The Magic of Getting Up Early and Writing 500 Words

Okay, fellow writers, let’s talk about a fantastic way to kick-start your creativity and productivity by writing 500 words a day about absolutely anything you want!

If you’ve been writing, blogging, or journaling for any length of time, you know how difficult it can be to consistently write meaningful content. Whether you write for a living or simply for your own enjoyment, it’s tempting to wait for inspiration before picking up a pen or opening a new document to begin writing.

This post is a bit of a twist on morning creative writing. Even though I first tried this several years ago, it’s something I still challenge myself to do whenever I feel resistant to doing my regular writing work.

Text the magic of getting up early and writing 500 words on sheer salmon-color background over image of coffee and open journal waiting to be used.

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How I Rediscovered My Love For Writing By Getting Up Early

Sometimes you read a blog post or a Tweet that makes you think. Thinking is good. Other times you read a post and decide to act, which is better. Much, much better. (Unless you act badly. Please don’t do that.)

Not long after I began blogging, a post about Jeff Goins and his challenge to write 500 words a day for 31 days made its way into my life.

Shortly after that, I read a post from Crystal Paine (known for her website Money Saving Mom) about a challenge she was doing to get up early every day in order to do something important for yourself and improve your morning routine. 

>> Even though Crystal’s ‘get up early’ challenge is no longer active, you can pick up the book that inspired it here: The 5 A.M. Miracle: Dominate Your Day Before Breakfast

My writer’s heart knew it was meant to be. The stars and planets aligned (including Pluto, which I will always consider to be a planet thankyouverymuch) and something clicked within me. I joined both challenges, and I set a goal to stick with both for one month.

Jeff’s encouraging words reignited my desire to write. Sure, I had learned to write articles and do other blogging-related writing. Creating newsletters for a previous job had been my jam. I had always LIKED to write.

But this was different. I had forgotten how it feels to put words to paper (or the computer screen) for the pure joy of the action.


And because I’m in the mood to overshare, here is an excerpt from my morning’s ramblings:

Woman wearing glasses and polka dot blouse sitting at desk and writing in notebook next to coffee mug and laptop computer.

What is it about writing that is so powerful? Is it the act of making thoughts “real?” Is it the idea that something we put down on paper may inspire others? If we write fiction, is it an escape into another world? Do we create other worlds to escape something in our lives? Or do we do it to help others escape? Or simply because we know it sells?

As I sip my coffee at 5:19 a.m., I’m thinking this is all too deep to consider. Yet, consider it I must. Otherwise, why am I in this challenge to write 500 words a day for the next month? Yes, I could free write just to get words on paper. And that’s fine, since it will help quiet my mind and probably help me be a little more present in my life since some of my bazillion thoughts have been allowed to rest in another place.

But a goal is beginning to form in my mind about what to do with those words. A short story? Blog posts? Still thinking about that, but I know that the answer will come as I continue to write.

My word for 2016 is Positivity, and I am going to use it to guide my actions. I will write. I will love my family. I will work to create the life that will make me happy.

Okay, that’s definitely some early-morning stuff, but it helped me to begin my day on a fantastic note.

Over the course of the next month, I wrote and wrote. Some days it was more or less than 500 words, but all of it was a joy. And, yes, nearly all of it was written in the very early morning.

It became part of my daily routine for months afterward, even after I completed all of the prompts from the 500 Words challenge.

Looking back, I absolutely believe doing a writing challenge during the early morning hours inspired some of my most creative work. When I was writing, little did I know some of those words would end up in several blog posts and the books I’ve published since then.

Why Waking Up Early To Write 500 Words Just WORKS

Female hands typing on backlit laptop keyboard in dark room.

Writing 500 words in the morning is a great way to start off the day with something concrete accomplished.

What’s amazing to me is that even if you don’t do any ‘real’ writing work — in other words, you didn’t produce anything ‘good’ — the process got your brain working.

That nearly always leads to a day of more creative thinking and better productivity… even if you end up taking a nap later! 😉

Even now — more than 8 years later — when I feel stuck in my writing, I go back to that same combination of getting up very early and writing 500 words.

How Long Does It Take To Write 500 Words?

Woman in white sweater preparing for early morning writing while sitting at white table with laptop, journals, coffee and glasses.

Here’s the thing… everyone has different writing speeds. And let’s face it, waking up early to write means those words probably won’t flow as quickly as they would later in the day. That is, if you can get them to flow at all without that early-morning warm-up. 😉

In reality, those first 500 words about absolutely anything usually take me about 20 minutes. Maybe a little longer if I’m super-exhausted and can’t quite remember where the letters are on the keyboard.

On a good day, my fingers fly and I’m done in less than 15 minutes.

Sometimes I like to start with a simple spark, like single-word prompts. (Grab my entire collection HERE.) Other days I need a little more structure or want to try something really fun, so I’ll go for something from my list of 50 creative writing prompts.

That said, I’m actually a pretty slow writer. And the early morning words? It’s really more about taking some time for myself (call it self-care if you want) before I feel like it’s actually time to be productive. That comes later in the day.

More Writing Inspiration and Resources

My collection of 365 single-word prompts — A printable collection perfect for this challenge!

Creative Journaling Exercises, Prompts, and Ideas to Keep You Writing

30 Important Journaling Prompts for Adults

More Than 1064 Journal & Writing Prompts

9 Best Creative Writing Journals: Take Your Thoughts to the Next Level

31 Unique December Creative Writing Prompts for Adults

Concluding Thoughts…

Do you HAVE to get up early in order to write 500 words a day? No, of course not!

But if you haven’t challenged yourself to do something crazy like get up early and hit a pre-determined word count, I encourage you to try it. You might be surprised at what happens.

You’ve got this!

Did you enjoy this post? Know someone else who might like it? Please take a moment to share on Pinterest, Facebook, or your favorite social media… (Click the sharing buttons at the bottom of the post.) Thank you!

Text getting up early + writing 500 words over background of woman wearing glasses and writing in notebook next to coffee mug and laptop computer.

Text get up early, write 500 words every day over background of computer keyboard and wood flower box on marble counter.

*Post first published January 2016
*Updated April 2024

20 thoughts on “The Magic of Getting Up Early and Writing 500 Words”

  1. I have been getting up earlier, too (though not at 5am – yikes!), and I am finding it to truly help my day go so much better. And, like you, I am working on writing more consistently. I recently bought Jeff’s book but haven’t gotten into it fully yet, but I need to check out this 500 word challenge. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Way to go on getting up earlier! I’m a morning person, so it’s probably a little bit easier for me to get up earlier. You should definitely do the 500 word challenge! Jeff sends out writing suggestions which you can choose to follow or not. Some of them are things I never thought of writing about. It’s kind of funny, now when I’m falling asleep at night I’m thinking about what I want to write when I get up in the morning. I love habits that help me feel better mentally!

  2. I’ve done Crystal’s Make Over Your Mornings course, and I’m a huge Jeff Goins fan but have yet to do his 500 word challenge and put the two together. Inspired!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Darci! I encourage you to try both challenges. Sometimes I look back at what I wrote super-early in the morning and it’s pretty interesting. LOL

  3. I have never heard of the challenge to write 500 words a day, but it sounds really neat! I did Crystal’s Make Over Your Mornings course in the summer time and it was AMAZING! My favorite quote from this, post, though is “And that’s fine, since it will help quiet my mind and probably help me be a little more present in my life since some of my bazillion thoughts have been allowed to rest in another place.” i always have so many thoughts running through my head and it totally means that I’m not always present as I should be. I will have to give this a try.

  4. Hi Julie,

    I haven’t heard of the 500 word challenge, but I’m definitely going to check it out. I think writing daily just to get my thoughts down on paper would be wonderful. (And I think you should write a short story. I would totally read it).

    I would love to start waking up earlier. I’m actually a morning person (if left alone with coffee), but it’s not going to happen right now. I’ve tried to get up earlier and only ended up sleeping through all 6 alarms.

    And I agree, Pluto is definitely a planet. 😉

    1. Hi Ardelia! So great to see you here!
      I am realizing that I’ve forgotten a LOT about writing fiction, so it will probably be a while before I write anything like a short story, but it is one of my goals for this year. At least I know someone would read it! 🙂
      Being alone with coffee is probably the best part about getting up early. 😉 But if I remember, you have a little one? That changes everything! Sleep when you can for sure!

    1. Hi Monica! I’m so glad you enjoyed my post! Keep writing and keep blogging — every time you write something, you learn a little more and get a little better. Writing every day really is amazing!

  5. I agree, this important. I found a young kitten about six weeks who needed extra food, but because I had other cats, she had to eat those high calorie cats alone. Only she wouldn’t eat unless she had a person she could cuddle with every couple of bites. Long story shorter, I ended getting up at 4:30, an hour and a half early. At first I’d watch Netflix or something stupid, but I started getting up and writing. Now (almost) every morning, I complete 90 minutes of writing and it is changing my life. I am more motivated, more driven and get way more accomplished than ever, since, like high school.

    Morning writing routines rock!

  6. I just found this post and I’m truly, deeply appreciative of you for writing this. I have lost so much time not writing. I love to write and I just let life get in the way of not doing it! I’m now retired, with no excuses. So I’m going to start getting up earlier with COFFEE (of course) and get back to writing. Again thank you so much

  7. “…. it will help quiet my mind and probably help me be a little more present in my life since some of my bazillion thoughts have been allowed to rest in another place.” Amen to that!

  8. I really enjoyed and related to this post. My most productive years were those in which I rose early to write. I’ve been trying to get back to that habit.

    As a fellow overwhelmed overthinker, I get lost in my own head far more than where I should be: putting a pen to the page.

    Hope it’s working out.

  9. Hello Julie, I like your post and advice about getting an early start on the day. My five rescue cats wake me at what I call ‘the crack of early’, usually from 4:30 to 5:30. I am on day 25 of a 100,000 + word draft for my novel. (1,500 words/day target) Writing those 500 words as early as possible makes all the difference in my day.
    I encourage all writers to write as early as possible.

  10. I love Jeff Goins. I got introduced to his work on Medium. This has inspired me to work on my site and write atleast 500 words for the next 30 days.

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