4 Tips for Waking Up Early to Write

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

My goal for our Write by Midnight challenge has been to wake up early and get an extra thirty minutes of writing time a day. I am not naturally a morning person, so this has really been a challenge, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to write every morning for the past week. I feel like I need some sort of early bird pin to proudly display my achievement.

If you’re hoping to work in some early morning writing time, too, here are a few of the techniques that have made it work for me.

1. Tell people.
There’s no motivation like the shame of having to admit that you were a lazy slug who burrowed under the covers instead of getting up to accomplish the writing goal you have announced is so important to you. I told you on this blog, announced it to Twitter, and told the friends and family members I see every day. So I basically have to get up.

2. Remind yourself.
In the wee hours, when it’s still dark outside and my bed is so cozy, I often have no idea why I set my alarm so early. So I hit snooze without waking properly and then kick myself when I’m finally awake enough to remember, “Oh, yeah, I really want to finish my novel.” My solution? I simply title the alarm on my cell phone “Finish this draft by X date” or “It’s time to Write by Midnight.” That last one has been especially effective this month because it reintroduces the shame motivator of #1 (see above).

3. Go to bed on time.
Sleep deprivation is bad for you. If you’re going to get up earlier, you have to go to sleep earlier. You can get by on coffee and determination for a while, but eventually, you will burn out. We’re trying to establish a sustainable habit. So sustain yourself with adequate sleep. And write.

4. Use a gradual wakeup pre-alarm.
Five minutes before I actually want to get up, I set an alarm that plays soothing music. It’s fairly loud, so it wakes me up, but it’s soothing, so I don’t feel the need to turn it off, and I get to experience the lovely feeling of snuggling down under the covers and knowing it’s not time to get up yet. By the time my real alarm goes off, I’m awake enough to remember why I wanted to get up at this terrible hour to begin with, so I actually get up. There are also various apps that monitor your sleep and wake you at the best time, but this approach works for me.

In case you’re wondering, my musical selection is “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy. It’s starts soft but builds to a climax just as I’m needing to get up. It was also part of the soundtrack at the end of the movie Ocean’s 11, when they’ve successfully stolen millions and are basking in their accomplishment while gazing at the fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It’s nice to bask.

What are your tricks for waking up early to write?

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