The Early Morning Creative Practice: Start Your Day With What Matters Most
Back in April, I wrote about my morning centering practice. This practice has evolved in several key ways in the past six months. Now, for the first time ever, I feel that I am truly and consistently walking the talk when it comes to my personal creativity.
It’s no secret that successful people make the very most of early morning hours. Whether you have a day job, a family, and/or wear 14 other hats, the first hours of the day are often your only shot at having time to yourself without interruption and distraction. As soon as your kids are sleeping through the night, you can start leveraging this opportunity.
For me, getting up early means 4:00 am.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Getting up early requires going to bed on time (9:00 – 9:15 pm over here). It also requires a fairly consistent schedule, as it’s difficult to get up at 4:00 on Monday morning after getting up at 7:00 on Saturday and Sunday. So I get up for writing practice at 5:00 on weekends. That means I’m not up late or out on the town on weekends. Is that a sacrifice? Maybe. But it doesn’t feel like one at the moment.
For me, getting up early is built on the foundation of exercise and eating right. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, and as you may have read here before, I’ve long felt that wheat products are not my friend. I don’t have celiac disease, but I find that eating wheat (even whole grain) stimulates strong cravings and makes me feel hungry — and tired. (This book was quite affirming.) Today I am nearly vegan and totally wheat free. I eat a very low-carb diet and eat lightly at dinner. I don’t eat after 7:00 pm, ever. By eating lightly and going to bed a little bit hungry, I wake up full of energy and ready to launch into my writing practice. Bonus: I just took off a stubborn 10 pounds.
As you might imagine, the fact that I need to be in bed by 9:00 in order to get 7 hours of sleep has an impact on my marriage. My husband likes screen time in the evening, and I prefer to read, so this isn’t a huge issue. I try to make sure that we connect over dinner and on the weekends. Sometimes he comes to bed at the same time I do. We also share our daily morning meditation practice, which to my mind is more valuable than sitting next to each other in front of the TV half comatose for a couple of hours in the evening.
It won’t always be this way. Writing is important to me, and right now, this is what it takes to be a serious player. Play-ah! No more excuses. (As I’m sure you know, there are always 18,489 “good” excuses.)
Yeah, great, but what does that really LOOK like?
My morning practice starts at 4:00 am and ends at 8:15 am when I leave the house with my two youngest children. I started the 4:00 wake-up over the summer and have now incorporated the school routine. Here’s what my morning practice looks like, woven into the regular flow of home life:
- 4:00: out of bed, make tea, settle into office
- Read the day’s page in The Daily Writer
- Writing practice: 500-word minimum (this helps me focus on output rather than falling into editing)
- 5:20: join my husband upstairs for 20 minutes of meditation
- Do three vinyasas (sun salutations)
- 5:45: back in office, read the day’s entry in Mark Nepo’s Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening
- Draw an Osho Zen Tarot or Faerie Tarot card
- Record last night’s dream(s) in my dream journal, if I remember anything
- 6:15: stop to ensure that daughter is awake, make breakfast for her, eat a few spoonfuls of peanut butter if I haven’t already, husband leaves
- Make lunch for daughter and two younger sons (daughter catches school bus at 6:48)
- At some point here, the two little ones wake up; feed them breakfast
- Unload dishwasher and tidy kitchen
- At kitchen table, finish morning pages/intention journaling if not already complete
- Review my list of personal goals and intentions for the year
- Plan the day (in planner, assigning a time and a duration for each task, or adding them to the “batch task” block)
- Dress self and youngest son, brush teeth, make bed, put in a load of laundry if time, make sure we’re all ready to leave the house
- 8:15 heard little boys out of the house for bus/school run
Note that the writing practice comes FIRST. That way, if a wee one wakes up exceptionally early, it’s still already done. If I have to scrap the centering part of my practice (mediation, journaling, etc.) then so be it. But the writing practice isn’t threatened. Usually, it all falls into place, with a little juggling between the aforementioned time slots. Everyone gets off to school and work in good stead, and the house is (gasp!) clean and tidy.
I understand that a routine like this might seem baffling — or totally unappealing. But for me, it’s a completely sustainable loop. Those four hours and fifteen minutes are routine now. It’s a routine that is grounded in my macro level intentions and priorities. I can’t overstate what it means to me to have a daily writing practice that absolutely happens every day. Seven days a week. I’m in touch with my creative work every day, all day, because it’s always fresh, always percolating. Without this morning anchor, the demands of my editorial business, my coaching practice, my studio storefront, and my family/domestic life eat up every available moment.
Interested in what an early morning creative practice could do for you? My last post on this topic included some ideas for developing your own morning centering practice. Add the creative session, mix well, and enjoy.
And hey: If you’re up at 4:00 am eastern time, know that you and I are creative buds.