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The blog of Stephen Arnott (aka S J Arnott). Writer of the Leofric Dark Age adventures and Jack Bleacher.

Becoming an early bird writer

Stephen Arnott

Are you a committed night owl? 

Are you a committed night owl? 

For the writer who also has a day-job to contend with, finding the time to work can be tricky. Unless you can squeeze some writing time into your lunch hour, you basically have two choices: to write in the evening, or in the morning. Most people prefer one over the other, and many seem to think that the choice between night owl and early bird is hard-wired into their genes, but if you're prepared to experiment, you might find it's largely a matter of habit.

As a part-time writer with a full-time job, I used to wait till I got home before I sat down at the computer. However, as I went on, I found that working in the evening was becoming increasingly painful and unproductive. Instead, I decided to try and shrug off my aversion to pre-dawn rising – to abandon my night owl ways and become an early bird.

It worked. Once I’d got over the shock of getting up at 5:30, I felt the benefits almost immediately:

Moral superiority 

I get a buzz about being the first in the household to be up and about (I might even be the first in the whole neighbourhood). While the rest of the family are in bed sleeping the fat from the cabbage – as the Dutch would put it – I'm already hard at it. It’s a good feeling.

You're fresh

You've got a full night's sleep under your belt and your brain isn't frothing with all the distractions and worries you’ve accumulated over the working day – all that hassle is ahead of you. As long as you don't burn the candle at both ends, you'll start your writing alert and clear-headed.

You'll enjoy your 'off' time

Some days I’d dread getting home from the office knowing I had yet more screen-time to clock up. Motivating yourself can be hard at the best of times, but it was often a drudge to sit down and force myself to write after a full day's work. Nowadays, I can come home knowing that I've already done my writing quota. All my free time is exactly that – free.

No distractions

It’s quiet in the morning. No blaring TV, feet charging up and down the stairs, requests to change light-bulbs, dispose of spiders, or help with dinner. You might not realise just how many distractions you normally face until you're able to cut them out.

It helps you be consistent

Getting into the routine of writing is important, even an hour a day, done regularly, will allow you to build up a healthy word count in a short time. However, evenings are often taken up by social or family commitments that you can’t (or don't want to) get out of. In contrast, the early morning hours are your own, so it’s easier to keep the writing chain unbroken from one day to the next.

Give it a go. I'd never considered myself to be a morning person and thought my experiment would quickly fizzle out, but once I got used to it, the morning writing habit proved to be surprisingly painless and productive.

It might be that inside every night owl there's a morning bird trying to stretch its wings.