I am a night owl, 100%. My most creative, motivated times are in the late-night hours. I frequently stay up past midnight typing away, and the words just seem to pour out. It’s incredible! Sometimes, though, that is not an option. We are writers, but we are also life-livers! We have families, work, dogs, and endless errands and responsibilities. These things often require our full attention, and before we know it, the evening is gone and you are exhausted. Staying up until midnight or 1 am is just not a viable option, even if it is your most creative time. Sometimes, you have to become a morning person.
When I was younger, I would very frequently stay up past 2 or 3 am, and sleep in until 11. Now, there is absolutely no way I can sleep past 9:30, unless I’m sick. And even 9:30 is rare. While I still stay up late some nights to write, I have learned to seize the morning hours as some of the best for writing. It was an adjustment, but once you acclimate to the shock, becoming a morning bird can do wonders for both your writing and your life in general.
Why should you get up earlier?
I have found that the morning hours are quieter and more peaceful. The rest of my family is still asleep, and I don’t have any responsibilities for at least an hour. This is key, because as the day progresses, more and more things appear on the to-do list. Even for the most dedicated time-manager, unexpected things pop up. These unexpected things can grow and grow until suddenly, your day is gone and you have no time for writing.
You don’t find time to write. You make time. And perhaps, that time must be made in the morning.
Here is a seven-step guide to becoming a morning bird (or at least being able to function in the morning):
1. MAKE A ROUTINE
I don’t take my own advice sometimes, but when I do, it helps tremendously. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning will help your body adjust better than if you sporadically wake up early. A routine does not just include time, however. It also includes actions. Doing the same set of wake-up tasks can help you shake off sleep a little faster.
For me, I generally just get up, take out the dog, brush my teeth, and then sit in the bed and write. This works for me, but you have to find what works for you. Some people cannot focus at all without coffee first thing. If you are that person, make coffee a part of your routine!
2. GO TO BED EARLY (BEFORE MIDNIGHT)
*laughing to self* This is a do-as-I-say-don’t-do-as-I-do kind of tip, but it really does matter. There is quite a bit of science behind the fact that the 11pm-3am hours give you better sleep quality than the hours after 3 am. Someone who sleep from 11pm-6am will feel more rested than someone who sleeps from 3am-10am, even though they both receive eight hours of sleep. It will be pretty much impossible to get up at 6 or 7 am consistently if you are only getting a few hours of sleep.
3. SET TWO ALARMS (FIFTEEN MINUTES APART)
A cheat I have learned is to set one alarm for fifteen minutes earlier than you want to be up, and then a second one at the actual wake-up time. This will trick your brain into thinking you are sleeping longer, allowing you fifteen extra minutes to come out of your sleepy state. Of course, this plan doesn’t work if you just turn off the second alarm and go back to sleep, which I have done many times. Even if you do fall back asleep, that second alarm will wake you up again. That’s when step #4 comes in…
4. GET OUT OF BED & SIT AT YOUR DESK
Half of the struggle is getting out of our warm, comfy beds. I live in the mountains, and my room is freezing during the winter. It is especially hard for me to wake up early then, because it is cold and dark, and I am warm and half-asleep in bed. Even if you do wake up to start writing, it is difficult to focus or stay alert when you are still warm and comfortable. It is too much of a temptation to go back to sleep. Getting out of the bed and sitting at a desk can help signal your body that it is time to wake up.
5. DON’T DO ANYTHING ELSE BEFORE YOU WRITE
Certain things (like your morning routine) are fine. Make your bed, grab some coffee, let the dog out, etc. When I say “anything else”, I mean checking your email or scrolling through your social media notifications. It is so easy for “It will only take five minutes” to turn into “wow, I just spent an hour on that, and now I have to start my day”. Once you sit down to write, WRITE!
6. OPEN A WINDOW / TURN ON A LIGHT
Light is a natural messenger to the body that it’s time to wake-up. Darkness, like cold, makes you tired. By opening your window or turning on a light, you jumpstart your mind and tell it, “Hey, wake up! It’s time to get going!”
7. BRUSH YOUR TEETH
This seems like a strange one, but it is completely legitimate. I once heard that mint has some property which helps wake you up, and although I’m not sure if that’s scientifically accurate, I can say from experience that it works. I have found that brushing my teeth in the morning (like before work) helps me shake off the sleep.
8. REALIZE THAT ONCE YOU ACTUALLY GET OUT OF BED, IT’S NOT SO BAD
Like I said in #4, getting out of our warm, comfy beds is half the struggle. Once you get up and get going, you will be okay. I pretty much drag myself out of the bed – in the dark and the cold – so I can write. Do I leap up, rearing to go in five seconds flat? Haha… no. But I have found that after about twenty minutes, I am awake. Once I’ve gone outside in the cool morning air, gone through my morning routine and turned on some lights, it isn’t so bad anymore.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
That first step for becoming a morning bird is just getting up. Just do it the first time, and then the second. Even though it’s hard, you will eventually grow more and more used to it, until it feels natural and sleeping in until noon is no longer even a viable option (even if you really, really want to, like I do sometimes). Take that first step! You can do it! And your writing will thank you for it.
I don’t want anyone to think after reading this post that I am implying you MUST be a morning bird. I function great as a night owl sometimes, and many, many people make it work. If you can make the time to write at night, go for it! Whatever accomplishes action.
For those people who are struggling to write at night, it may be time to try a different approach. Will it cost you an hour of sleep? Yes. But will it be worth it when you hold that finished book in your hands? Absolutely!
Are you a morning bird or a night owl? How do you shake off sleep in the morning and jump-start your day? Any tips you want to add? Share in the comments below!