What I Learned from Writing First Thing Every Morning

Morning Writing

Recently I decided to start conducting 28-day experiments, making simple tweaks to my day-to-day life to find out what works best for me. This sprang from me getting increasingly frustrated at myself for never being able to make any real changes to my lifestyle. Every day I’d think I had a better idea than the day before, so I’d do that instead – never giving anything a proper chance.

So I decided that by trying one single thing for a set amount of time, then analysing the experiment at the end, I’d get a much better idea of what works for me, and hopefully be able to make a few things stick.

My latest experiment was this: ‘The problem I have appears to be wasting my precious time in the mornings. I’ve decided to tackle this problem in a new way, one that fits in better with my natural rhythms: I’m going to start my days by writing. Just stream-of-consciousness stuff, unless I’ve got something else to say. I will stay in my pyjamas and make a cup of tea when I do so, because it’s nice and I like it, and I expect by the time I’ve finished writing I will feel like getting washed and dressed.’

So, how did it go?

I Did It Every Day

This was super easy to stick to while I was at home. Before I went to Berlin at the end of May, I successfully got up, made a cup of tea, and sat down and wrote stream-of-consciousness stuff every morning. I even did it on a Saturday once, just because I felt like it. (I guess I didn’t specify that I was only going to do it on week days, but that was always the plan.) I usually wrote for between 20-50 minutes.

When I went to Berlin, I was renting an Airbnb place with a few friends and attending a conference. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t write every (or any) morning while I was there, but that was fine, because I never pretended to myself that I was going to – and besides, the problem I was trying to address was wasting my time in the morning, which definitely wasn’t a problem while I was in Berlin. (Sidenote: I LOVE BERLIN.)

I got home on Thursday, meaning there was just one day of the experiment left. I didn’t do it on the final Friday. And I haven’t done it since either. Here are some thoughts on why.

It Got Kind of Tedious

Honestly, although I had no problem writing every morning, I got bored of myself. The same things surfaced again and again. It would probably be pretty enlightening to go back through and highlight the subjects that kept cropping up. I’m not sure there are huge benefits for me in writing every single morning about whatever’s in my brain. Well, maybe there are. But probably doing it once a week would be just as useful, and wouldn’t take up so much time. Maybe a Monday-morning ‘what happened last week’ shebang would do the trick.

I often thought about how it would be more useful to write other stuff, such as blog posts, articles, essays, copy or whatever – stuff that I could use in my business and that I’d inevitably end up writing later anyway. Essentially, I think doing more structured writing would’ve been better. As I’m writing this, it’s occurring to me that I could schedule different things for different days of the week. Like: Monday stream-of-consciousness previous-week wrapup; Tuesday Untamed Writing blog posts; Wednesday guest posts; Thursday personal essays; Friday ???. I don’t know yet. I’ll have to think it over.

The trouble with that idea, of course, is that writing other stuff is much harder than writing stream-of-consciousness nonsense.

I’m Still Not Sure How I Feel About Staying in My PJs

Even though I was doing something kinda productive each morning, allowing myself to stay in my pyjamas still felt kind of scummy. I would pretty much always get washed and dressed straight away afterwards, which was nice, but yeah – I’m still not sure it’s the right thing for me. It’s the EASIEST thing, but, as we established last week, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.

I Felt Like I Wasn’t Putting My Time to the Best Use

Yes, it was better than sitting around in my pyjamas and fucking about on Facebook for two hours every morning… but it still didn’t feel like the best use of my time. Would reading be better? I feel like I need to read more. Or yeah, how about writing something other than whatever shit’s rumbling about in my brain? I’ve already established that exercising first thing is a big no for me, but there could definitely be a better way.

I Wasn’t Necessarily Productive Afterwards

After I’d done my writing, yes, I’d get washed and dressed, but then I’d, well, you know – I’d piss about. That’s not entirely true. Most days I would sit and write my to-do list straight away. But after that I’d make breakfast, wash dishes, put laundry away. I still wouldn’t start work. My days often felt like they were slipping away afterwards, and having a little brainspew and writing a to-do list in the morning don’t exactly count as ‘big wins’. (I’ve heard it’s good to start the day with a big win.)

What Was Good About It

I feel like I’ve just slapped a big downer on the whole experiment, but actually I enjoyed it. It was nice to actually do something in the morning and feel like I wasn’t pissing my day away right from the off. And it was definitely better than what I was doing before. If I couldn’t think of anything better to do, I’d probably stick with it. But I DO think there’s a better way. I just need to figure out what it is.

My Next Experiment

Right now I’m sat in this beautiful spot overlooking the ocean:

Photo 09-06-2015 08 54 48

It’s 9.15am. I’ve been here since around 8.30. That table is in a shopping centre in Edinburgh (yes, Edinburgh is on the coast, something a lot of people don’t realise). The shops don’t open till 10am, and it doesn’t get really busy till gone 11. God, it’s so peaceful here right now. This is nice. And, incredibly, I did get washed and dressed as soon as I got out of bed, because I wanted to. I wanted to come here and write (or possibly read – I brought a book with me in case I still felt like a zombie when I sat down). This is where I usually come to write stuff for my biz. There’s no internet (or maybe there is – haven’t checked) and, I don’t know, my brain just goes into writing mode when I’m sat here. (Brains are weird.)

Thing is, I usually come early afternoon, and I often get pissed off because that’s when the tourists flood in, making all their noise and having loud conversations about three paces away from me. Sometimes none of these tables are free either – people sit and spill their store-bought sandwich crumbs and their sticky colas all over them. Right now, there’s no one here except cleaners and workers setting up their shops and restaurants. When I first arrived, there was no music either. (Today I learned: The music starts at 9am.)

As soon as I sat down, I started writing this blog post. Easy. I think I may be on to something. I’m going to the US in 3 weeks for 3 weeks, so I can’t label this a 28-day experiment, and I probably won’t have time to do a write-up until I get back (or maybe… on the plane?), but for the next 3 weeks, this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to get washed and dressed straight away every morning, and I’m going to come here. Because today I already feel like my day is off to a brilliant start and it’s only 9.30am. I’m not saying I will write every morning, because I might not, but there’s a good chance I will do something worthwhile, something… worky. Because my brain goes into work-mode when I sit here. It will be harder to do on the windy and rainy days, which are frequent here, but I’m pretty sure sitting here in the peace and quiet, feeling good about myself, will make it doable. I’ll report back!

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