North to you 9781501169489 hr

Tif Marcelo, the author of NORTH TO YOU, shares how she makes time for writing in the midst of her busy life. 

Hint: it’s not for the faint of heart! NORTH TO YOU is now available wherever eBooks are sold.


I’m writing this post while there is but a sliver of pink in the sky, and the birds are just starting to wake. With a cup of hot coffee next to my laptop on my dining room table, I’m relishing in the quiet of a usually bustling home inhabited by six people and one dog.

It’s 5 a.m.

Yes. In the morning.

Throughout high school and college, I considered myself a night owl, working past midnight on school projects. When I became an Army nurse, I was relegated to working night shifts and fell into the routine of driving to and from work in the dark. Soon, I didn’t miss the daytime and preferred the solitude of night even when I wasn’t working, reading and crafting into the dawn.

And then more of life happened: changes in employment, homes, babies, requirements that needed for me to be lucid during the daytime hours. Soon, my waking moments were filled with stuff. Important stuff, sure, but carving out extra time for myself was difficult. When I began to take writing seriously again, I struggled with when, needing a clear head but not finding it at night, when it took forever for the flurry of the day to settle. I realized that by 9 p.m., my brain was foggy and taxed.

So, I decided to switch it up. I set my alarm earlier. I forced myself under my sheets and made myself relax. I got tired faster and pushed up everyone’s bedtime. My husband and children figured out my brain no longer worked after nine, so our evenings became focused. My mother realized I wouldn’t answer the phone after dinnertime. And, over time, I found that coveted time I needed—in the early morning.

About four years ago, I found my people—early birds who also partied with coffee/tea/caffeine of choice while shaping their work! On Twitter, we’re known as #5amwritersclub. We are a motley crew of supportive writers, coming from different backgrounds and writing in various genres, but with one mission for the morning: to get our words in.

Of course, this arrangement is far from perfect, but what one is? There have been many times when I broke from this early morning routine, such as when I had a baby that didn’t sleep through the night (again), when it was time to pick up our nomadic military family and move to a new home (again), when one of my four kiddos came down sick (again). But I always returned to the peaceful mornings. At the very least, this solitude gives me time to reflect, pray, or meditate. On super productive mornings, I get to polish a chapter, develop a character, and dream of my next writerly goal. These small chunks of dedicated writing time also produced the three (two still forthcoming) books in the Journey to the Heart Series: NORTH TO YOU, EAST IN PARADISE and WEST COAST LOVE.

I’m often asked how one should make this transition. Besides setting your clock earlier, here are some points to help with the emotional change:

  1. Accept you’ll catch up on that late-night show at another time.
  2. That text/notification/email? It can wait. (I enable the Do Not Disturb function on my phone from 9:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.)
  3. The second wind you get at 11 p.m. will keep you up past midnight, so go to bed before then!
  4. Everyone around you will adjust (after some time).
  5. That feeling when you have a thousand words before everyone else gets up? Priceless.


So…are you with me?