I’m starting to notice an unsettling habit amongst the female writers I follow who also happen to be parents of small children. They all seem to get up at ungodly hours in order to practice their craft. I can see, on some levels, how this would be ideal. You would be alone, which would mean not having to field umpteen questions about food, play dates or the location of one particular sock. Where I get stuck is how one puts it into practice. The biggest stumbling block for me is coffee.
Back to that interview I listened to with Glennon Doyle, she said she would get up at 4:30 in the morning to write in her closet. She made is sound so easy. Clausterphobic and oxygen-deprived, but essentially quite simple. Get up, pee, walk into closet, create bestselling masterpiece. My version would likely be: get up, pee, walk into closet, fall back asleep while watching Ellen videos.
There was a time, back when I was young and gainfully employed, when I worked the morning shift. For me, this meant arriving at the studio at 4am on Saturday and Sunday, at which point I would start making important decisions about what news people would hear that morning. Then I had to perform this news on the air, sounding not like I’d just been raised from the dead, but like I was more awake than I’d ever been in my life. You had to be of sound mind and your voice soft like one of those synthetic blankets they’re always selling for a discount at the til at Chapters (I don’t know why I refuse to call it Indigo).
I didn’t last very long on that shift. My excuse at the time was that I was physically incapable of getting up in the middle of the night. The problem was more that I was physically incapable of going to sleep at 8pm, in part because I was 26 and could come up with a million better things to do at 8pm other than sleep, but mostly because I was petrified that I would sleep through my alarm and lose my job. They eventually pulled me when the inexplicably chipper host of the show said (rightfully), that I sounded like shit.
I could never understand how this woman was able to sound so awake and happy to be there at such a ridiculous hour on the weekend. It is only now that I understand the origin of this superpower. It’s called having children. No need for melatonin or Benadryl or whatever stronger options are available. All I need to be asleep at 8pm is to be on bedtime duty with the little dude. Light goes out, songs are sung and I’m snoring before he can ask why Batman sounds so grumpy or whether Heaven is real.
However, there are other factors to this early bedtime equation that don’t stand up. Most importantly, how does one see one’s husband if you’re going to bed with the kids? We hardly see each other anyway, so maybe that’s a moot point, but even if it’s for five minutes while I’m making my before-bed tea and he’s drinking his before-bed gallon of water, it’s nice to have those few moments to connect.
So, really, it all boils down to the coffee. And you wanna know the sad part? I only drink decaf. Well, that’s not entirely true. I grind the majority of the shot using decaf and then put maybe half a tablespoon of regular in to top it off. Either way, there’s a lot of grinding and pulling and this is sounding way more interesting than making a cup of coffee should. Let’s just say it’s a production and it’s loud and then there’s the part where I blend it because, of course, it’s Bulletproof.
It’s clear there are benefits to the early morning tactic, just as there are with getting up early to workout. Imagine going through your day knowing you’d already tackled the hardest part? You’d feel like a champion! As opposed to me, who, yesterday, spent two hours writing in the afternoon only to be faced with an unfinished editing contract, unpacked groceries and the dreaded need for school lunches when I finally finished bedtime duties at 9:30pm. Today, I’ve neglected two piles of unfolded laundry and have conveniently turned a blind eye to the caramel coloured dog that came back from her walk looking like a a little black raincloud.
Let’s leave it at this: the next time I wake up at 4:30, which happens more often than I want it to, I’ll contemplate getting up to write. I’m dedicated to considering it, anyway. Maybe I will learn to enjoy water (blasphemy), tea (worse) or even instant coffee (who is writing this??). Maybe the sheer joy of creation will negate the need for external stimulants, since you never see writers in coffee shops, right? More likely, I will embrace the attitude of my boss during those early news reading days and boot myself back into bed. I’m beginning to like this idea after all!