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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.

What think?


11 Comments Post a comment
  1. originaltitle #

    I get up at 4am and write, blog or read so I can still be creative. My job doesn’t always give me the chance to be creative so it’s nice to have a scheduled time each morning to surf the web for cool blogs and inspiration, work on my novel and read the books and poetry I like without interruption. I enjoyed this post and the links provided. Thank you!

    September 7, 2012
    • Fabulous, originaltitle! Always great to hear about another member of the early-morning bandwagon! ๐Ÿ™‚

      September 7, 2012
      • originaltitle #

        Love your blog! It always inspires me to keep on keeping on with my creativity!

        September 7, 2012
  2. After a summer of no formal creative practice time, i’m starting to feel totally disconnected from myself. Even more interesting is that I feel a bit aimless and lost. Now that the kids are back in school and our new schedule transition is done, it’s time to start the early morning routine again and make time for centering, yoga, and creative pursuits. Thanks for sharing what works for you!

    September 7, 2012
    • Awesome, jlcm! Looking forward to hearing how your routine comes together ๐Ÿ™‚

      September 7, 2012
  3. periodically, i get it into my mind that i will write early am. my gang just wakes so early, and i have trouble sleeping, that i have taken to valuing a later morning writing time. of course, now toots is in a pm preschool, so i decided to start taking my laptop with me to drop off and then head to the library for some writing time…but now it looks like i MAY be hearing about getting a job at toots’s new school within a week or so, so i may have to scratch that plan again and revisit the early morning concept. don’t know if i can physically swing 4am in the current life phase…i wake from pain often in the night. not a lot that shifting times will improve. figuring it out!

    late night is about the only time the spouse and i have alone time, too…

    September 7, 2012
  4. mettapanda #


    This came at the perfect time! I started the new school year yesterday, and one of our requirements is a daily spiritual practice. “Coincidentally” (I’ve given up on believing in coincidences, fwiw), I woke at 5am today and couldn’t get back to sleep. And then a (new) song started playing through my head. I realized I just had to get up…

    So my day started with writing four songs: one totally new, two which had been percolating, and two which I’d written down in my purse mini-notebook. I followed it up with meditation, without being too strict with myself on which ‘style’ – just going with the flow of what felt right (within my standard repertoire), and setting very clear intentions for the day. It’s amazing how this fairly small time commitment can impact the rest of my day in such a major way. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As I come to recognize my creative side – for me, my poetry and lyric writing – as a PART of my spiritual practice, I recognize that I don’t need separate daily spiritual time and creative time. For me (and this won’t be true for everyone – but I would guess for many on this blog!), being creative is tapping into that inner core and essence of myself which makes me come alive. And that is my definition of spirituality.

    So thank you for this reminder of the value of a morning practice, just at the time that I was being reminded by the Universe of how good it feels. Isn’t it fun to have the Universe work through you?

    With love,
    MP / Carrie

    September 9, 2012
    • How beautiful, Carrie! Such a gift to be awoken with music in your head. I look forward to hearing more about how your practice unfolds!

      September 9, 2012
      • mettapanda #

        Well, as we’ve said, it depends on the night before quite a bit, doesn’t it? :p

        September 10, 2012
  5. So informative and inspiring. I really liked reading your dedication and consistency. Consistency is always my struggle but my toddler is pretty steady now so i will be trying to set a schedule for myself. Just have to figure out the best time. Oh for your readers interested in ” The Daily Writer” as I was I looked it up on and they have paperbacks for .75. Great post thanks.


    September 9, 2012
    • Thank you for saying so, charinfused — and thanks for the tip! Come back and let us know how it’s going ๐Ÿ˜€

      September 9, 2012

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