142 Ostriches. I was so frustrated working on it that I literally felt nauseous when I opened the file to work on it. I needed a break, badly.

So I jumped ship and started working on my second novel. It was an idea that had been percolating in my mind for a while. In truth, this second novel was the story I had always wanted to write. But in a surprisingly insightful moment that I don’t remember, I decided that it couldn’t be my first novel. It was too challenging. It jumps around in time, it has multiple POVs, it plays with magic in parts.

But getting started on it turned out to be the perfect distraction when I just couldn’t muster the energy to keep working on the first novel any longer. It was a fun, shiny new idea and I jumped at it. I did research, I made a ton of notes, I even took a few trips to explore the places where it takes place. I wrote a couple of chapters, then added 50,000 words to the draft during NaNoWriMo . I was having fun with it.   

Eventually, a friend of mine encouraged me not to give up on the first novel. Reluctantly, I read through the draft I had abandoned and was pleasantly surprised. It actually wasn’t so bad. So I tucked the second novel safely away, whispered a little promise that I would be back soon, and continued to work on the first novel with renewed energy.

Go Ahead, Write Two Novels

I share this story because I’ve often heard writers talk about how it’s a bad idea to have more than one novel going at any given time. I simply must disagree.

Having two novels to work on saved me as a writer. If I hadn’t had something else to pour my efforts into, I don’t know what I would have done. I dread to think how many writers have simply given up on writing because they hit a wall and thought they couldn’t start another project until they finished the first.

There are No Rules, People.

That said, I resisted starting novel three until I finished novel one. For me, three novels at a time is too many, and I worried that starting another project would just be a way to avoid finishing the first.

THAT is the trap. That is the thing that each of us must determine for ourselves: what is productive work, and what is just avoiding the hard work of finishing?

Now that my debut is out in the world, I’ve shifted my efforts. I spend most of my time on that second novel and when I need a break, I turn to novel number three. I can see this system working for me far into the future.  

Keep Writing

So go ahead. Start another project. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to your writing. Not even me. Especially me. If starting your third novel is right for you, you damn well better start novel three.  

Figure out what works for you, and just keep writing.