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My Experiment with Early Morning Free Writing Sessions

Lately, I’ve found myself settling into a slightly different blogging workflow to my usual one.

I’ve been getting up at 6.30am to write.

In the morning, our kids have to stay in their rooms until 7am. I’m not quite sure how we managed to get them to do that but it works… for now.

I often find my body wakes me up a bit earlier and previously, I’d just doze and dream a little for that half an hour, drifting in that fuzzy state between being asleep and awake.

A few weeks ago, I realised that in that sleepy half hour I was actually getting some cool ideas. I’m not sure why it’s so but I often find that after a good night’s sleep, my first few thoughts of the day have the most clarity.

For example, a few weeks ago I was grappling with a talk I’ve been preparing for a conference. I couldn’t quite get the flow right. One morning, during the waking up phase, it just clicked. I was able to get up and jot down the outline for the full talk in about 3 minutes flat! It was almost as if I’d been thinking about the problem too hard and by having a good night’s sleep, I took the pressure off. From there, it just flowed.

That day, I decided I should get up a bit earlier in the mornings and make that half an hour a time to write. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and have had some good mornings and some not so great mornings. Overall, I’ve found it helpful.

The approach I’m taking is to not set an agenda for the half hour but to simply sit down with my journal or laptop and write. I don’t set a topic. I just write what comes to mind.

So far, around half of my weekday mornings (I only do it weekdays) have produce something useful. The other days haven’t really amounted to much, but that’s ok.

The days that were useful produced a variety of results.

  • I use my output from a couple of the days as parts of blog posts.
  • One of the days, I turned what I wrote into a reflection, I then posted on Google+
  • Another day, I wrote something that ended up in a presentation I’m giving.
  • Another day ended up turning into some thoughts I sent one of my team members about a project we’re working on.
  • One last day, I wrote something more personal that had a big impact upon motivating me in an area I had been wrestling with.

I’m not sure how this experiment will last but I figure that even if it only has a 50% success rate at producing the above kinds of results it is going to be very, very worthwhile to do!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Its a great idea Mr. Darren Rowse. Whatever we do early in the morning always proves to be good and effective, whether it is an early morning exercise or writing a cool blog post!

  2. Akshat says:

    I implemented the same strategy in my blogging efforts and I am not disappointed seeing the results.

  3. Erin says:

    I’ve been really trying to understand my own creativity lately just as it seems like you are doing. Where do the genius ideas come from? How can you tap into that source more quickly and easily? I’ve come to the conclusion it’s about tapping into the creative energy that has a bit of a buzzy quality. Know what I mean? The best ideas always show up when I’m feeling a bit high on life. I think everyone taps into this mysteriously lovely energy in their own way. For some it might be listening to music(like me), or writing at certain times of the day(like you), etc. Focusing on helping others always sort of puts me in touch with that energy, too. But, most importantly it always happens when I’m not stressed or worried about time. In fact, in these moments it’s as if time doesn’t exist(like in your partial dream state). The best ideas show up when I’m just playing around and free-form thinking or writing. No structure. No rules. Just playin’ around and having fun. Experimenting as you did above. Find YOUR way of tapping into this energy, and the genius ideas will come. Most definitely.

  4. Monica says:

    I love this idea. I’m not a morning person at ALL, but lately I’ve started getting up earlier to write too. I’m not sure I’ve had as much success as you have, but I think there is something to that early morning brain thing so I’m going to keep at it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I find that I do my best work in the morning when the rest of the house is still sleeping. In the evenings, I am usually tired and don’t feel as creative or motivated. I enjoy sitting outside and enjoy the fresh air. That really seems to get the juices flowing. Thanks for a great post, as always.

  6. Kalen says:

    That is good to hear Darren. Writing can be a great way to solve problems that you are struggling with or create ideas for other things in our lives we are struggling with. I have been told to write down the things that frustrate you before bed and rip them up. Apparently that is also a good way to alleviate stress you are dealing with.

  7. Edson Hale says:

    It is quite difficult to find your most productive time during the whole day but once you find it after that you can produce great contents, presentations and whatever productive work you do you can do miracles

  8. Sounds productive! Reality for me I am a zoombie before coffee! Give me a few coffee’s, silence… ideas will come their way! :)

  9. Darren, I really liked your writing style on this one. You have this great ability to blend your personal life into your overarching point about being flexible in response to when the Muse strikes. It’s a good model for the rest of us to follow.

    People just don’t want information. They want stories, and your blog combines information with a personal touch fantastically well, and I suspect that along with your work ethic, that goes a long way towards explaining your long-term success.

    God Bless.

  10. Lisa says:

    Waking up early and devoting that time for writing is a great idea – especially for bloggers. Thanks so much for sharing your outcome on this experiment with us. Early mornings are certainly a highly productive period where I find myself having super clear ideas.

  11. Ferb says:

    Waking up in the morning was really hard for me but I feel better and I don’t feel like time is flying. If you wake up at 6 and have a breakfast is way more better when you wake up at 12 and have lunch, then dinner and go back to sleep. And you absorb information faster in the morning.

  12. jerrylewis says:

    This is great Darren, if getting up early makes you write something good then by all means continue doing this.

    Each and everyone of us, has its timezone or shall we say a comfort zone, Darren’s comfort zone to write good articles is in the morning. this may work well for Darren but not to others.

  13. Trish Jones says:

    I’ve been toying with the idea of getting up earlier just to write Darren and so your article has inspired me to just do it! Thanks!

  14. My best ideas come during that hazy half awake stage too. I’m slowly moving towards rising at 5am. I’m not very productive in the evenings so I thought I’d try and turn my day upside down by rising early and going to bed early!

  15. I’ve found the exact same thing. It may have something to do with the way our subconscious operates to solve problems while we’re sleeping. Who knows? Regardless, I’ve found that almost all my best writing is done in the morning.

  16. yogesh pant says:

    early rising always helps.
    There is freshness in the air and new ideas come to our minds on their own.
    It is great utilizing the first few hours of the morning and dedicate them to write some unique quality content.
    -Yogesh

  17. Christian says:

    Great post Darren. I think it can be effective to start the day early, but how much sleep do you get to be productive? And do you do nothing in the weekends on writing? I think that’s good because you have a fresh start at the beginning of each week :).

  18. Cher Cabula says:

    I find writing in the mornings better simply because I’m well rested. At night when I get home, even if I sit in front of my desk meaning to write, I always end up writing something that’s pretty mediocre by my standards. Now my only problem with writing in the morning is getting up extra early to do so. After reading this though, it might be just the push I need.

  19. Corty says:

    Great article. There are two steps I am going to take. The first is to schedule specific writing times. The second is to become more attentive regarding adjectives. Thanks for these valuable pointers.

  20. Asif says:

    Great I’ve been thinking of doing that from a long time, Now I’ll start tomorrow , :-)

  21. You’ve hit on how meditation works, slowing your conscious mind to allow the unconscious to solve problems. You’ll do even better if you did a short quieting mediation before going to bed, as that gets the problem solving going early and while your sleeping soundly and you don’t get so much “thinking” happening in that fuzzy zone before waking. Can be just a few minutes once you get into the rhythm of the pre-bed routine. Your conscious mind is too noisy to solve puzzling problems, you have to quieten the noise and let the unconscious mind engage.

    I’m best in the morning but most days I go to gym for 6am classes and that doesn’t leave much time for writing. But the endorphins from exercise also help see through problems.

    Walter @adamson

  22. Archie Nadon says:

    The older I got the earlier I would wake up, but I’ve plateaued at 4 am. It’s also when the birds start singing. For three glorious hours there is not a soul to bother me —not even the dog. It’s like being in monastery

  23. I have been getting up at 5am during the week for the past few years. I have found that the lack of distractions from social networks like Facebook and Twitter helped allow me to catch up on my Google Reader (now Feedly) and spend more time writing my own thoughts, stories and blog entries etc. It may take some getting used to, but being able to be one of the first to post original content and thoughts has its benefits as well. Of course, you can write your post ahead of time and have it scheduled, but for what I do I like to stay as fresh as possible when it comes to headlines. Getting up before the sun comes up is peaceful both in the home and online.

  24. I’ve never tried free writing with my blogging. I’ve done it before with short stories, and I have no idea why I never made the connection that it would be great for my blog as well. My most productive writing time usually comes at night after everyone else in the house falls asleep. If it’s after 11 pm and can write 5000 words before I have to make myself stop and get some sleep. Any other time of day it’s a struggle to get 500 words.

  25. Early mornings are magic for writers. I think it’s because our creative brains wake up first and our “editor brains” take far longer to rouse. And if you can write without editing you’re going to write a whole lot faster and better.

    I wrote my book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better, by getting up at 6 am every day and writing for an hour, for about six months.

  26. I find that I get most of my best ideas from when I am actually working, out jogging or in the shower!

    It seems that when I am doing something I already love doing, something that doesn’t require a great level of skill or total focus (like taking a shower) somehow allows my brain to relax and seek out it’s natural best ideas and creations.

    I strongly encourage others to seek out and write down exactly when they are at their best in terms of being able to be more creative, produce better results from their efforts and generally feel great about what they are doing at that time.

    You’re right Darren when you say that sometimes we can try too hard!

    It’s an absolute killer and only when we find where our natural state lies and when can we focus on producing those scenarios to help us be more pro active and creative whilst working on our businesses.

    Thanks again

    Regards
    Gavin

  27. I got up at 6am this morning and wrote a blog post. It felt great. I’m looking forward to more early morning writing.

  28. Iza says:

    I used to be not a morning person at all. But my schedule was getting more and more hectic, and I was so tired in the evenings, last thing I wanted to do was spending time in front of computer, even blogging, as much as I enjoyed it. For me, the decisive moment came when I came back home, to US from long stay in Europe, and my body was used to “early morning” getting up. I have about an hour every day, for e-mail, blogging, working on my images- and my evenings are free for other commitments. I also go to work with a sense I already got something done!

  29. Writing in the early morning hours has always been my style. This is when my brain is cool and the environment is very much serene for creative writing.

    Another reason for writing in the early morning hours is because of the nature of my day time job. I am a customs officer and so need to work in the day time which leaves me weak in the night. So the only option I have is catch some sleep at night and then do some creative writing in the early morning hours before going to work.

    Thanks Darren for another great post…

  30. Beth Hewitt says:

    Hi Darren,

    That is really interesting. I am not so much a morning person, but I have been toying with using early mornings to write. It would certainly be a good use of my time. I think I might challenge myself and see what I come up with.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Beth :)

  31. I need not even get up for this; I take my tablet PC and write, sometimes the whole hour.