I have always been a morning person. I have always gotten up between 6 and 6:30 (I do have the ability to sleep to 11am the odd time and have once stayed in bed until 2pm just because I could). I have found over the years that it has gotten harder and harder to get up at 6am though and every morning I was hitting the snooze button more and more time (one of my favorite things to do).
When I am busy at work and stressed I will often wake up at 4-5am unable to go back to sleep so I get up and head to work as I find it more productive to tackle the work head on than lay in bed and stress about it.
The writers group
When I started writing I would get it in when I had time, which meant here and there when I had a window. It was not consistent and was often when I was tired.
One night I was having a beer with some ladies after work and they asked me what had I been up to. I told them I had been doing some writing. As it turns out a couple of them had just joined a writing group and they asked me if I had any interest in joining.
Of course I said yes. It was a group of 8 women all either doing some writing or aspiring to be writers. We decided to meet every 2 weeks and work our way through a book called “The Artist’s Way”
The premise of the book is to unleash creativity and to find your inner artist. The book is definitely getting aged and it is written from a very “all creativity comes from god or the creator” perspective. For some people in our group this works and others found it difficult to frame this particular discussion through that lens.
All that being said the book itself contains a lot of really great tools which are worth investigating if you are looking to start a journey of creativity or self-discovery.
I have to admit the book is pretty kooky in some ways but for me it has given me some great insight into my own creativity and has taught me some great skills around consistency of the artistic process and allowing yourself the freedom to be artistic (said no lawyer ever, well at least not out loud).
The morning papers – what got me up at 5am
One of the first lessons in the Artist’s Way is the morning pages. The author says to get up ½ hour early every morning and to just write whatever comes to your head. It is very much like a journal but is a stream of consciousness that is meant to let out all of the crap clogging your creativity and also to let you leave all the creative blockers on the page and move through to the creativity hiding under the surface.
I started to do that. I started to set my alarm at 5am and you know what? I actually find it easier to get up at 5am than 6 or 6:30 – I have no idea why but even in the dead of winter when it is pitch dark every morning I still find it easier. I suppose the fact that I started to set the coffee timer and get up to fresh coffee doesn’t hurt either…
As a consequence, I also need to go to bed earlier, which I have always done or wanted to do but I am swapping wasted time at night when I have no energy to do anything for really good for productive time in the morning.
I get up every morning and spend the first 30 minutes of every morning writing these pages. It is meant to be three full pages but I find 30 minutes is how much I want to put into it and sometimes that means 3 pages and sometimes if I’m really tired and aimless it may be 1-2. Hand written, on paper, every thought that comes into my head as a stream of consciousness. It is interesting to write on paper as the vast majority of what I write is on a computer, but the author of The Artist’s Way is very specific that these pages should be done by hand. I seem to connect more with my thoughts and I realized how little I actually write by hand in my day to day life.
I have never journaled and this feel very much like journaling without directing your thoughts and words. This process feels different but also like finding those words I never seemed to have before, maybe that is what other people are journaling about and I was always trying to make it more complicated… Often I end up with lists of things that I need to do but after a period of time I also found that a lot of amazing ideas started to flow on those pages.
These pages are meant to be put away and not reviewed, I have read that a lot of people destroy them immediately. It is meant to be a place for your brain to dump the garbage and then you can be more creative and focused during your day. I really find them very effective, in fact when I don’t do them for a while I do find that I feel less productive and more scattered. On the best days I spin off into ideas for articles and other things I want to write.
The outside world
What is funny is I find myself looking out the window a lot and keep waiting for other people to discover this blissful quiet time. So far not many takers. The man across the street leaves early but always comes back so he must be going to the gym. The one down the street leaves and doesn’t come back so he must have to work early. Often I simply see no one.
No one else appears to be stirring. No other lights are on in houses. It is very dark (especially in the winter) and very quiet.
What I have found the most amazing has been to watch the seasons change based on when the sun rises. In spring everyday it seemed that the sun would rise earlier every day and it was fun to see the sun before anyone else did. In the summer it is often sunny before I even get up and that definitely makes it much easier to pop out of bed. This is the same time of day just 4-5 weeks apart!
So the answer to the question “what happens at 5am”. Nothing and amazing things.