Establishing a morning writing routine is one of the most important tools in your arsenal when it comes to increasing both the quality and the output of your writing. What are your writing goals? If you want to write a book, start a blog, or be able to consistently conjure up 500, 750, or even 1,000 words a day, you’re going to want to start a morning writing routine.
I recently spoke with numerous writers about their morning writing routines to understand their daily writing practices, and to ask them for advice on how to keep it going.
1 Reduce physical and online distractions
If there’s one thing writers are prone to above all else, it’s procrastination. It’s often said that writers enjoy “having written” above the thrill of the writing process itself, but that’s too simplistic of an overview.
When you reduce physical and online distractions from your workspace it will instantly become much easier to stick to a morning writing routine. When I caught up with author and special correspondent for Vanity Fair, Nick Bilton, he noted that: “In the morning, alone in my office without interruption, I can write more in the first couple hours of the day than I can throughout the entire next twelve hours.”
This means everything from keeping a clean desk (more on that below), to closing social media and other distracting websites, to even setting up content blockers on your computer to block these websites so you won’t be tempted to check in on them while you’re writing.
2 Write early (it’s all extra from there)
What is your most important task when you wake up in the morning? If it’s not already writing, then it should be. Economist and author Tyler Cowen, whose main writing period spans from nine o’clock in the morning to midday every day, told me that “Too many people waste some of their most productive morning time showering.” I couldn’t agree more.
Don’t waste your mornings with frivolous tasks that can be just as easily taken care of later in the day. When you begin writing the moment you wake up, you get your most important work out of the way first thing. Or, as author Ryan Holiday notes of his mornings: “I shower, get ready, and head downstairs to my office/library to sit and write. The way I see it, after a productive morning in which I accomplish my big things, the rest of the day can be played by ear. It’s all extra from there.”
With this said, keep in mind that while “early” is subjective, writing the moment you wake up may not work for you. Instead, choose to write when you’re feeling your best, as doing so will naturally improve the quality of what you produce.
3 Choose to embrace the mess—or to tidy it
Are you one of those writers who considers a messy desk the sign of a creative mind? If so, embrace this fact. When I spoke with author and New Yorker columnist Maria Konnikova she described her writing style to me as so: “My desk is a mess, my writing is a mess. When people ask me, ‘What’s your approach to writing?’ my answer is nearly always, ‘Throw up on the screen and see what happens.’”
Of course, many writers are only able to write if they have a tidy desk and tidy home in general (don’t forget the kitchen!). If you fall into this category, don’t change! Your writing routine should be personal to you; if you do your best work when you have a tidy desk, tidy mind, then you should tidy up before you sit down to write. If you write from home, ideally tidy up these areas before going to bed each night.
4 Get some sleep
Having a morning writing routine won’t count for much if you sleep so little that you’re unable to concentrate on your work. If you’re tired and stressed out in the morning, this is going to reflect poorly on your writing (though Bloggr can help with this!).
Senior editor of Fortune magazine, Geoff Colvin, told me that he is a huge advocate of abundant sleep, with him aiming for at least nine hours a night. When I caught up with Arianna Huffington she wanted to drive home the importance of getting enough sleep: “Ninety-five percent of the time I get eight hours of sleep a night, and as a result, 95 percent of the time I don’t need an alarm to wake up. And waking up naturally is, for me, a great way to start the day.”
Of course, convincing ourselves to go to bed at night is harder than it’s ever been—even when we have our morning writing routine to look forward to. If this is a struggle for you, consider this tactic by behavioral designer Nir Eyal, who programmed his router to shut off his internet connection every night at 10:00 p.m.
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— Bloggr (@Bloggr) May 21, 2018
5 Remember: you’re writing even when you’re not writing
You don’t have to be sat in front of your computer screen to actually write. Much of writing—the organization, the outlining, and all forms of idea creation—can take place in your head as you go about your day.
When I spoke with author and artist Austin Kleon he told me the following about the power of his daily walks: “Almost every single morning, rain or shine, my wife and I load our two sons into a red double stroller (we call it the War Rig) and we take a three-mile walk around our neighborhood. It’s often painful, sometimes sublime, but it’s always essential to our day. It’s when ideas are born, when we make plans, when we spot suburban wildlife, when we rant about politics, when we exorcise our demons.”
An added benefit of writing even when you’re not writing is it frees up your morning writing routine to focus exclusively on the actual pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard act of getting words down when you first wake up.
Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, and the founding editor of mymorningroutine.com.