The internet loves reading about — and writing about — morning routines.
This probably comes from the fact that those of us who don’t have productive morning routines wish we did, and those of us who do are constantly wondering if we need to change them.
People are especially interested in the morning routines of the world’s most successful people. The Bill Gates and Oprah Winfreys of the universe absolutely must have spotless morning routines, since they’ve somehow managed to accomplish so much throughout their lives … right?
Well that’s one reason I’m not going to bore you with my morning routine. I’m not a highly successful person. I’m just a human with a flawed relationship with sleep and too many thoughts.
But what I WILL tell you is, as a writer, whether or not you will succeed throughout your life isn’t solely dependent on the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. It’s about the habits, attitudes, and strategies you adapt throughout your days, weeks, and months to maintain productivity without burning yourself out.
We’re living in the height of hustle culture. And for writers, this means it’s going to take a lot of effort to figure out how you’re going to make your work work for you — at all times of the day, every day.
While I won’t sketch out my entire morning routine — neither the real one nor my ideal one — I will tell you about how this morning (Sunday) went … starting with last night.
11:45(ish) PM: Force self to stop rereading finished sections of novel. Bedtime routine. Collapse into a rare, deep slumber.
4:30 AM: A puppy appears. Snuggles happen.
4:45 AM: Snuggles stop being fun, play! Outside? Run run bark happy dog!
5:30 AM: Walk! Take pictures of sunrise. The best walk.
6:30 AM: Have already lost count of how much coffee I’ve had. Now I’m writing this.
The more I pay attention to my early morning routines (especially throughout the week), the more I realize how hard it is to keep doing the same things over and over — not because you don’t want to change them but because the way you’re doing things WORKS and for now, it just has to keep working so YOU can keep working.
The problem for me personally isn’t the morning routine, or the fact that I wake up too early based on when I typically go to bed. For me, it’s the evening routine that wears me down. Because of course it’s not enough to go to your day job and edit for eight hours. If you want to “be a writer” you have to freelance and write a book and do all these things outside normal work hours because if you don’t, your chances of “being a writer” aren’t as good as someone who hustles harder than you do.
Hustling. That’s what we’re calling it now. This need to Do All The Things so that we can Have Careers and Do What We Love. Hey, maybe we’ll even be Famous and Make Big Money someday. If we work hard enough. If we stick with it long enough. If we’re strategic enough.
There are upsides and downsides to this. If putting a name to your work ethic helps keep you going when things get rough, by all means, keep hustling.
But how much hustle is too much hustle before you hustle yourself deep into dark, miserable places?
It doesn’t help that writing more, spending more time and energy on your work, really does make it more likely that something good will come of it. The hustle really does make a difference. It’s not just a bunch of writing experts screaming “hustle harder” when they know that’s not going to help anyone because it didn’t help them. It did.
Here’s something else I, a writer who has started a career playing with words, will tell you about my mornings: They do not begin with work. They begin with puppy snuggles, and walks, and coffee.
They begin with these things so that when I rise, I have time to recharge, so that later in the day I can hustle, and hustle late into the night, because this just happens to be what works for me personally.
Does it always work out the way I want it to? Of course not. Having a routine doesn’t mean your whole world is going to fall apart if you can’t stick to it once or twice. Having a routine means you’ve figured out how you operate when you are at your best, and learned your ideal working conditions, and are aware of what helps you get your writing done and what challenges you the most.
What matters more than anything else, in both your work and in your personal life, is repetition. That you know what you’re going to do before you do it, that you understand why, and that you know when it’s time to try something new.
What has helped me the most this year is changing my morning routine, even slightly, every month or so. For about a month back in June, I would wake up every morning and go for a run. That was great, for a while. I’d highly recommend starting your day with some kind of exercise. But it wouldn’t, couldn’t, work in the long-term. Going for a run after work actually works much better. I know that because I stayed consistent, dared to experiment, and adjusted my routine according to what I had learned.
My consistency, therefore, is in my willingness to embrace change, no matter how uncomfortable. You have to find yours, whatever it might look like.
Remember that the hustle isn’t just about working long or hard or smart. It’s about working THROUGH.
Rise. Hustle. Repeat. Rise from your sleep, from your failure, from your mistakes, your regrets, your pain. Hustle through the doubt, the fear, the exhaustion, the unplanned interruptions. The unsolicited surprises. All of it.
Repeat. Keep trying. Keep going. Keep writing. If you don’t, someone else will, and life is too short to be jealous of something someone has that you could have earned.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.