The 5:00 a.m. Writers’ Club
I have always been an early riser, greeting the day somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. No alarm necessary; I naturally find myself stirring around that time.
Last year, I really began to savor this time before the house stirred. I would drink my coffee, write in my journal, read. Only about 6 weeks ago, I took up watercolor painting. I would use that precious early morning time to paint, usually while listening to an audiobook.
My 7-year-old son will usually appear by my side somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. Still in his pajamas and rubbing his eyes, he would murmur a “good morning.” I will give him a hug and a kiss and then gently shoo him out of my office and into the kitchen, where he will make himself a piece of toast, or wander into the living room.
Everyone else stirs closer to 7:00 a.m. Or, I should clarify, the toddler is up early, but she plays quietly in her room until my husband wakes and gets her ready for the day. At 7:00 a.m., I use the network of Amazon Echo devices in our house to announce “Time to wake up!” (including a rooster crow). At that point, we need to begin moving to have everyone ready for the school day.
I have liked my gentle morning routine for a long time. In most instances, it is quiet, and I am at my most alert for the day. When I added painting, I also felt like I was accomplishing something.
A few days ago, I had an idea for a book. This is on top of an idea that I have had in the works for about two years (enough to have a “shitty first draft” — borrowing a phrase from Anne Lamott). I was excited about my idea.
I told my husband, but told him that I could not figure out how to squeeze writing into my day, at least not in the way that I could turn out meaningful work. He is a computer programmer, so he understood: he likened it to when he is working on code, and really needs hours and hours of focus to flesh out an idea. He is lucky that he is paid to do what he enjoys…. mine, however, falls into the “hobby” category. I have barely touched the draft of my first book since my toddler was born.
I bemoaned the lack of time to write to a fellow writer-plus-professor friend. She told me about a Twitter hashtag — #5amwritersclub — people who write for 1–2 hours in the morning and have productive novels. This seemed like something actually achievable. Since I use painting as a stress reliever, I could do that in the evenings instead of mornings, saving my brainpower for writing. I could probably capture at least an hour and a half in the mornings, and spend a bit of time each week planning how to use that time.
I let myself wake naturally, and the clock said exactly 5:00 a.m. I immediately looked at my phone, per routine. Checked email and deleted those I wouldn’t read from various mailing lists. A friend had sent me a late-night text of a TedTalk to watch, but upon realizing it was 16 minutes long, I decided to save it for later.
Jumped in the shower, got dressed, dried hair. By the time I arrived at my Keurig machine, it was closer to 5:30.
My 7-year-old had decided he wanted to “see what Mommy does in the morning” so he had camped out in the living room, on the floor. As soon as I turned on the light in the kitchen, he sat up.
While the Keurig machine made my coffee, I glanced at the #5amwritersclub on Twitter.
Twitter caught my eye that the founder of Trader Joe’s had died, so I had to read that article and share it with a comment. I went into my office and send a Facebook message to my writer-plus-professor friend, asking about her upcoming weekend.
Just like that… it was 6:00 a.m. and all of that glorious time had slipped through my fingers.
I realized that if I wanted to be serious about the morning writing, I was going to need to not only wake early, but also change some of my morning habits:
- Set my alarm to wake up at 4:45 so that I can be done getting ready by 5:00 a.m. (still debating this one, as I like waking naturally)
- No checking my phone. No emails, no messages, no looking at Timehop, no reading articles. These can happen at other times in the day. I may even put my phone into Downtime mode.
- Move journal writing to the evening. I always recap my day as a bullet point list, and this could easily be done as my day winds down, rather than in the morning.
With making the mental plan of what I needed to do, I looked at the clock and thought “6:00 a.m.? I have time to write something before the house stirs.”
So I wrote this. It wasn’t the “work” that I had planned on, but it is something. Outside it has gone from dark to light. I can hear my son in the kitchen (and he has come in to talk to me twice). I need to hit publish, and help him pour a glass of milk. Tomorrow will be a different day.