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Productive Writer No. 11


Write Before You Wake Up (What?)


The title is not designed to wake you up. In fact, sleep a while longer while you read this.


This posting is based on, at first glance, a seemingly outlandish idea for increasing writing productivity. Write as soon as your eyes open in the morning, before you are fully awake or get out of bed. Grab a pen and paper (no computer or other electronic device) and let your brain, particularly the right side of it, help you to write without analytical examination or critical judgment.


This suggestion comes from Merrill Markoe, essayist, playwright, novelist, and former head writer for the David Letterman Show. She discovered that when she writes first thing in the morning--before coffee or the newspaper or especially getting on the internet, she is much more productive, writing up to 15 pages each morning, even learning "not to hate writing." 


She attributed this productivity to writing with the "intuitive flow" of her "sleepy brain." She described, when fully awake, the "relentlessly negative...critical, tyrannical" voice that creates anxiety each time she starts to write, "the voices [that] would quickly remind me that I was too ill-informed to begin writing even a personal anecdote without undertaking years of painstaking research" (p.1).


Markoe believes her right brain wakes up first, allowing her to write without the critical judgment that comes from the left side of her brain. Writing is usually considered a task that requires logic, structure, analysis, and organization, for which we rely on the left side of our brain. Writing with the sleepy, creative right side of the brain produces more writing, less anxiety, and fewer critical, productivity-limiting thoughts.


Will you try this? Allow yourself to try at least one new strategy a week. With each one that works for you, make it a habit. Continue to use it to increase your productivity. 


You've got this!




Jan Allen, Associate Dean

Academic and Student Affairs

Cornell Graduate School