The Mark Blog

Early Morning Writing

Driving to work each day, I pass by the Alcove in Los Feliz. The Alcove is a charming indoor/outdoor restaurant/café. A few months ago I learned they opened at 6:00 AM. Ever since, I’ve wanted to get up an hour early so I can go there before work. Every time I plan to do this, however, something gets in my way. Mainly I get in my own way. I am not a morning person.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been working on a new story, but I've felt stuck. I needed to do something different, something new. Wednesday morning I resolved to finally get up early, go write before work. There were many reasons I could put it off. For one, daylight savings started. If I were to leave the house before six it would be dark. Very dark. You can see where this is headed—there’s always an excuse.

Tuesday night I set the alarm and Wednesday morning I awoke determined. It felt more like midnight than morning when I got there a little after six, but I made it. I accomplished more than I thought I would. I had a productive hour of writing before work. A great way to start off my day. Best of all, there wasn’t anything to distract me. I had the whole place almost to myself. The delicious blueberry scone and latte were an added bonus.

Reflecting on my experience, I figured out what made this early morning writing session work for me. I’m thinking of making this a weekly routine. I made a list of guidelines:

Pick a time, stick to it and don’t get side-tracked. In other words, wake up, get ready, then get on the road. Do not eat or drink anything—I can do that at the café. Part of my problem in the past was getting caught up with little tasks. Even on the way to the café, I was considering filling up the gas tank, catching up on some paperwork, paying bills, and checking email. These are all things I can easily do after work. To waste precious morning time is pure procrastination.

Take only my notebook, pen, phone, and wallet. Everything else is only a distraction. I have been seduced by the work folders in my bag too often. “It’s only…” turns into a twenty minute task. If I only have an hour, doing such a task eats up one-third of the time.

Use the phone only as a time keeper. That morning I set the phone's stopwatch for my allocated time, then didn’t look at it again. Before I knew it, that bell-tower tone was going off. Time to stop and rejoin society.

When I exited the Alcove, the sun had risen, all traces of darkness lifted. With pages in my hand, I was in a much better place for the day.