Happy is the writer with a habit! The routine wins the day. Most of my writers follow the encouragement we give to write first thing, fresh from dreams, emboldened by coffee and in advance of the maddening crowds, the kids and the day job.
Part of our method for getting writers to complete their novels is blatant bribery. I suggest writers grant themselves a few perks during the writing of the first draft and bribe themselves out of bed. Upgrade your coffee-making, get a few indulgent pastries in. (No one said you'd lose weight writing a novel.) The course has you prepare your time and space before you start writing so that you get out of bed and go somewhere really special to you.
It's a great feeling to have your really important work out of the way before you attend to lesser emergencies! Don't switch on that phone, don't check email, take one hour for yourself and you'll see how enriching it is not just for your novel in progress but for your wellbeing.
This week's blog comes from our writer Linda in Zurich who has joined us for both The Classic Course and The Ninety Day Novel course.
The early bird that writes the novel: A case for embracing the magic of 5 am
The birds are chirping, and it takes me a moment to realize that the faint noise is coming from my alarm clock, marking the beginning of a new day, rather than actual birds, as I am gently drawn from my dreams. I rub my eyes sleepily. My alarm clock reads 05.05. Trying to make as little noise as possible, I sit up, take a swig of water and carefully sneak out of the bedroom, so I don't wake my partner, who is blissfully unaware of the magic about to happen ten feet away from him.
I waddle into the kitchen, put on the kettle and brew myself a large mug of Yogi tea. I hop into the shower where I spend an obscene amount of time daydreaming, kindling my imagination until it is fully ablaze and I'm consumed by the energy coursing through my body, buzzing with anticipation for what is about to transpire. I wrap myself in a bathrobe and, at last, stand in front of the door that leads to my study: my library, my writing sanctum, my happy place.
I open the door and step into a different world. I enter the valley of a pine forest, a murmuring creek bids me follow it. As I wander, I can't fail to notice the beauty of the nature around me: the turquoise water at my feet, the treetops gently rocking above me, the birds tweeting and insects humming in the first hours of the new day. The terrain becomes rocky and my climb steeper and steeper. Above me, snow-covered mountain peaks bask in the first rays of sunshine. A raven-haired girl descends from them towards me wearing khaki breeches, and boots. Across her front, diagonally, there is a leather strap. Spotting me, she narrows her eyes and draws a sword ...
Good morning, writers!
All my life I've been a night owl. I am the type of person that just loses track of time and suddenly it's midnight and you realize that you've been faffing on your phone, reading a book or binge-watching Netflix for a good part of the night. I have become a bit more disciplined, or let's say mindful, about how I spend my time over the years, making my need for a good seven to eight hours of sleep a priority most nights, but never going to bed before eleven. At the same time, I have always been fascinated by early mornings. My job occasionally requires me to get up in the middle of the night to publish content on different social media sites (I work for an American company) and funnily enough I always love the days I get up at two or four and get on with my job, while the world is still sound asleep around me.
Over the years I made many half-hearted attempts to make getting up early a habit. Especially, as I got more into fitness, I sometimes needed to set my alarm clock as early as 5.30 am in order to get to the gym, work out for an hour, and still make it to work on time. I so desperately wanted to turn this into a habit! But these rare morning workouts were always the exception and most mornings I would happily snooze until 7 am, silencing my 5.30 alarm clock sleepily, making excuses after excuses as to why I needed to sleep longer.
But then everything changed.
Once I had made the decision to finally write THAT NOVEL (or in my case an entire, potentially five-part, fantasy series), I realized that I needed to completely overhaul how I spend my days to fit in enough time for The Novelry lessons, story mapping, world-building and eventually writing - all while excelling at my high-paced full time job, trying to keep up a regular exercise regime, finding the time to cook healthy meals and generally upholding the impression that I've got my shit together at the tender age of 34. Now, we've all heard the stories of how geniuses get up around 5 am to write, and while I'd normally snort at the suggestion with derision - when Louise suggested trying it in Lesson Four of the Ninety Day Novel course, it got me thinking.
I had been making excuses for why I hadn't been writing my novel for literally DECADES. I needed some drastic changes to accomplish my goal. In the end, the decision was very easy to set my alarm clock to 5 am the very next day. And the next day. And the day after. I've managed to do this for a whole month now, with blissful lie-ins until 6.30am on weekends. It would be a lie to say that getting up this early is always easy, because - quite frankly - it can be quite a challenge at times, especially now that the days are getting longer and it is still dark when my alarm goes down. Nevertheless, I've learned to set up my mornings in a way to make it as easy and enjoyable for me as possible.
Here's what I do:
My basic principle is to include as many nice things into my morning ritual as I possibly can. It starts with a comforting, steaming cup of tea. Since I've weened myself off caffeine about two years ago due to alarmingly high-stress levels, I am trying to limit caffeinated bevvies to a few times per week. And although I used to only drink tea sporadically it has now become an exciting part of waking up. I always have some fancy Yogi teas at home which are both delicious and always have a friendly message on their tags. Similarly, I won't just 'shower', I'll shower with a shower mousse that feels luxurious and smells divine. I do this because it's just nice having something to look forward to, even if you are still too tired to function. More importantly, I have worked hard to turn my writing space into my own little sanctuary where I feel completely at ease. I call it The Library because it's filled with books: my favourite childhood books by Alcott, Dahl, Ende, Rowling and Tolkien, my favourite books from my Uni days including anything from Austen to Woolf, quite a few works of non-fiction that have accumulated over the years, and my ever-growing Fantasy collection. It is also the home of all my nerd gadgets (Ye're a wizard, Harry!), a bed for reading and a little desk for writing. I make a big point to always keep it clean and tidy, even if the rest of the flat is dissolving into chaos. It is my little island of calm. This space is something I had dreamed about since my early days at Uni, reading Virginia Woolf’s 'A Room of One’s Own' yearning for enough money and space to follow my creative heart. Thirteen years later I finally have a steady job and a beautiful flat and enough discipline to make space for the yet secret worlds in my head.
Every now and then, I’ll change up my ritual a little bit. As already mentioned earlier, I try to exercise on the regular. With my novel project germinating every morning and frequently also at lunchtime, I was starting to struggle to get my cardio sessions in, as I always prioritise other kinds of workouts in the evening. I was beyond excited when I found out about the new audio feature that was recently introduced to The Novelry, that lets you listen to your lessons as well as read it, lets you translate it to multiple languages and even offers a couple of different English accents (that would be Scottish for me!). This meant that I could take my daily lesson with me onto the spinning bike that we have at home and thus kill two birds with one stone, by spinning and listening.
Actually, that is grossly simplifying the process. Not only does spinning help waking me up properly, and, next to multiple other health benefits, brighten my mood: cardio workouts are also proven to stimulate certain parts in your brain that are linked with creativity. So, I might quite possibly be making myself more creative while I am also doing something good for my health. It’s like my own novel writing catalyzer! Funny enough, I am typing these very words into my phone as I am pedalling away happily, sweatily and a little bit creatively.
We live in a pretty scary world. We are constantly flooded with awful news and it is very easy to be overwhelmed by self-doubt and negativity – I know I have been for many, many years. It is my goal to give myself the best possible chance to complete my book series. We all need a little encouragement sometimes, so instead of putting myself under pressure and forcing myself into a setup that makes me miserable, I choose positivity and a nurturing environment, where my fantasies can grow and take flight – while at the same time staying disciplined and focused.
I have never been as creative and creatively productive as I have at the moment and every time I get to enter my magical kingdom, I could weep tears of joy. I am finally home.
Disclosure: Content may contain affiliate links to WriterShop and other companies. If you buy something through one of those links you won’t pay more, but we may get a commission. The Novelry is independently owned and opinions expressed are our own.