Why I write at 4 am

When I can

This is something I started doing at the end of last year. To a degree, I had been doing it in a similar fashion a few years before that. 

I write my novels at four in the morning whenever I can. It isn’t always a daily thing. A few years ago, I finished working on Sedition only because I found a writing group of sorts on Friday afternoons. We called it #thesisfriday. 

I then started Thursday work parties with my best friend – something we still try to continue today despite being in different states and timezones. 

But the #thesisfriday group had broken up somewhat. One thesis was done and the author in the UK, I had moved across the country. Trying to catch up with th #amwriting hashtag on Twitter didn’t seem to work. 

And I ended up with four am creative writing stints. 

It doesn't always work out but the point is to keep trying, keep doing it. Some days where I stick to it is better than none. It's the end result of spending more time on my priorities that is important not whether it was exactly four am and always every day.

1. Getting things done

I tend to have a lot of things to focus on in my life and that means I have to make an effort to be more organised. 

Sometimes that means saying ‘no’ to things but I soon realised that I didn’t want to keep saying ‘no’ to writing my books or stories. I had to set aside time for things and it had to be time I would find relatively easy to keep to even if I didn’t do it daily. Small steps. 

If I could start writing at four am, then I would have tackled a huge task I would otherwise keep putting off before I even had to start work that would pay my bills. 

And it has worked. It has allowed me to put words on a page and really get going on the Gin & Tonic draft which you can read on Patreon if you are so inclined. 

And it feels great to start the working day at nine am, knowing that this and other things on my to do list are done and finished and out of the way.

2. Priorities

It can be hard to prioritise everything when you so many things to do. I have paid editing work, paid journalism work, volunteering, friends, family, hobbies and various projects including writing books. Those all need prioritising but I find the idea of setting those into some sort of hierachy very difficult. 

They all seem important. And so if they are all important, they all require time and effort. Sometimes I like to group things together when I can as well. 

So four am to write until I stop at six am to write blog posts like these and to then take a walk, that takes care of the website, the novel writing and part of my health needs before I need to focus on paid work at nine am. 

I am already ticking tasks off, making sure that the things I actually feel are important to me, are getting my attention before business hours have started. 

And if I am working on it when others are not awake, then I am not working on it when my friends and family are awake which would otherwise prevent me from spending time with them. And they are priorities too.

Reading on jet plane by Flavio
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3. It improves my mood

I almost feel like I am belaboring a point here. Getting the writing out of the way makes me feel good. It means I can focus on other things. 

Previously I would end up worrying about not doing paid work when I was writing and not writing when I was doing paid work and each situation made me feel bad. It felt like I had to choose between one or the other and often it was paid work in order to survive. 

Writing at four am prevents that. It means I don’t have to worry about writing during business hours because I have done that already – it’s done for the day and I don’t have to find time for it in the evening. 

4. It sort of works with my body clock

As mentioned before  I am a night owl. But it didn’t quite make a lot of sense to try and write at night after midnight or whenever anyone else went to sleep. 

It didn’t have a set time but it also meant losing out on time with my partner. 

But what I thought was a good compromise was to sleep a bit and wake up and still have a bit of the night left and to do something less intellectual and more physical like walking etc during the actual early morning hours when usually I don’t want to think. 

Sometimes it means I have a bit of a nap and start work at ten am not nine am. Sometimes I have a nap later on in the day. 

But the key issue about working at night for me is that there are less likely to be interruptions or others awake that you need to spend time with instead. Waking up at four am rather than six am allows me to also have a bit more freedom and time to set up my day the way I want to before anyone else is awake.

Is it working?

Yes and no. I don’t get to wake up at four am everyday or have the rest of the schedule or routine work out everyday. Some days I manage bits of it, others none of it at all. 

But the point is to try and eventually it might all fall into some sort of set pattern with enough room to be flexible for all the things that do change in my life so often. 

Because each time some bit of it works, I get a result. I get more words on a page or a bit more exercise or more work done or more time with people. 

And it means I am keeping or trying to keep my promises to myself and others about what is important to me. It helps me to say no to things that are not important to me. 

And to be honest when the cycling is on I don’t get any sleep at all really. 

But I am getting words on a page, on a screen, in my Patreon subscribers email inboxes and hopefully one day in book form whereas previously I would have to put it aside completely because I would not be able to figure out how to make it work with everything else I needed to do. 

So no, it’s not every day that I do this. The schedule itself is a guideline or goal to try and plan my time with. And I am not perfect. But it helps to know that that little bit of time is my writing time, that I get to defend and keep as my writing time.

It works well enough that I know it is a good thing and that maybe I have part of the ideal tailored to me and my life schedule worked out… for now.

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