Morning Person – NOT – Body Rhythms Writing Myths, Realities, and Morning Pages
We all have our ideal morning, right? We wake up refreshed, get right to our keyboard, or morning pages journal and favorite pen, with a steaming mug of our favorite caffeinated beverage. The house is quiet. We have been good and not peeked at messages or emails. We commence writing something worthy, something all our own.
Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.
― Glen Cook,
It used to be that my favorite time of day was the hour or so before I go to sleep, work and chores done, curled in bed with a book. Now, however, or for the last two weeks at least, I have conquered my natural body rhythms (sleep, and then well, some more sleep) and have woken up with the sunrise. I have stolen at least an hour each morning before my work day for writing. Am I kidding myself? When will I revert to my natural sleep-in-as-long-as-possible rhythm? Is there even such a thing as a body clock? Or are these merely habits to reinforce or break? Yes, gasp, I think I may be becoming a morning person.
Body Rhythm Myths & Realities
So, to reinforce this habit, how are we to reinvent our routines to accommodate our modern realities? While our bodies may be naturally tuned to wake at sunrise and wind down at sunset, most of us no longer keep traditional farmer schedules. In 1959, Dr. Franz Halberg coined this natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness, the circadian rhythm. Circadian comes from the Latin meaning, “about a day.”
Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.
― Henry David Thoreau,
According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, circadian rhythms are about 24-hour cycles regulated by control centers in the middle of the brain called, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). The circadian rhythm reaches the most sleepiness in the middle of the night, reaches the least at awakening, while slight drowsiness then returns mid-afternoon. Indeed, besides sleep, there are about 100 known body functions that oscillate from high to low in a 24-hour period. With these built-in functions in mind, perhaps we should clue-in and work with them instead of against them.
Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.
Listen to Your Mother
My writing life has suffered from my need for sleep. If I don’t get 8 to 9 hours a night, I feel groggy, and by the end of the week, if I remain at a cumulative deficit, I can even become ill. Then a good chunk of my weekend is lost to catching up on sleep…then Sunday night it is hard to get to sleep and of course, Monday morning, well, sucks. But, of course, my mother, who is always right, is right and if I force myself to get up at the same time EVERY morning, then I do sleep deeper and need less sleep. I am trying this logic again; it is working for now. I am happy, I am rested, and I am writing.
A Place to Start
If you need some new tool incentives (or a fresh smelling journal), one of the first early morning writing evangelists was Julia Cameron. Her The Artist's Way book and its subsequent offshoots are a good place to begin if you want some structure around your writing morning efforts. While certainly not the inventor of the practice, she coined the term, morning pages.
The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages. – Julia Cameron
I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
While modernity, with its productive extended hours of electric light, technology, and gadgets of every sort has extended our abilities beyond nature’s boundaries, we are still tied, body and mind to the earth’s rotation and the sun’s cycles. If we remember to honor circadian rhythms in our daily schedule and activities, Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep will reward us with more deep slumber and all its benefits, including early bird writing.
Please share what your morning writing routine is like, what has helped, or your morning person (or not) experiences.