Create Your Art Space by Waking Up Early

paint set

This first Friday post is about the practicals of writing – of producing art – every day.

No Exception

I’ve found through much trial and error (including weeks of ‘not finding time to write’), that I must make time to write first thing in the morning, every morning.

I always thought – I am the exception! Don’t people know that creatives, us true artists, stay up late and do all their best work at 3:42am?

Discipline Set Me Free

I run my own home business and before I learned to discipline myself I would head straight to my business computer to figure out if there were any emergencies I needed to handle. After that, I might work on a project or two, run a couple of errands, eat lunch then think, if I work really hard and fast for the next two hours I’ll get done WAY early with work and have HOURS of time to work on my novel.

Reality Bites

Guess how many days I finished early and then had enough energy and self-discipline to write? Not many. So I decided to change a few things.  (This makes it sound instantaneous, but it took a good three months of misery – lots of work, almost no writing – before I made the changes stick).

I get up early.

–I don’t tell people I get up early. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.)

— Therefore, people don’t expect me to even know about an emergency until after I’ve already been awake for hours.

— I turn my phone off and I DO NOT let myself check my work email until the work day begins. (Ok, I’m not 100% on this, but I’m trying!)

— Every day that I fail to wake up early is a day that doesn’t turn out as good as the day I wake up early. Without fail.

That Tricky Pavlov

How did I get it to ‘stick’? By realizing that I am an animal, much like Pavlov’s dogs were animals. I reward myself. Every time I wake up early I get to:

— Enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee.

— Do nothing I do not want to do (except write). I don’t have to look at email, worry about a project, clean the dirty kitchen. Nope. I got up early – I’m exempt.

— Not feel guilty about not being productive (this takes a lot work).

You get the idea. A bell let Pavlov’s dogs know food was coming. My reward trigger is an alarm clock – at least, that’s what I keep telling myself to believe :)

What I do know is when I wake up early, my life feels balanced. I have time to earn money, pursue my writing goals, eat a good lunch, walk the dog, practice the piano and not feel stressed.

Check out ZenHabits blog post on 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It. And the post on Write to Done – How to Write First Thing in the Morning. Both posts list a number of benefits as well as methods for waking up early. My favorite tip is number 3 in the second post:

Topic. Don’t wake up in the morning with no idea what you’re going to write about.

Have your topic chosen and give it a little thought the night before. It’s great to sleep on it anyway — let your subconscious do the work for you.

Of course, if you’re one of those superhuman people who works all day and still writes in the evening… well, I’ll still like you, even if I don’t quite understand you.

When is your favorite time of the day to write? If you wanted to make waking up early a habit, what would your rewards need to be?

3 Comments

  1. Melanie: I find it’s a daily struggle that I often still lose, that’s why I liked the posts I linked to. I thought they contained practical tips I hadn’t thought of before, like your five minute increment strategy.

    That extra five minutes sounds like bliss!

  2. It certainly doesn’t come easily, that is for sure. I have to be out of the house by 6:30 every morning, and a year ago I had trimmed my morning routine down to a zippy 30 minutes, just for a couple more minutes in bed.

    Unfortunately, that 30 minutes did not include more than a quick blowdry of my hair (with mixed results), no breakfast, and tossed together lunch of canned soup and a piece of fruit. It took me until 8 to feel truly awake, still nursing half a liter of black tea and a cold bagel at my desk.

    Over the last six months, I’ve gradually added five minute increments to my morning routine, so that now I’m up to 50 minutes before I have to walk out the door instead of 30. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s made a world of difference for my day. I now can sit down to a bowl of oatmeal, make up some tea, and walk out looking somewhat decent (mascara does wonders!). This morning, in particular, I felt an incredible sense of satisfaction that I had five minutes left over before I walked out the door! It was like hitting the snooze, but sooo much better!

  3. I’m working this all out now your post is very timely!

    I too thought of myself as an exemption – I’ve been a night owl for years. But I’m finding when I get up early and write it is always better than when I go for my late night writing. Unless it’s 2 -3 am where my brain switches into a “what more is there to do but sleep and write?” mode. Except I can find things. Without fail.

    Thanks for the great links – big help.

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