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I have an enemy and its name is SNOOZE.
That damn button sitting in various forms on my phone, on my alarm clock, on my watch. It’s everywhere — an excuse to postpone, to procrastinate, to get back under the covers for the illusion of more sleep — the illusion of more comfort.
But the snooze button does nothing more than simply allow you to put everything off. I’ve danced with this bastard more times than I care to admit, and still do, on a daily basis. If I’m able to avoid it, get up at my ideal hour of 5 a.m., than I’ve already won the day. Fun fact: this is rare.
Still, I try to face that daily battle against the inner resistance as much as I can. What I do after waking has been a bit of a chaotic mess lately, because I’ve been experimenting on how exactly to start the day. Over the years I’ve become flustered with what to do first thing in the morning. Is it better to write in the morning or at night? Better to meditate or read or exercise?
There is, however, a cause for this back-and-forth confused mess of an approach, and much of it has been around the notion that there’s an ideal time to do something creative. Some people are night owls, others welcome the morning with open arms. I’ve found that there are elements of both that are prime for creating.
I have read article after article, blog post after blog post, book after book, that says you need to do this first thing upon waking, while another says you need to that first thing.
Here’s what I’ve realized, and only recently: YOU decide what to do first, what matters most to you. Lately, I’ve been putting running (or some form of exercise routine) first, thinking it’s a great way to wake up. And it is. But doing so also means I’m putting writing (be it fiction or nonfiction) on the back burner, that it comes second for me, and when I do this, I find it’s easier to put off.
I’ve come to love the morning, and despite the groggy eyes, enjoy the first light of day break. It is a divine moment to breathe it in, and allow the body and soul to energize. And some say morning is the best time to create, because your conscious mind hasn’t taken over yet.
This, I believe, is the reason why Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages works so well for many people. I have tried Morning Pages. Several times. And I ultimately always push it aside. I’ve found that it doesn’t really work for me. That’s not to say it’s wrong, I absolutely agree with the concept. But my mind apparently doesn’t work this way. I don’t always have three full pages to write out first thing; some days it’s one, some days it’s damn near 10.
This is not to say that journaling does not work for me. It does, and I’ve always loved the act of writing longhand in a notebook. I’m actually in the process of revamping my journaling efforts and doing a bit of a hybrid daily journal practice inspired by the work of Jennifer Blanchard, who writes about this at length in her book Journal Your Writing Dreams to Life: The 10-Minute Practice That Changes Everything. I just read this and there’s a lot of great wisdom in here, and a lot of what she writes about echos what I recently read in Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.
Likewise, I’m adding to that a daily logbook, inspired by the work of Jack Kerouac, who logged pretty much his entire life (read Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 for a direct look at his logs and journals), as well as that of Austin Kleon, who writes about keeping a logbook in his book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. The aim here is to track my progress on all fronts — writing, exercising, the chiseling away of dirt and stone until I get as close to a sculpted routine as I’m able.
And then there’s fiction. Every writer undoubtedly has their own method for this, but I have battled when the right time to write fiction for me might be. Morning? Night? Mid-day? I still don’t have the answer; I continue to experiment. Again, I’m coming to find that there are times for this in the morning and at night.
As part of this 30-day push to tweak my own habits and get something solidified for moving forward, I have found that it will ultimately be writing I do first thing — because I have big goals in mind for writing, and of all my creative efforts, it’s at the top of the list. This effort is still evolving, and I feel that the constant changes thus far have been a simple act of working out the kinks until I get the rhythm again. Like pulling an old bike out of the basement and riding it until the rusted and choppy chain regains it’s smooth flow.
There is a mystery in the night that I’ve always loved. It’s always been a fascinating time for me, one filled with awe and inspiration.
These days it’s admittedly trickier for me to have the energy for writing at night, though that is admittedly when I probably have the most time — after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet. But, time, of course, is limited, if I plan to get enough sleep (for me, as a parent, I’m lucky to get a solid six uninterrupted hours at this stage) before rising again at 5 or 5:30 the following morning.
It is at night, though, when it’s easiest to fall back and not create. It’s when the guard is down that the conscious mind whispers things like, “Easy now, relax, sit back, watch some TV, let the mind go numb.” And it is for this reason that it means all the difference to not cater to distractions.
The night still holds value when it comes to writing, for me at least, and is turning into a sort of wrap-up period of the day . . . that is, wrap up whatever I have not finished yet. It’s a two-part effort.
My point in all of this is that there is a fine balance, there can be a creative realm in the mind that is ideal to tap into in the morning hours and the dark of the night. They both work for creating, and I’ve found, like everything, they’re interconnected. Ultimately it’s having that solid routine in the morning that will have a ripple effect and determine how I create throughout the rest of the day and in the evening hours.
I’m still in the process of figuring all of this out, making time for it all and seeing what works. The movement has already begun and I don’t plan to start over, but continue to adjust and move forward.
For now, there is comfort in knowing that when the sun rises or when it sets, the time is always right to get moving.
That is to say, the time to create is now.