I Wake up Before Dawn, and It’s the Best Part of My Day


Sleepless nights, multiple wake ups, early risings, late nights — all the joys of parenthood. The last thing I want to do is drag myself out of bed even earlier than early. Not to workout, not to shower, not even to drink a cup of coffee before the day of chaos begins. And certainly, certainly not to write. Especially not to write words that no one will read.

But that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks. Not because I’m crazy, but in the name of experimentation. There’s a thought that if you purge your thoughts on paper (with a real pen) before you do anything else for the day, you’ll carry less stress and unhappiness. You’ll be able to “let go” of mental clutter and focus on what really matters during the day. It sounded like such a small act to create such a needed result that I decided to test it out for a few weeks.

The exercise is officially known as “Morning Pages,” a concept introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. You can write about whatever you want, be it serious worries, lame banalities, dreams, or tirades. The idea is to fill exactly three pages in true longhand writing. (Cameron explains that less than three pages isn’t enough to get you really thinking; more than that just gets narcissistic.)

Having reviewed the few rules, I set out to begin. Each morning my alarm clock went off while it was still darker than dark outside, the sun not even thinking about rising anytime soon. Every time I groaned and swore I wasn’t getting out of bed to do this stupid thing today. I’d think of how great it’d feel to sleep just a little longer, especially on the rare mornings that my child hadn’t already woken up or found his way into my bed in the middle of the night. I’d tell myself if I was going to get up at this ridiculous hour, I was at least going to use it for something productive like going to the gym or getting a head start on some work I needed to do.

But each morning, against every desire in my sleepy body, I got up and sat down next to my paper and pen. I wrote without thinking, without editing, without brainstorming. I wrote without filtering or erasing or reworking sentences in my head. I wrote without an end goal in, without worrying about what my audience wanted to read. I just put words on paper. Sometimes there were a lot of words, other times only a few. Sometimes they mattered and often they didn’t. I wasn’t perfect about it, but I wasn’t lackluster either. But I wrote and wrote and wrote each day and then I did exactly nothing with the words on the paper, just tucked them into my desk not to be removed again.

I can’t say I’m suddenly happy-go-lucky, carefree, and ready to conquer the world with a smile on my face each hour of the day, but I do feel … relieved. Like I got a chance to vent to my best girlfriends or yell at my husband or rant about whatever was irritating me, only nobody got hurt or beat down in the process. I felt like I’d processed the nonsense constantly running through my head and could throw it out with the day’s trash, and the day hadn’t even begun. It was like starting each day with a clean slate, no baggage left from events of the day before or worries to continue worrying about.

Now will I keep getting up before my earliest of early rising toddler does? Probably not to write for the sake of writing. I think I could probably get the same therapeutic benefits no matter what time of day I did that without literally losing sleep over it (although Cameron insists this practice should be done first thing). I can easily see the practice slipping away without dedicated time for it, so perhaps first thing in the morning is worth it after all. But I did learn that getting up even earlier didn’t make me any more tired throughout the day – a benefit of being so used to inadequate sleep, I suppose. I learned that carving out some “me time” without anyone else to worry about allowed me to be happier, nicer, and a better parent, if even only so slightly. I know as moms we’re all busy — so busy — but maybe finding time for something that’s just for you could be worth cramming into the already overflowing schedule in the name of happiness and reduced stress.

Do you have a morning routine that’s just for you?

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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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