Early Riser

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.  ~Benjamin Franklin

I’ve always hated that quote.

It sounds so bossy and goody goody to me. I’ve never been a morning person. Night, when everyone has gone to bed, has always been my time, a time to read, reflect, and rest. I always get my second wind around 10:00 or 11:00 P.M. One of the reasons I went into academia was the possibility of setting my own hours, not being chained to the routine of 8:00-5:00. Because if there is anything I hate more than getting up early, it’s having to get dressed and drive somewhere early.

Recently, I’ve decided to revisit the possibility of getting up earlier. For me, it’s a process of trial and error. I’m finding that I absolutely love getting up at around 7:00, and I’m going to experiment with 6:30. For those of you who have to get up earlier than this for work, I sympathize and apologize if my quaint resolution fills you rage. I offer you this consolation: as a teacher my work is never done. There is always a pile of papers to grade or another class to prep. My inbox is always packed with student emails and advising questions. These things press on me even after I get home from teaching. I often fantasize about having a job that has no homework. A flexible schedule is nice, but it also comes with a price.

6:00 or 6:30 is my ultimate goal, because this will give me about two hours of solid writing time before Oscar gets up. This morning I got up at 6:55 and wrote nonstop for an hour. It was an astonishingly productive time.

Steve Pavlina recommends 5:00 A.M., as do many other self-help gurus, but I find that getting up too early ruins me for the rest of the day. I’m completely exhausted from about 10:00 A.M. on and can barely keep my eyes open after supper. So far, 6:30 is great. I haven’t pushed myself to get up at 6:00 yet, but I will. That, however, will be as early as I go.

I changed my mind for a variety of reasons. Most of the successful writers I know get up before their children. Sylvia Plath called it “the blue hour.” She wrote her best poems between 4:00 and 8:00 A.M. I can see why. I have found that this is really the only time when I can write without interruption, and constant interruption is death to good writing.

There’s another quote from Benjamin Franklin about the early morning. This one I like:

The early morning has gold in its mouth.