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Rise early and write as the light lifts

Write & Shine x The Riff Raff

(Photo: Write & Shine)

You can plot the habits of writers and artists across the arc of a day.

In the early morning, there’s Toni Morrison who wakes before dawn to make a coffee and watch the daylight arrive. It’s her way of preparing to enter a writing space. She’s there with Haruki Murakami who rises at 4am and works immediately for five to six hours, and Barbara Kingsolver who leaps from bed with her head full of words.

Later, Hemingway appears. He writes every morning at first light, when ‘it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.’ Then comes Simone de Beauvoir and Gertrude Stein: at their desks no later than 10am.

After lunch, Henry Miller works through his writing plans allowing for no diversions. Hunter S. Thompson starts his day at 3pm with a glass of Chivas Regal. Then, at the day's end, Franz Kafka gets going at 11pm, as does Jack Kerouac – with a drink to boost his energy.

Write & Shine x The Riff Raff

(Photo: Write & Shine)

Which is it for you? Do you feel alert as soon as the alarm rings? Or is it after breakfast, after lunch, after dark? Does it matter?

There is much research that shows we’re more creative in the morning. Studies of the human body, our hormones and rhythms, show that immediately after sleep, we’re remarkably in tune with our environment. It's the time we will notice the tiny shifts in light, the creaking floorboards.

On waking, the creative element of our brains, the prefrontal cortex, is most active. The morning is the best time to think and imagine, with afternoons better for editing and critiquing as that’s when the analytical parts of the brain stirs. Moving from bed to the page helps capture the edge of dreams, helping you tap into your subconscious and access a more creative state of mind.

There are so many reasons to write in the morning. Marlon James does so to counter writing fears: ‘My inner critic doesn’t like getting up early so I get up before him.’ For me, it’s the quietest time of the day, offering a few moments for thoughts to flow and develop. It’s my most creative time and helpful to balance whatever the day holds.

Write & Shine x The Riff Raff

(Photo: Write & Shine)

Time in the morning, before I check the news or my emails, is important. I like silence ahead of writing. I like to hear my own words on paper without risk of the ideas being drowned out by the noise of the world. I know that as soon as I talk or connect online, I forget what my pen was going to say.

Still not convinced? One body of research actually advises people to go against their natural body cycles to enhance creative thinking: writing when your mind is not at its peak can help surface unexpected, bright new ideas!

So, why not rise early once this month to watch the sunrise? Rise early to stretch and think and take advantage of the extra time. Rise early to read a poem as the light lifts. Rise early to commute when the traffic and footfall is lighter. Rise early for a breakfast in the silent morning. Rise early to write. And to help you on your way, you’re all welcome to join us for a Write & Shine workshop or online course. Start your day with a burst of creativity!

More about Write & Shine...

Write & Shine runs a programme of workshops & online courses gathering people to write together in the morning light. We welcome busy Londoners seeking space for creativity in their lives. Our sessions are open to everyone, whether you're new to writing, have some experience or simply want to enjoy an energising & inspiring start to your day!

Gemma Seltzer, a writer and experienced workshop tutor, founded Write & Shine in 2015. She facilitates the sessions, along with a roster of guest tutors. Find out more at

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