#5onFri: Five Nighttime Tricks to Maximize Your Writing Morning

by Jennifer Brinkmeyer
published in Writing

Coffee addiction used to be enough to get me up and writing at 5 a.m., but I’m a mom now. Sleep deprivation I expected, but not relaxation deprivation. Most nights, the toddler finally stops leaving her bedroom by 8:00, and if I want to be up at 5:00 to write before she wakes up (hopefully), I have to go to sleep at 9:00, giving me one hour at night to relax. Before I tried what follows, my shoddy ritual was to do whatever I felt like until I felt like going to bed. The time always “felt” too short, so I’d blow off my bedtime then skip my morning writing. Here are the five actions I now take at night to write in the morning.

1) Protect tomorrow morning tonight

Pick out your clothes, pack your lunch, prep your coffee. Doing these things the night before will ensure  you don’t trade your morning writing time for chores, especially when the going gets tough in your writing, and emptying the dishwasher starts to look good.

To remove these excuses, get food and clothes ready at night. For maximum benefit, systematize the processes. For clothes, I have a capsule wardrobe. Throughout a season, I wear the same five outfits to work. It’s easier to decide what to wear and to find my clothes. My toddler’s wardrobe consists of “clothes burritos,” where I roll up a shirt with some pants. Instead of deciding on pants and a shirt, she chooses a burrito. Lunch is a capsule wardrobe for food. When it’s warm, I take a salad. When it’s cold, I take a soup. I prep enough for the week on Sunday. I keep it interesting with new recipes or limiting myself to using what’s the pantry or fridge. In a pinch, I’ll buy soups or salads pre-made.

2) Go to sleep

When it’s time for my daughter to go to bed, she can’t cajole me into a later bedtime. We adhere to a sacred rigamarole to prep her for sleep. As a kid, I thought adults were lucky to not have bedtimes because they had escaped their parents’ control, but when done right, a bedtime routine is one of a child’s first lessons in self-care, an all-ages necessity. As an adult, I attempt to cajole myself into a later bedtime, but then I recite what I tell my daughter: “Today was fun, but it’s time for bed. Tomorrow can be fun too, IF you go to bed now.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours a night. Shoot for that window every night, just like Mama said.

3) Make time to unwind

If you fold laundry or check email until it’s time to sleep, then you won’t be recharged to write the next day. In addition to putting a moratorium on work, identify your relaxation-stealers, the things you do in the name of relaxing that never quite satisfy. For me, that’s scrolling social media or rewatching shows. These comforting distractions require little thought, but when I do them, I will blow off my bedtime. Sometimes I’ll watch a new episode of a favorite show, but I have to truly enjoy it. One sign that it’s time to give up a show is if you’re checking your phone while you watch it. If it’s not holding your interest, it’s not doing its job of helping you relax.

4) Find your relaxation triggers

If you stick to your bedtime, some nights you won’t get very much downtime. On nights where you work late, the kids mutiny, or you go out with friends, you need an efficient way to signal to your body and mind that it’s almost bedtime, and you have sufficiently relaxed without a Netflix bender. To trick myself into thinking I’ve relaxed for longer than I’ve got, I use one or two of my triggers before going to bed. I light a candle and meditate. I take my time brushing my teeth, washing my face, and moisturizing. I stretch, foam roll, or do a quick yoga workout. I treat myself to a special drink, like tea, sparkling water, or wine, or a snack, like popcorn or some chocolate. Just one or two of these can actually be enough to help me accept my bedtime like an adult.

5) Cultivate your writing life

The morning writing session is only one component of the writing life. If you have more than ten minutes of downtime at night, invest the time in activities that will strengthen you as a writer, like reading and journaling. DIY MFA’s second tenet is to read with purpose. Use extra time before bed to read through the essential reading list that you created when you got your DIY MFA Starter Kit. If reading makes you sleepy, add some journaling. Write about your reading, use the writer igniter or a prompt book, keep a gratitude list, or do the Boho Berry monthly journaling challenge. Mixing these approaches will keep things interesting.

As Gabriela says, “Write alongside your life, not despite it.” These techniques have helped me live that mantra.

What are your tricks for an easy morning or quick relaxation techniques that you love? How does your night routine threaten to mess up your morning?

Jennifer Brinkmeyer writes contemporary fantasy and horror. When she’s not teaching teenagers how to rebel through literacy, she’s probably blowing bubbles with her daughter. To talk shop, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.


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