Tuesday, May 30, 2017


post by Lynn

What kind of day are you going to have? Does it involve writing? Will you write this morning?

I’m not necessarily talking about a full sit-down session, although those are nice when you can manage them. If not, maybe you could pen a few lines over coffee, or recite a new haiku while you shave or fix your hair.


Full disclosure: I am semi-retired and work from home, so I have the luxury of not going off to an office in the morning. Still, I have to make decisions about my mornings, like anybody else.

Me, I journal. Seven days a week, unless I’m traveling, I fix coffee and then slide onto the chaise and start writing my own version of Morning Pages. (For more about the Morning Pages idea, developed by Julia Cameron, click here).


Lots of writers through the years have worked in the early hours. Edith Wharton, Ray Bradbury, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack London, Wallace Stegner, Virginia Woolf, to name a few.

Some wrote early by necessity, like Toni Morrison who wrote before her kids got up. Others by preference, like Katherine Anne Porter, who picked mornings for the quiet that this time of day offers. “I don’t want to speak to anyone or see anybody,” she said. “Perfect silence.”


I’d like to advocate for writing in the morning, however you can make it work in your life. Try it for a while. Set aside a time slot in the morning to do something related to writing.


Well, it’s a “prime the pump” thing—(an expression I just came up with. Have you heard it?) It goes way back to the day when people pumped their water from wells. You had to pump the old well handle up and down a few times—sometimes quite a few times—before the water started to flow from the spigot into your bucket.

Here are some morning writing ideas that might help start the flow for you:

  • Start a Writing Prompt list and do a quick free-write in lieu of reading the newspaper or scanning social media. Having the prompt picked and ready to go will save time; 

  • Sing a song to your kid or cat while you fix breakfast, re-writing the lyrics to a favorite tune; 

  • Use refrigerator magnets to write essay titles, random thoughts or even a blush-worthy limerick; 

  • Make like poet Art Elser and post a new haiku on your Facebook page each morning; 

  • In your car, play some inspiring music (without words) and think about what the music is depicting—is it a jazz riff on a busy street scene? A musical depiction of a horse galloping across the prairie? A long, slow massage in b minor? Speak your thoughts into your cell phone’s recording app; 

  • Using your family photo wall as inspiration, write down a re-created conversation with your mom, dad, siblings, or Grandma Ruth; 

  • Walk the dog and mentally scribe what you see/hear/smell: descriptions of the landscape, bird song and alley way garbage. Play with the phrases in your head, then write in your notepad any that stand out. 

I’m sure ya’ll know of some other ways to act writerly in the a.m., right? Please share!


Pump that creative handle first thing in the morning, and you might find that words will trickle throughout your day. Be sure to keep that notepad handy to catch the drips. Occasionally you’ll even get a gush of insight that takes your latest poem, short story, essay or novel to a new level.


Maybe you already write in the morning. Excellent! I’ll be thinking of you out there while I’m journaling.

Maybe you keep trying the morning writing thing and life keeps intervening, and sleep is precious, and so on and so forth.

I get it.

But try again. Do it once a week or month or on vacation. Don’t be a perfectionist about it, just add it to your repertoire of writing activities.

If you need more convincing, read this post about The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science, which explains why creative writing in the morning is a good idea, and how a routine of writing (at any time of day) is the ticket to productivity.

And while you're at it--have a great morning!


Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors, by Celia Blue Johnson


  1. Well I was going to say write a haiku every morning, but you beat me to it. And you even mentioned me. Thank you. This is the second thing I've seen on Facebook this morning, the other by poet and haikuist Penny Harter, about writing. Penny's was a poem by Wendell Berry on the need for quiet and solitude. I remember priming our pump on the well. At times had to pour a little water down the pump mouth to get 'er started. Perhaps reading a bit of poetry or good writing before starting to write? Prime the pump. Your post has primed my pump this morning.

    1. I forgot about that thing about"pouring a little water" in first. You're absolutely right. And reading some good poetry/writing first is the perfect correlation. I knew you'd come up with something good.

  2. The social media thing is my bugaboo. Probably the worst habit I need to break. I do better if I write in the morning while it's quiet, before I get all the clatter of the day and other people's words in my head.

    Funny -- I've tried the phone recording thing, and it's been incoherent every time. I'm truly someone who works better with pen and paper or with keyboard and monitor than trying to tell stories verbally.

  3. I got this email from Margaret Smith-Braniff, which along with Art's comments make me think I've got my "priming the pump" metaphor someone messed up. Or that it just needs to be extended a bit. I love that some people are adding their insights to it.

    Hi, Lynn
    I was intrigued as I read today’s Writing Wyoming. When I was growing up, my dad always said that “priming the pump” was the process of pouring water down a shaft BEFORE pumping. The pressure of the water coming down was what it took for the air coming from pumping to draw the well water up.
    When you’d come to a well with a handle pump, people were supposed to have left a jug of water nearby. You poured, pumped, drank, then pumped a little more to leave something to prime the pump for the next person.

    If that is the case, I thought about your suggestions about “priming the pump”—we pour “song lyrics” or “old fairy tales” or “notice deeply” down the “well of creativity” to “pressure up the well” in order to bring the writing up. What we write: we can leave by the pump to help prime the it for someone who comes along behind us.


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