Morning Rituals and Routines for the Writer

27 Aug

How important is the first hour of every day? It can be very important as it sets the tone for the rest of your day. How you spend the first hour of your day largely defines the approach you will take to the rest of that day. Successful people have realized this and manage a morning routines that prepares them for the rest of the day.

If you’re having trouble getting your writing done, try creating a morning writing ritual.

How you prioritize the first hour of every day is important. Here are a look at a few tips for developing a successful morning routine. Knowing what to do (and in some cases NOT do) can be key to how your day of writing follows.

Prepare the Night Before.

This is a habit that my mother began for me as a school child. Each night before bed, I had been instructed and was expected to lay out my clothes for the next day, have my homework complete and any permission forms signed, put together my books in my bag, make my lunch for the next morning, and know what I needed to have before I left the house in the morning and sit it near the door.

My mother’s early instruction has sat a routine that I try to follow now as an adult in my writing career. The night before I set up my desk for the morning, anything I might need for research is laid handy by my computer, my prewriting is done, and I am ready to set to work with very little morning preparation.

A little time before bed each night spent setting up a successful morning can reap huge rewards like more time to relax later in the day.

Beat the Funk Out of It.

Have you been waking in a “funk” and don’t know why?  Set a positive waking attitude.

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane.

English: Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you wake up with a grumble or jump out of bed? The face you put on your morning could be the face you wear throughout the day.

Your waking attitude can have a lot to do with the amount of time you give yourself to rest of a night. Be sure you a getting a healthy amount of sleep and this can vary depending on age and person.

Attitude can be key to the tone of your morning. Your morning is effected much less by the morning commute, how your eggs were cooked or where you found your morning paper than by how you look at these things.  Wake with joy and an attitude of gratitude. If for no other reason than that you are alive. Salvador Dali certainly had a bright outlook:

“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.”

It is not just sublime surrealists who realize waking with joy and gratitude are important. Tony Robbins, self-help guru was talking about the importance of first hour rituals since the 1980’s. Robbins and his devotees maintain a need to dedicate an hour every morning to light exercise, motivational incantations and to gratitude. Express your thankfulness for everything in your life that you benefit from such as yourself, your family, and your career. Robbins suggests following this with focused concentration and visualizing “everything you want in your life as if you had it today”.

Your attitude in the morning can set the autopilot for the rest of your day.

Move the Body.

Let’s be honest, most writers spend a lot of time with their butt firmly glued to a chair. An hour at the gym may not fit into your daily schedule. However choosing one healthy exercise to practice each morning can get your blood flowing to your brain and help you achieve mental acuity and clarity easier.

Meditate and Think.

Give yourself time each morning to think. Just think. It won’t happen unless you allow it. Plan for it. Give yourself an extra fifteen minutes to focus on your subconscious mind and direct its flow.

I do this through meditative freewriting. Develop flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, noted psychologist and author of Flow—the Psychology of Optimal Experience speaks of redirecting your subconscious flow of thoughts and almost sounds like he is describing the process of freewriting. Consider:

Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Plan an additional amount of time into your morning for quiet meditation and freewriting practice.

Take Time Over Your Coffee

Allowing yourself a moment to make yourself a small breakfast and enjoying your coffee (or tea) is an important cue mentally that you are as important as the day of work you have planned.  Enjoy a quiet moment to yourself.

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d’une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Answer Fewer Email.

For many of us, checking email in the morning seems like the main priority. This is not true of David Karp, the founder of Tumblr. He explains his morning routine in this Inc profile of him. Karp explains the priority he puts on email (which is little) “I try hard not to check e-mails until I get to the office, which is usually between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Reading e-mails at home never feels good or productive. If something urgently needs my attention, someone will call or text me.” Karp explains that he uses filters so that the only email that goes to his inbox is that email that most urgently requires a response. Everything else can wait.

How much time you dedicate to email in the morning, may really effect how much time you have for writing in your day. Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods says this, “There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby.  I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.”

How much time of each morning is spent just answering emails? Is there any way that you could cut back on that time? Would filters help you to see the emails that really need an immediate response allowing you to put the others aside until later?

Creative Work First.

Mark McGuinness wrote an article called The Key to Creating Remarkable Things in which he lays out some tips for how to prioritize your first hour of work and suggests “Creative work first,reactive work second”. Start your day working on your own personal projects first.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931...

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Give your “real work” priority and begin your day with it. Hold off clearing off the desk, answering emails and phone calls, or following up on leads for work until you have taken some time to create. A day can get busy fast and you will not have time for your own personal projects unless you make that time.

Set a Time to Start

The rest of your workday has to come sometime so set a definite time that you will switch gears and begin those other tasks that need accomplished. Set a fixed time to get started and allow for no excuses. This is the time to put away your personal writing and take on those assignments that must be finished that day. Whatever time you choose but be firm and you must start working at that time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It will take time to set your morning ritual and adjust your first hours to reflect your own personality, psyche and needs. However, you must try to set some usual routine and work from it. Adjusting a routine is far easier than not working from a routine at all.The first morning won’t be perfect. It may take a week or a full month before the routine is second-nature.  In time, however,your morning will begin to be a time that you look forward to rather than a time you dread.



8 Responses to “Morning Rituals and Routines for the Writer”

  1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words August 27, 2012 at 2:02 PM #

    wow I came up from the rabbit hole today
    and landed here….
    I quit thinking about month ago, just tired
    as each day I wandered in Alice land,
    having tea with Alice, the MadHatter and
    the Queen Of Hearts helped me think in
    a timeless zone for awhile…..I let more
    of the clutter go, emails were the first
    I left the websites I admined on,
    spent many many hours in my gardens
    and am trying to decide if I can learn to paint
    today I thought about time as I let go of the one
    who holds my heart, and those thoughts
    seem to flow again into words…
    my next priority was to find all those who came to visit me
    during the bluefunk, and thank them, you were one of them
    and Thank You Sean, I really appreciate you stopping by
    and I will enjoy wandering through your space here
    I suspect I came here for a reason …Goddess usually
    pushes me in a subtle way to see what I need to see….
    Thank you…again
    Take Care….
    You Matter…
    ( or maryrose )

  2. patgarcia August 27, 2012 at 2:40 PM #

    I enjoyed reading your article, because I agree with it totally. There are so many writersd who think developing a routine or a schedule for writing will hamper their writing, but it is the exact opposite. Having a routine, a set time, helps you enter into your flow.
    Thanks also for the ping.

    • seanomurphy August 27, 2012 at 4:10 PM #

      I enjoyed your post on Flow as well. I don’t ping pages that are not quality content. Writer’s routines are one of the secrets that you learn by paying close attention to what works and where we are in our flow.

      Thank you for the comment,


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