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Writing and Productivity: How to Avoid Your Judgmental Self

Photo by Caju Gomes on Unsplash


Some days, I manage to wake up at 4 a.m.

I’m absolutely not a morning person, but I found I actually enjoy being up at four in the morning. Not the “waking up” part, honestly, but the having-woken-up-I-might-as-well-start-Writing part.

That’s golden time.

The house is quiet, the phone is silent, and no one is texting. I don’t have to do anything, take care of anyone else. If there are messages on my phone, or on Facebook, I can ignore them. No one expects a response at that hour.

I’m good. Those first two hours of the day are all mine.

And, I discovered, stories unfold so easily before dawn, when I’m half-asleep.

Not only is no one bothering me, but I’m not bothering myself. I’m not scrambling for something to Write about. The words just come, easily. I’m not impatiently deleting a paragraph and turning to Facebook or Pinterest for entertainment.

I just revel in the silence and let it happen. Nothing’s happening at that hour of the day, just writing.


I read somewhere it has to do with the Prefrontal Cortex. Specifically, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, located just below your forehead.

Some people call it “the third eye.”

That area is all about organization, planning, scheduling, judging, censoring. It’s Big Brother, essentially. But when you’re sleepy, or just coming out of prayer or meditation, the prefrontal cortex isn’t bothering you. Its like you flipped a switch and turned him off when you went into a relaxed state.

Don’t wake him up. Don’t start judging or second-guessing yourself.

When you realize you’re in a relaxed state, go with it.

Write. Dance. Make Love. Sing. Anything that makes you happy, do it.

Note: for those night owls who never get to bed before 2 a.m., you can hit a similar state around 3 in the afternoon, the mid-afternoon slump.

Instead of dozing, pull out your laptop and write a few paragraphs.

Let the creative juices flow.

I learned the value of writing every day, as a warm-up early in the morning. Then, just a few weeks ago I realized there was another optimal time: mid-afternoon, when I’m usually switching from one project to another. Just ten or fifteen minutes yields a rich harvest of words you can set aside to peruse later.


Much like baking bread: when you set the dough to proof in a warm oven. The same things happens with your writing. You set it aside and let it rise, come back later and start kneading the words into shape.

Stephen King recommends this in his book On Writing. He suggests when you finish a book you should throw it in a drawer for six weeks or more. In other words, distance yourself, to get a better perspective on what you’ve written.

I can never wait that long, and you don’t necessarily have to. Especially on shorter pieces, I find a day or two is sufficient.

Sometimes, you find the writing isn’t that good, and you just delete it. But most of the time, I find I’ve written something worth developing.

Anyway, that’s my take on prime times for writing. Four a.m. and three p.m. Write when you’re sleepy. Cover up that third eye and write freely. Just like brushing your teeth, twice a day — find your time and get to work. You’ll feel better about yourself, and the writing gets done.

I’ll be honest, I don’t get up that early every day, but when I do, I feel good about myself all day long. And that’s worth it. That’s why I’m sharing this idea with you.

If this helps you, please share it with others.

Writing and Productivity: How to Avoid Your Judgmental Self was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Writing and Productivity: How to Avoid Your Judgmental Self


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