Comments 11

The Nuances of Early Morning Writing

I missed posting last week because it was an exceptionally busy week. Robin Williams’ suicide put a spotlight on depression, which happens to be my specialty as an energy therapist (along with trauma resolution). I had more than the usual number of requests for one-on-one sessions and for a while until late last week, I switched back to all-giving mode. I kept up with early morning writing though but I missed a couple of days.

I’ve slowed down since, after I caught myself reaching for a second cup of coffee so that I could see my way through the last client for the day. Gone, for the past two weeks though, were all the time I should have spent on what I call my book writing spree ( Dorothea Brande’s term, writing by prearrangement is simply too straightforward  – writing is fun for me). But I did manage a few haibuns, along with a few haikus and tankas.

Even through the rush of the past two weeks, I noticed that early morning writing had resulted in  several surprising developments. For some reason, sleep was more productive and I had many dreams. But the dreams just faded into memory as I went through the motions of beginning my day: making up the bed, brushing my teeth, drinking a glass of water and other mundane tasks.  Somehow, sometime during early morning writing, the details of the dream would come back. At first, I stopped writing for a while and tried to remember the details (I also do dream interpretation) and then went back to writing. I wrote in my dream journal at other times during the day or at night or the next day.

But after a few days of this, I decided to stop writing in my freewriting  journal and move over to my dream journal to write the details of the dream at the moment that they came rushing through. The more I did this, the more dreams I remembered, and I can assure you some of the dreams were telling me I was sliding back to the old habit of rushing through life.

Early morning writing is one habit I know will be hard to break – and I have no intention of doing that. It is so surprising how one habit can affect the rest of one’s writing life. These past few days, although I had not worked on the book project for more than 2 weeks, I knew it was time to take the project to the next level. After I’m done freewriting in the morning, thoughts and ideas continue to come through about the current book project and other writing projects.

I’m reading  Writing Wild; Forming a Creative Relationship with Nature. The author, Tina Welling, explores the relationship between nature and writing and encourages readers to treat their writing life as though it were a garden.  I suppose this is why early morning writing yields so many fruits – by writing every morning we fertilize our creative roots.  Before starting this ritual, I used to journal everyday at different times, when I felt like it or when there was time to do it.  Although I’ve been journaling all my adult life, I’ve never experienced this kind of blossoming, probably because I regarded journaling simply as a tool to help me through life. Showing up every morning seems to be giving the brain a different message: “Hey, I want to write and I will!”

What to do with these ideas that keep sprouting”  Welling recommends using folders: “Jot down ideas for writing projects, put each one in a folder, and allow the ideas to become magnets for related material. Over time, as we consider each idea, other thoughts occur around it, and we can write those down and drop them into the folder.” I’m not a folder person, but I do love notebooks, so I’m using notebooks instead.

Welling explains that segregating ideas into different compartments is akin to growing seedlings. “Those ideas that continue to engender interest and passion will gather enough material in the folder for us to begin a writing project. Just to mix the metaphors here: this gathering of material can be thought of as feathering the nest because we are beginning to feel at home with the project.”

The next few steps Welling enumerates is exactly where I am now, and it feels good to know that my writing life is blooming: “Next take such a folder and begin organizing the material within it. Further ideas will arise as we type the jottings we have collected into our computer, in part because the pressure is off since we already have our core idea and support material.”

“Finally,” Welling suggests, “rewrite and edit, then rewrite and edit again. For many writers, this process involves letting the project rest until some time passes to allow us to detach from the work. We can read the piece in a different location than the place we originally wrote it, to further the sense of detachment and fresh perspective. Also, we may share our work with a writing group for critiquing, then do another rewrite after considering their input. Power is gathering around this writing project. Though confidence may waver during any part of the process, we have invested enough interest and passion in this baby bird to see it safely fly out of the nest on its own wings.”

I’m still a long way from the final steps involving rewriting and editing. For now I watch my writing garden sprout tiny seeds and it gives me so much pleasure.  I do hope you explore early morning writing, if you haven’t yet, so you too can watch your writing garden grow.

I did a web search on early morning writing and as it turns out, there is a scientific explanation behind the fruitfulness of this habit. Mason Currey explores the daily rituals of highly creative people and dwells on the question, “is waking up early the secret to success” in his blog post which was featured in Slate.  Publication coach Daphne Gray-Grant offers some suggestions on how to start a daily early morning writing habit in a post that she guarantees will take only three minutes to read, so why not visit her blog? In Brain Pickings, Maria Popova features an amazing visual illustration of famous writers’ sleep habits and their literary accomplishments. It’s always a pleasure to take a peek at the writing habits of not-so extraordinary people because we can relate more to them, and Roxana Robinson’s article, How I Get to Write, was certainly a good read.

How does your writing garden grow?










  1. I got really into this post at “early morning writing is one habit I know…” and you had me from there. Great tips. I’ll click the links later during my train ride. I’d like to get into early morning writing, but I work out at 5:30am some mornings (trying to lose weight and stay active) and then I go to work. I’m always trying to find a balance between the two activities. I write all throughout the day sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like notebooks too and I love the idea of “categorizing” ideas. I think I’ll buy some of those post-it note tabs thing-a-ma-jigs and divide up a journal for different projects. Helpful post again! Merci bien.


    • Notebooks are lovely, indeed! Post its would certainly make it easier to keep tab of little details – aside from making the notebook colorful,:-) Thanks for the visit!


  3. I’ve never set aside a specific time to write, I’ve always written when the words came. I’ve oft thought about rising before he sun and penning my dreams, but most I would rather forget. I have boxes and notebooks and journals and computer files filled with unorganized thoughts, memories and pieces to be finished.

    I would love incorporate a habit of making a time to write, a time just for me, I’ve just never been able to arrive at one :o)


    • Take small baby steps… wake up five minutes earlier and use that time to write…then move on to ten minutes after a week or so…


  4. I enjoyed reading about your process and also the process of the author you quoted. My own writing garden grows a bit wildly; my routines change faster than the seasons. In fact, I realized not too long ago that for me, the search for the perfect notebook system IS the perfect notebook system: the organizing process is one major source of fuel for my creativity.

    (I actually wrote a post about that realization, if you’d like to read it; here: http://abringerofnewthings.com/2014/05/22/my-search-for-the-perfect-notebook-system/ )


    • Thank you for sharing with us a little about your writing garden. Wild is good and so is spontaneity. What matters is that we enjoy growing our writing gardens. And you’re right, the perfect notebook system is a very useful tool!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I found early morning writing effective when I was in college. Because my brain is already tired in the wee hours, I sleep and let the worry die by dreaming. I think I am more imaginative in the morning because my mind is refreshed (even my tummy is empty).

    Now I know the reason why. Thank you. Love this post.


  6. Pingback: Finding My Own Rhythm | Writing on the Pages of Life

Thank you for taking the time to comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s