The Night Owl to Early Bird Experiment

I’ve been struggling to find time to write.

I mean, it was hard before, but now that I’m a single mama, it has been almost impossible. I’ve been trying to take an online math class and be involved in my writing group and hug my kids and talk to them and play with them and feed them something other than Cheetos and be a good friend and run three times a week and go out on an occasional date (yep, that’s new) and, somehow, write.

I needed to do something. Something had to change so my writing could be a priority again. It’s not a want, but a need. I need to write. I need to finish this book. And then I need to start and finish another one and so on. But I was at a loss as to how to do it, until this thought wormed its way into my head, ”I could do it in the morning, before everyone gets up.”

This absurd idea has crossed my mind before, but I’ve always dismissed it. I am NOT a morning person. I don’t want to be up at a stupid early time, typing on my keyboard, bleary-eyed and miserable. I’m a night owl, dangit. I’ve always been a night owl. I want to stay up late reading or writing or puttering around my quiet house or chat with friends or, well, anything other than go to bed early. And then I want to sleep in as long asnight owl possible.

I didn’t want to change. And, yet, part of me did, the part of me that needed to write. So, I decided to try an experiment, to give the early bird lifestyle a go for one week.

Step One: I needed a plan. I thought about our days and schedules and decided to go to bed at 10 p.m., get up at 6 a.m., and write for two hours.

Step Two: I told my kids about my big plan. I talked to them about how I felt, my struggles to find time to write, and how important it is to me. Then I chatted with them about the need for them to go to bed on time and not wait to ask for my help with things right at bed time. They were shocked at the idea of their mom actually choosing to get up early, but they were also excited and supportive.

Step Three: Actually going to bed early! This was hard. I had to stop myself from reading one more page, doing one more chore, or writing one more email. I took care of things earlier in the evening, things I normally would have saved to do after my kids were in bed. I made sure to get my kids to bed on time. And then I forced myself into bed and set my alarm for stupid early.

Step Four: Get out of bed! Blerg. This was hard, too. I had to drag myself out of my warm sheets and shuffle to my studio. Some mornings it was harder than others and I let myself sleep in a bit longer. But then I forgave myself and I resolved to do better the next day.

Step Five: WRITE! The house was quiet and dark and my brain, once it got over the shock of being awake, was sharper than at night. I wrote more and better than I do in the same amount of time at night. It loved putting the writing right at the beginning of my day, making it important, instead of sleeping later and then hoping I’d find some cracks in my day to squeeze some writing time into.

In conclusion, the night owl to early bird was a complete success! Now, maybe getting up early isn’t feasible for you, or it’s simply not the best way for you to find more writing time. But maybe there’s a different time, a different way, to find more writing time that you’ve previously dismissed as not possible. Maybe you’ll have to make some changes and sacrifices. And maybe it’s time for you to do an experiment of your own.

Erin Shakespelighteningar writes silly pictures books and middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.