My efforts to be an early bird have ground to a halt since coming back from holiday. It was only a week, but I clearly did such a good job on getting away from it all and relaxing that I have completely forgotten how to motivate myself to get up in the morning – and it’s not just my writing that’s suffering.
Before I went away I had a post milling around in my head about how many unexpected upsides there were to getting up early to write: now seems like a very good time to get it down, and remind myself of all those reasons in the process…
It makes for a much healthier start to the day
I’m not entirely sure why, but waking up earlier seems to reduce my desire for coffee. I find myself feeling all virtuous and full of good intentions, so my early-morning typing will be accompanied by hot water and lemon and a large glass of berocca – saving the all-important coffee for later. My mum has long extolled the benefits of lemon water first thing, and it certainly seems to have some sort of magical properties! It might just be that I’m taking time to hydrate myself properly before starting on the caffeine, but for whatever reason that just doesn’t seem to happen when I’m getting up an hour or two later with a toddler scampering around my ankles.
It lets me focus on writing before my head gets too full with everything else
I’ve written about the positive effect starting early has on my writing before, and in the six weeks since then my word count has climbed by almost 25,000 to 38,000 words. I’m not going to pretend those words have always been easy to come by, but they are a damn sight easier to put my finger on first thing in the morning than later in the day. The last two days, having wasted away those precious minutes with the snooze button, I’ve tried to sit down and write in the afternoon – but nothing. Not a jot. There is simply so much else going on in my world that even if I turn over my to do list it’s still glaring at me from the corners of my mind. First thing in the morning, it doesn’t get a look in – I’m pretty sure my brain knows that it should count itself lucky enough that I’m even awake, let alone tackling all the other things I should be doing.
It means I can spend the rest of the morning playing without feeling guilty
Playing is a serious business in this house. Having taken the decision to unschool my preschooler rather than sending him to a childminder or nursery to engage in the early years curriculum, I know that I have a responsibility to tune in to his learning needs – which at the moment are all about play. He is getting increasingly good at playing independently, but he of course loves it when I join in – and we try to get out of the house as much as we can too, to meet friends or do group activities or just explore our neighbourhood. If I’m not careful, I can spend half of this time with my mind elsewhere or my eyes on my phone, trying desperately to fit in little snippets of work. But if I’ve already squared away a good stint of writing before he’s even up then I find it way easier to be fully present for this time, saving up the other tasks for when he’s chilling in the afternoon.
It lowers my stress levels for the rest of the day
This completely links to the point above, but I think it’s important not to underestimate how powerful starting your day with a good dose of achieving is for your self-esteem. When I don’t manage to get up to write, I spend the rest of the day chasing my tail, being eaten away by the niggling feeling that I’ve let myself down.
It makes me less tired
Now this one’s a bit counter-intuitive, but I guess makes sense when considering everything else. My justification for the repeated tap of the snooze button as 6am gradually disappears from view is that if I could only get a bit more sleep then the rest of the day would be so much more manageable. But that never actually seems to be the case. If I don’t take charge of my day, and instead fritter away the beginnings of it in broken sleep, then when I am finally forced out of bed by a hungry toddler I am way more weary than I would otherwise have been. And it doesn’t go away either – without the boost of confidence and everything else that comes from starting early I find myself sleepwalking through the rest of the day, counting down the minutes until I can collapse into bed again. Until the evening of course, when that second wind creeps over me and makes me stay up way too late. Again.
Now I realise that for those of you to whom early morning chirpiness comes naturally much of this will seem painfully obvious. But it does not come naturally to me: I have, for as many of the last thirty-seven years that I can remember, been a fully fledged night owl.
The time has clearly come for a shift, though. And I’ll be taking these words with me to bed tonight to make sure that at 6am tomorrow morning that snooze button doesn’t even get a look in.