Not long ago I had a nice conversation about early rising and writing with Z. Randall Stroope and it motivated me to write a little about my relationship with these early mornings.
Why did I decide to get up so early? Why 4:30?
When my second son was an infant, I had two boys home most of the day. He was sleeping incredibly poorly, and so I was, too. When he was about 9 months old, I realized that I hadn’t written anything in weeks. maybe months. The fact was that by the time I had available time to work, every creative impulse had been wiped away by the day.
So I thought hard about possible solutions, and the only one I could imagine was waking up before everyone else, and front-loading my day with my creative time. At that point, it really was a non-decision: either wake up early or stop calling myself a writer.
Now Julian is five, and I’ve had a lot of mornings to reflect on my early-rising. Here are some of the answers I’ve found to the question, “why so early?”
1. It’s clean. This is Randall Stroope’s word for the early morning hours, and it’s a perfect fit. My mind isn’t clouded with the stresses, worries, and to do lists of the day. There’s an openness to the world when you first wake up, and often I’m able to extend that openness through a writing session.
2. It’s available. Days fill up. Life intervenes. But if I’m up before the day actually starts, there is less to block me from creating. I could do a better job of staying off of Facebook, of course…
3. It’s private. I need a safe space to be vulnerable and try out new ideas. Often the first ones are bad. Having time that is just mine helps me protect that space.
4. It’s transformative. It changes the rest of my day. I’ve noticed this most when I miss a day or two, for whatever reason. My days get more difficult, more frustrating, less productive – even if I skipped my writing time to get more sleep. The morning moments make the rest of my day work better.
5. It’s therapeutic. Introvert Therapy: I made a joke about this after a particularly extroverted couple of days presenting and presiding at the 2012 ACDA Michigan Conference, but it’s the truth. As someone who is particularly introverted, I need quiet alone time to process my life. Of course, this would apply to any writing time…but it’s certainly easier to be alone when the world is in bed.
The work isn’t without its challenges, though. I still struggle with consistency and tiredness. Here are a few of the problems:
1. Go to bed early. Particularly with boys who stay up past 9 many nights, it’s hard to get an adequate number of REM cycles in a night.
2. The debate. Knowing all the things I listed above, I still debate and bargain with myself when my alarm goes off.
3. Required Late nights. I know, for example, that Tuesdays are always going to be hard for me because I get home from my Aces rehearsal at 9:30, wired from leading an intense rehearsal.
In September, 2016 I’ll put all three of my sons on the bus for elementary school. On that day, I’ll be able to plan writing sessions while the sun is up. I don’t know what will happen to my early rising at that time – it’s nearly two years away, after all – but I like to imagine using some of that morning time for other things I just can’t find time for right now. Reading, meditating, walking. But perhaps I’ll find I’ve become well connected to the cleanness of writing in those early hours. It’s a beautiful time of day.