Early Morning Writing Time
What I learned from the space between sleep and awake
All this week I’ve been running my monthly, early morning facilitated writing space. It’s called ‘The Dawn Chorus’. The Dawn Chorus is a zoom group. It’s a simple enough system - myself and a group of writers meet on zoom, we greet each other, I read a poem or a piece of creative non fiction and offer an optional prompt, and then we write for just under an hour, checking in five minutes before the end of the session to share, but only if we want to. Sometimes the simple ideas are the best. I think of all the groups and courses I run, this is my favourite. This is my own practice, to get to my desk for 7am and get that first hour of writing in before the creativity is crowded out. I write in darkness in the winter, in the full orchestra of bird song in the sunny summer months. And each month the group meets and we sit and write and watch the seasons move through their slow routine while we move through ours. Every time the Dawn Chorus week comes around I look forward to it. I will have been inside the deep depths of my own head in that early morning hour for three weeks and then, like surfacing for air, I get to be with a group of other people all working separately, but all working with purpose in this magical space. The week passes quickly, it’s soon over, and then off we go to carry on our routines for three weeks.
I find this hour of the day 7-8 the most productive; not in terms of getting lots of words down, but in terms of the space to think. Writing is not always about pushing and pushing and forcing yourself into a routine, sometime it is about creating the space for the work to come and settle. Consistency is the key, I think, coupled with the understanding that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be.
In the summer I start my routine even earlier; starting the day with a walk down the lane early, early doors, before it gets warm. This too, is a magical place, to walk where no person has yet been and see the dew prints of the Roe deer, the fox, the rabbit, to watch the owl hunt over the meadow and along the railway tracks, to see the sun rising rich and orange over the lip of the valley. This is like an act of prayer, for me, an act of enchantment, of seeking beauty, of placing myself before nature and to feel a part of it. This is where I come to the altar of the world and set down my whole self; finding, instead of the world’s worries, the intuitive act of creation. Then, back to the desk to net that elusive, magical thing and bring it to the page before life - washing, working, cooking, cleaning - crowds in and that space is lost.
I feel like I might be over romanticising the act of early morning writing, of writing in general, but I also think we don’t acknowledge enough that writing isn’t just about bashing words out onto a page, it isn’t just about learning how to edit successfully, there really is something quite magical about it, about capturing those snapping neurons and building the structure of words around them.
For years I beat myself up because I knew that I was an intuitive writer, and I thought I needed to bend myself into an academic box in order for my work to have value. Maybe what I call intuitive is a form of neurodivergence. I don’t think I want to label it. I am just an intuitive writer, and maybe I should embrace that a little more, stop worrying, stop comparing myself to other writers, stop placing a mask on myself and my writing and just allow myself the freedom to live.
This song is living rent free in my head right now. I feel that, while I’m working on THE BIG WRITING PROJECT, (It’s been a good writing week this week, lots of work done) I am learning so much about myself. I am kicking off my shoes and letting my child-self run free:
Don’t forget, if you’d like to join me for the April book club, this month’s book is The Home Child by Liz Berry, and it’s phenomenal.
Come Write With Me
If you want to join me for my May Writing challenge, you can find details here:
In Spelt news, issue 08 is out now and you can buy it in print or as a PDF here:
And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for the week, tomorrow (Friday 7th April) we are launching Spelt 08 on zoom with guest reader Victoria Bennett.
Victoria will be reading from her brand new book: All My Wild Mothers alongside contributors from this issue, AND we’ll be showcasing the first poetry film in the magazine. It’s going to be great. Buy your ticket here:
Until next time