Morning routines…either you have one or you don’t but it’s hard to ignore the number of articles about how they can help you be more productive and as a writer, I’ve learnt that mornings can be powerful. When I was working full-time, those early couple of hours (like 5 AM early!) to write were painful but necessary.
But this isn’t a blog post about how you should do your mornings. In fact, in this week’s post, I wanted to share the morning routines of some of my favourite authors as well as a few questions to consider when planning or re-thinking your own. As writers, many of us have the freedom to design our mornings in a way that suits us best and I hope this post inspires you to create a morning routine that supports your writing goals.
This two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize for her best-selling novels, Wolf Hall, and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, shared the importance of waking up slowly and in silence in an article in 2016:
“I used to be a late starter, but now I get up in the dark like a medieval monk, commit unmediated scribble to a notebook, and go back to bed about six, hoping to sleep for another two hours and to wake slowly and in silence. Random noise, voices in other rooms, get me off to a savage, disorderly start, but if I am left in peace to reach for a pen, I feel through my fingertips what sort of day it is. Days of easy flow generate thousands of words across half a dozen projects – and perhaps new projects. Flow is like a mad party – it goes on till all hours and somebody must clear up afterwards. Stop-start days are not always shorter, are self-conscious and anxiety-ridden, and later turn out to have been productive and useful. I judge in retrospect. On flow days, I have no idea what I’ve written till I read it back. It’s a life with shocks built in.”
“He would eat breakfast in bed and open his post. At 10.30 a.m. he would walk through the garden to his writing hut and work until 12 p.m. when he went back to the house for lunch – typically, a gin and tonic followed by Norwegian prawns with mayonnaise and lettuce. At the end of every meal, Roald and his family had a chocolate bar chosen from a red plastic box. After a snooze, he would take a flask of tea back to the writing hut and work from 4 p.m. till 6 p.m. He would be back at the house at exactly six o’clock, ready for his dinner.”
It’s an early start for this American writer and mother who told The Daily Beast:
"I get up at 5 a.m. and walk for three miles with a friend (I do it for the gossip). I come home, shower, get my daughter off to school, make coffee and a bowl of yogurt with banana, and head up to my office."
The renowned Japanese author referred to his morning routine in the The Paris Review in 2004:
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”
A childhood favourite of many, Enid Blyton’s books are a testament to her incredible imagination. According to the biography of her life by Barbara Stoney, the author’s morning routine varied little over the years:
“She usually began writing soon after breakfast, with her portable typewriter on her knee and her favourite red Moroccan shawl nearby; she believed that the colour red acted as a "mental stimulus" for her. Stopping only for a short lunch break she continued writing until five o'clock, by which time she would usually have produced 6,000 to 10,000 words.”
In a 2012 interview, this multiple New York Times best-selling author shares her morning routine:
I tend to wake up very early. Too early. Four o’clock is standard. My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it’s because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head. So getting to my desk every day feels like a long emergency. It’s a funny thing: people often ask how I discipline myself to write. I can’t begin to understand the question. For me, the discipline is turning off the computer and leaving my desk to do something else. I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process. I have to write hundreds of pages before I get to page one.
If you are looking to improve your routine or move from night owl to early bird, then consider some of the below self-reflective questions:
· Why do I want an effective morning routine? What am I looking to achieve from it?
· What can I prepare the night before that would help make my mornings more productive?
· What current morning habits do I need to stop, change or implement? (For example, not pressing the snooze button, not picking up my phone as soon as I wake up, drinking more water…)
· At what time in the morning do I feel most creative?
· Does physical activity in the morning help me get started on my day?
· What are my biggest distractions or obstacles to writing in the morning?
· What time do I need to go to bed in order to wake up feeling refreshed?
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