Morning Writing Challenge Tips 5 & 6

Welcome back to the Morning Writing Challenge Tips series.
 
If you haven’t joined the challenge, it’s not too late to join us. Find all the details here. 
 
Either way, these tips are useful for building and sustaining a lasting writing practice. 
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #5 & #6

Today I’m sharing two new tips, #5 & #6.
 
 

Tip #5: Boost your focus with timed writing sprints.

 
If you haven’t tried timed writing sprints, please give this a try.
 
A timed writing sprint is a short, focused period of writing time, tracked with a timer. In advance, you’ll decide on a length of time you’ll be writing for (and ideally a start time like we’re doing with the Morning Writing Challenge). Then, you write, doing nothing else, for your planned duration of time.
 
A timed writing sprint can be as short as one minute and as long as about 90 minutes (we need to get up and move our bodies periodically after all). You get to decide. If you’re not sure how long to sprint for, try 15 minutes as an experimental place to start.
 
Since the pandemic began (and writing seemed to get a whole lot harder), I started writing in 25 minute increments rather than in 60 minute sprints. Oddly enough, I usually do two 25-minute sprints back-to-back. It’s just a Jedi mind trick, but it works for me right now because my brain trusts that I can handle 25 minutes of writing without getting distracted. Then I’m usually in the flow enough that I just hit the timer button again for another 25 minutes, until I’ve put in a total of 50 minutes. I also find that when I participate in group writing sprints (more on this in Tip #6, below), which are often 60 minutes long, aiming for 50 minutes gives me a little wiggle room for getting an extra cup of tea, taking a bathroom break, or things like dealing with unexpected kid interruptions without feeling “behind.”
 
The VERY cool thing about using a timer is that there’s this sense of hitting a “Go” or “Start Now” button when starting it. And it makes it harder to stop when you know there’s a clock counting down your writing minutes!
 
Ready to give this a try? Next time you sit down to write, decide how long you’ll be writing (suggestion: 5 to 15 minutes for your first time out), set a timer, and write!
 
Pro tip: This gets even more powerful when you also TRACK your writing time, which means logging and paying attention to how much time you’re investing in your writing. I’m currently a fan of the Forest App for both tracking and timing. Another good one is the Block and Flow App
 
 

Tip #6: Supercharge your writing with group writing sprints.

 
If you want to quintuple your writing sprint experience, try participating in group writing sprints. 
 
We run group writing sprints in our Called to Write community several times each day on weekdays and have weekend sprints too. You may also sometimes find on-the-fly group writing sprints happening on Twitter. (John August periodically leads them and I’ve seen others doing the same.)
 
With this Morning Writing Challenge, we’re experiencing a variation on this idea; a kind of asynchronous group sprint where we’re all writing based on our own local morning time, and cheering for each other by finding each other’s posts online.
 
Inside Called to Write, the way our group writing sprints work is that we gather in on online private chat room at the same time, tell each other what we’re going to do, kick off at our official start time, and all go write on our own. At the official end time, we come back into the chat room and celebrate what went well together (even if what went well is simply showing up). Note: We aren’t sharing our writing with each other but rather the camaraderie and support for each other’s writing.
 
Our members tell us that these sprints are grounding and have been simply life-saving during the pandemic. 
 
At Called to Write, we’re currently writing together at 6 a.m. PT, 7 a.m. PT, 9 a.m. PT, and 3 p.m. PT on weekdays, and 9 a.m. PT on weekends. 
 
Ways to try group writing sprints: Whether you join us, find group sprints on Twitter, or create your own writing sprints with your writing buddies via text or Zoom, I encourage you to try this! The shared group energy is incredibly motivating, fun, and inspiring. Plus when you do them consistently, you can create a regular writing habit almost without even trying. :) 
 
 
 

Join the Morning Writing Challenge!

Sign up for details, tips, and prizes, here:
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips 3 & 4

Welcome back to the Morning Writing Challenge Tips series.
 
If you haven’t joined the challenge, it’s not too late to join us. Find all the details here. 
 
Either way, these tips are useful for building and sustaining a lasting writing practice. 
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #3 & #4

Today I’m sharing two new tips, #3 & #4.
 
 

Tip #3: Be ready for the “day after perfect.”

 
In Jon Acuff’s book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done (affiliate link) he describes how the “day after perfect” is the make-or-break day. 
 
Acuff says this “day after perfect” issue often turns up as soon as day two of pursuing a goal. I see this happening with writers who put in a big burst of enthusiastic writing for their first day, then crash and burn the next day by going into massive writing aversion and avoidance… or flat out despair and giving up. Often this is because they’ve either written so much they’ve tired themselves out or exceeded their target writing time for the day, triggering fear and resistance as a result. 
 
Here’s what this means for us in the Morning Writing Challenge right now: If you succeeded in writing today for the challenge, don’t be surprised if you bump into EXTRA resistance tomorrow morning. Just don’t make it mean anything. It’s really just fear cropping up because you’re taking your call to write seriously. :) Just get up, and write anyway.
 
In the future, just remember that first days of writing (and big bursts of writing) often have a backlash, and the next day is likely to be harder. 
 
Pro tip: If you wrote for longer than you’d planned today, you may also find that you’re feeling averse to performing at the same level. That’s okay! You don’t have to. Remember the goal here is to WRITE. Writing at all = winning. :) Go ahead and go back to a smaller amount of writing for tomorrow. 
 
 

Tip #4: If you didn’t write today, start over tomorrow.

 
If you didn’t write today, notice how you feel. Sometimes when we plan to write, but don’t, we walk around with a low level of guilt or anxiety ALL DAY which just… sucks.
 
👉 Here’s the good news: You can 100%, guilt-free start over tomorrow, jump in, and write. 
 
In fact, this is a skill I want you to take forward with you into the future too. In writing, as in life, STUFF HAPPENS. The only real problem is if we let it stop us indefinitely. I used to be someone who would set a New Year resolution and then “blow it” on Day 2 or 3 or 14 and then write it off for the rest of the whole year! When I look back on that I see how silly it is; so all or nothing, black or white, and perfectionistic. 
 
Instead, as Acuff says, we have to focus on “moving forward imperfectly,” and if that means “trying again… today, tomorrow, or next week,” we do it.
 
So, if you don’t write one day, don’t make it mean anything bad, just start over the next day. :)
 
 
 
 

Join the Morning Writing Challenge!

Sign up for details, tips, and prizes, here:
 

Why I Started Writing Early In the Morning + The Morning Writing Challenge Tips 1 & 2

 
Huzzah! The Morning Writing Challenge starts tomorrow, Monday, November 2. 
 
 
Today I’m sharing some tips to help you rock the challenge, but first…

…a few thoughts on WHY writing in the morning is so very awesome:

When our first son was 2 or 3 years old, I wanted to write, but I just … wasn’t. Despite all my plans and intentions, like planning blocks of writing time in the day, setting aside full days to write, once 9 a.m. or so rolled around, I was doing anything but writing. My levels of resistance were at an all time high. I was terrified but I didn’t know it. I’d make endless promises to myself about writing, but “somehow” it never seemed to happen. And then I’d just feel guilty. All day. Ugh.
 
Eventually I read enough articles about professional writers getting up early to write that I figured I’d better at least give it a go. And I will tell you, I did NOT consider myself a morning person. Not in the slightest. I would have much rather stayed up until 11 or 12 and sleep in. (My son “cured” me of that, so I did have that to help.) 
 
While it was initially painful to tear myself out of bed at 6 a.m. and get to my desk by 6:15 a.m. (I didn’t know the tricks I’m going to be sharing with you this week), after a week or two of writing first thing in the morning I was filled with a passion and energy for my writing I didn’t even know existed.
 
Plus, my inner critic seemed to still be too sleepy at that hour to give me much in the way of trouble.
 
A protective fierceness arose inside me, and I knew then that I would never stop writing.
 
I want that for you too.
 
During the Morning Writing Challenge, we’ll give you an experience of morning writing to build a morning writing practice, create a new block of writing time, connect you to your passion for writing, and maybe just maybe move you forward on your current writing project. Join us.
 
 

Morning Writing Challenge Tips #1 & #2

 
Over the course of the week, I’ll be sending Morning Writing Challenge participants writing tips each day around 3 p.m. Pacific Time and a morning quote and reminder message around 2 a.m. Pacific Time (I’m aiming to time this for early risers on the East Coast too, while hopefully also catching some of our European writers by late morning at least).
 
I’ll also be posting the tips here on the Called to Write blog. 

 

Tip #1: Set your “lights out” time.

When you want to build a morning writing habit, one of the first things to do is set a “lights out” time. This is the time when you’re already in bed and all lights, devices, books, etc. are all turned off/put away, and you’re closing your eyes to go to sleep. It’s not “bedtime” because that suggests when it’s time to start getting ready for bed. Nope, this is for real, go to sleep time. 
 
The best way to determine your lights out time is by counting backward from your writing start time to make sure you’re getting enough sleep, enough time to fall asleep, and enough time to wake up in the morning before your slated writing time.
 
Here’s my standard schedule:
  • Lights out time: 10 p.m. (includes time to fall asleep)
  • Wake time: 6:30 a.m. (8ish hours of sleep, plus leaves time for getting up, making tea, etc before writing).
  • Writing start time: 7:00 a.m. 
With the end of Daylight Saving Time, here’s my new schedule:
  • Lights out time: 9 p.m. (my “old” 10 p.m.)
  • Wake time: 5:30 a.m. (my “old” 6:30 a.m.)
  • Writing start time: 6:00 a.m. (“old” 7 a.m.)
The fun thing about this new schedule is that it feels the same to my body, but I’m shifting an hour of time away from night (when, ahem, I often end up doomscrolling) into morning writing. I usually start getting ready for bed about an hour or so beforehand (yep, boring, I know :) ) so I’m truly ready to go to sleep at lights out time.
 
While I’m not suggesting you follow MY schedule (unless you want to, of course) I want to encourage you to design a simple schedule that lets you create a new block of writing time in the morning that’s actually sustainable.
 
If you’re not leaning on the end of Daylight Saving Time to set this up, you could alternatively gradually nudge your lights out / wake time schedule earlier in 10- to 15-minute increments over the course of the week until you have the amount of morning writing time you want. 
 

 

Tip #2: Have a single project to focus on.

If at all possible, have a single writing project to focus on during your morning writing time. This means: one book or one script that you’ll work on each morning during the same window of time. Alternatively, use your morning writing time to write morning pages, freewriting, or use writing prompts or exercises. 
 
The big reason for this is so you’re NOT deciding each morning what you’re going to work on. Decision making in the moment is a weak point for resistance to creep in and paralyze you with indecision. So tonight, before tomorrow’s kick off (assuming you’re joining us!), decide what you’ll be working on this week. 
 
(Hint: for now, it’s far more important to show up and write consistently than it is for you to make substantive content progress, though that’s an excellent bonus to strive for!) 
 
 
 

Join the Morning Writing Challenge!

Sign up for details, tips, and prizes, here:
 

Use the End of Daylight Saving to Create More Time to Write

If you’ve been wanting to establish a morning writing habit, I’m going to challenge you to give it a go starting on November 2 with my #MorningWritingChallenge. 

But first, let me tell you why now is the PERFECT time to do this.

With the end of Daylight Saving Time, we’ll be getting a natural boost for setting up earlier morning writing time. This time change happens next Sunday, November 1 in the U.S. (the time changed on Sunday, October 25 in Europe and elsewhere).

Here’s why, and how the time change helps us MAKE (not find, mind you, make) more time to write:

Your Internal Body Clock vs. the Clock Time

We’re all setting our clocks back by one hour, so what was 7 a.m. in Daylight Saving Time will now be 6 a.m. in Standard Time, for example. 

But your internal body clock is still set to 6 a.m. feeling like 7 a.m., so you’ll feel fresher and more awake “earlier” in the day according to clock time. In other words, if you’re used to waking up at 7 a.m., 6 a.m. will feel entirely normal, but you’ll be up an hour earlier by the clock.

Your internal body clock will also help you feel ready for sleep an hour earlier than what the clock says. If you’re used to going to sleep at 10 p.m., for example, that will be the new 9 p.m., so your body will be ready for sleep an hour earlier than it was before the time change. 

What this means is that because your body clock is attuned to going to bed earlier and waking up earlier than what the clock will be saying, this is an excellent time to adjust your schedule to allow for writing time in the morning.

Yes, you COULD allow yourself to recalibrate to the new clock time and get used to staying up till 10 p.m. again (or whatever your current schedule is), but you don’t have to. If you’ve been wanting a morning writing practice (or an earlier one) this is a great opportunity to make a change.

Here’s what this could look like.

Normal bedtime: 10 p.m. Daylight Saving Time

Normal wake time: 7 a.m. Daylight Saving Time

 

New bedtime: 9 p.m. Standard Time (feels like 10 p.m. still)

New wake time: 6 a.m. Standard Time (feels like 7 a.m. still)

New writing time: 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. 

 

Common Objections … & Solutions!

But Jenna, I need downtime at night…

If your first response is to shudder about giving up the “downtime” you’re used to at night, I want you to ask yourself how valuable that time truly is compared to making time for yourself to write in the morning.

I don’t know about you, but my night time “downtime” these days isn’t actually that restful and it doesn’t necessarily help my writing. I’d much rather get myself to bed earlier, be fresher in the morning, and ready to write than get caught up doomscrolling or whatever else is distracting me. I’m going to use this time change to give my writing habit a boost.

But Jenna, my kids will wake up early too…

“But wait, Jenna,” you say, “my kids will also be waking up early too!” Why, yes, they will. But you have a chance to do something about it, right now (at least if you’re in the US because we have a one week lead time).

You can do this by gradually adjusting their body clocks to match the external clock time.

The way to do this is to incrementally have them stay up a little bit later each night over the course of the coming week.

Let’s say they normally go to bed at 8:30 p.m. Each night, for the next 7 nights, let their bedtime be about 5 or so minutes later, so that on the last night (Halloween in the U.S.!) their bedtime would be 9:05 p.m. We’ll change our clocks that evening. Starting the next night, you’ll push their clock time bedtime a little bit the OTHER way until it matches up with 8:30 p.m. again. 

(And Halloween will give them a push of excitement staying up later too — bonus!)

Here’s how this works out night by night, starting on Sunday, October 25. 

Bedtime at:

  • 8:30 p.m. Saturday, October 24 (tonight, stay with regular bedtime)
  • 8:35 p.m. Sunday, October 25. 
  • 8:40 p.m. Monday, October 26. 
  • 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, October 27. 
  • 8:50 p.m. Wednesday, October 28. 
  • 8:55 p.m. Thursday, October 29. Night 5. 
  • 9:00 p.m. Friday, October 30. 
  • 9:05 p.m. Saturday, October 31. + Change your clocks!
  • 8:10 p.m. Sunday, November 1. (old 9:10 p.m.) 
  • 8:15 p.m. Monday, November 2. (old 9:15 p.m.)
  • 8:20 p.m. Tuesday, November 3. (old 9:20 p.m.)
  • 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, November 4.  (old 9:25 p.m.)
  • 8:30 p.m. Thursday, November 5. (old 9:30 p.m.)

And NO, you don’t have to do this perfectly, this is meant as an example of a gradual process. You can even make the switch in 10 minute increments if you want it to move faster. My experience is that 5 minutes is easier. :) 

Bottom line: you change their body clocks but you don’t change your own.

YES, you might be going to bed early while they’re going to bed later for a week, but it’s a small investment in order to free up writing time for yourself in the morning. If you don’t make this adjustment, they may well be up when you’re wanting to write. 

But Jenna, I don’t like writing in the morning…

Okay, fair enough. While I’ve found early morning writing to be one of the best times to write for many writers, primarily because our inner critics are quieter then and we feel the pull of other obligations less strongly then, it’s not for everyone, and that’s 100% okay.

If you prefer to write at night, you may want to use the body clock adjustment method I describe above in order to keep your hour at night without feeling jet lagged. :) 

The Morning Writing Challenge

Want to give this a go? 

Stay tuned for all the details of the #MorningWritingChallenge coming soon!

If you’re not on my mailing list, sign up now to make sure you get all the details.

 

Want an extra boost of support to make writing happen?

Join my Called to Write coaching circle where we run writing sprints at 7 a.m. Pacific Time on weekdays, 9 a.m. Pacific Time daily, and have bonus community led sprints at 6 a.m. Pacific Time and 3 p.m. Pacific Time.

We’ll be starting a new theme for the month of November, so it’s the perfect time to join us!

In addition to our sprints we offer weekly Zoom meetings (no meeting Thanksgiving week), goal setting and check in support, writing progress journals, and more. 

Financial aid is available. 

Find out more and register here.

 

Have questions?

Email us or leave a comment below and we’ll respond.

Stay safe, and happy writing!

 

 

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash