Monday, September 26, 2011

The 5 a.m. Writing Schedule: How to Make Writing a Priority

If you're like me and you have a pretty busy work and family life, you may find it hard to get that writing time in. One solution I've found is the 5 a.m. writing schedule. That's right, waking up at 5 a.m. to get the writing in before anyone else gets up and before I have to be at work.

Making writing the first priority of the day, and not having any distractions in the morning, makes for efficient and productive writing sessions, even if they're only two or three hours. As you complete projects using this schedule, you will gain confidence and begin to really enjoy it.

In 2001 when I was in college as an undergraduate, I began a daily writing practice. Since then I have worked on many short stories, novels and screenplays. It meant making writing a habit every day, and although I thought this was challenging at the time, I now look back on that period and see how much easier it was to fit writing into my life. As the years went by, I accumulated more and more responsibilities and writing often got pushed to "when I can fit it in."

Now in 2011, I have a wife and daughter, and I run a photography company--so family and work make it difficult to find that writing time that I need to keep my stories, novels, screenplays and ideas flowing. I used to save my writing time for the last thing I did before bed, but I was so tired I often only got a page or two before I was ready to pass out. Also, during the day, I'd often worry about whether I would even get any time between my other responsibilities--but if it's the first thing you do, all these worries go out the window. You've already accomplished your writing for that day, before any loved ones are awake, before you check your email or surf the web, before you even make breakfast (if you want).

You may be surprised how quickly you adjust to waking up this early. I started by setting my alarm for 6 a.m., then 5:30 and then 5, making it a gradual adjustment. I also caffeinate myself immediately by making black tea when I wake up. In a couple weeks I was waking up at 5 a.m. on my own without an alarm.

I will warn you that it does take some preparation. If your house is arranged anything like mine, sleeping people are near the printer which can be really loud if I need to print drafts. I always print them out the night before and have all my writing tasks recorded in notes from the previous morning. That way I do less thinking about where I left off, and I can just get down to it. Make it so you already have a project to work on or something to revise; make it easy to just start.

This process has been extremely helpful for me. So far I've been ten times more productive at this early hour than any other time of the day. If writing is important to you, then this schedule will help make it a priority while still allowing you to maintain your other responsibilities.

Find other writing schedules or solutions helpful? Post them in the comments.


  1. I heard this is how John Grisham finished his first novel while he had a wife and kid and crazy lawyer job.

  2. I heard about another author who used this schedule. Can't remember his name right now, but he would work from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. 5 days a week. And when the clock hit 8, he would stop where ever he was, even in mid sentence, and go to his day job.