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.

6 thoughts on “Early Riser

  1. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have to worry about their schedules. But what I’ve found for me that has worked forever is that I wake up, make a cup of tea, climb back into bed with my laptop, and begin writing. I am actually more productive between the hours of 5-7am in my bed than I am if I’m at a desk. My head feels clearer and everything seems to flow.


  2. You should try 5AM. There is something invigorating about that time of the day. You get to watch the world as it recreates itself. The birds start singing, the sun stretches its arms, all the crazies are still in the bed. It’s great. Yes, you do need a little nappy-poo during the day. But when don’t teachers need a nap?


  3. Sandy;
    too LATE, now – but I did read this weekend of a study (Australia) that found those who go to bed EARLY, & get up
    early – in general weigh LESS, than those who stay up late,
    and sleep late ?? NOT sure why.
    Just interesting study!


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