how to get up and write at 5 in the fucking morning

Let me tell ya. Getting up at 5 In The Fucking Morning to write, something I would have sworn would NEVER work for me, not in a million years, not ever, getting up when it is cold and dark and lonely, well, it’s going GREAT.

It is so incredibly freeing to have my evenings to spend with my family! To not be managing everyone and everything to make sure that I get my writing time. As my friend said, writing at five is like staking out territory in Alaska. Nobody cares. They say, fine, sure, whatever, go right ahead. Knock yourself out. To which I answer, Woo hoo! I mean, I’m getting my daily writing time again, that regular pulse that is so powerful for writing novels…I think it sets up some kind of magnetic field to the Muse: I show up every day, and so She does, too. I’m serious! If the only time that can happen is five, So Be It. Much to my surprise, I’m showing up. And it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.

Here are some things I have figured out, for anyone who wants to try it.

First, I haven’t been using an alarm. An alarm would wake up the kids, which would mean no writing time, so I have to do this on my own. I like this, though, because an alarm is so jangling, it just sends the dreams away, and, as it turns out, there is something lovely about working when I’m half asleep. It’s like groping around in the dark. Sometimes I pick up a screwdriver when I thought it was a syringe or a juicer, but it turns out a juicer works really well. I never would have thought of a juicer, but hey, cool. I’ll keep it. Maybe this will prove disastrous when I actually start editing this novel, har har, but I like to hope it will make the writing a little closer the Well, if you know what I mean.

So, no alarm. Instead, whenever I wake up naturally in the night, you know, those times when I would normally roll over and be back asleep in about a minute, I glance at the clock. Sometimes it’s 1 or 2 in the morning and I think “Yeah!” and I go back to sleep. Sometimes it’s around 3, and then I waffle, because occasionally if I wake at 3 I won’t wake again until 6 or 7 and that’s too late. I have, actually, gotten up at 3 to write for an hour and then returned to bed, to avoid this. This is weird, but it works. But, thank heavens, because more usually, there is another waking up around 4:30, or 5, or 5:30. When I wake and glance at the clock, and it’s around 5ish, I do not roll over and do what comes naturally. Instead, I make myself hold my eyes open, just for a couple of seconds. This Eyes Open thing slows Sleep Rebound, giving me a minute or two before the weight of sleep drags me back under

No, actually, the first thing I do, invariably, is think “Shit.” I mean, a heartfelt, pissed off, I can’t believe it, DAMN IT. Because I DO NOT want it to be time to get up. I’m grumpy, and tired, and it’s cold out of those covers, and I stayed up too late, and I really, really, need more sleep. No, really, this is serious. Today, I really can’t do it. Tomorrow, sure, but today, No Way. But I’m lying there with my eyes open and it’s 5 In The Fucking Morning, so I swear. Intently. But quietly. In my head.

And then I DO NOT ask myself if I want to write this morning, because the answer will be FUCK NO.

In fact, if I think, for even a split-second, about my novel, or about writing, or about what I am doing this for, the objections will flood in, harsh and immediate: I do not want to write. I do not want to write this next scene. The next scene is boring. In fact, the whole novel is boring. What did I ever see in this novel? Why did I ever want to be a novelist in the first place? What a stupid, useless, self-indulgent, insane thing to be doing with my time. And by now my eyes are drooping and I’m almost asleep again.

I’m not exaggerating! These thoughts feel TOTALLY REAL l at 5AM! There is some freaky, painful self-examination vortex that gets activated at this time of the solar cycle. Never examine your life at 5 In The Fucking Morning! You have been warned! Do not ever do this!

Instead, I start telling myself to stand up. That’s all. That’s all I have to do. Just stand up. Sometimes I can’t get that far and I just shout at myself to sit up. That’s all, Maya. Sit up. You can do it. Just. Sit. Up.

Sometimes I half-dream that I have stood, that I am standing, and then I realize that I’m still in bed.

No, for real, Maya. Do it for real. Sit up. Then stand up. You can do this. Stand up.

Here is the secret: if I get myself vertical, if I actually stand up, I’m golden. My thousand words are practically guaranteed. No kidding! Look: if I stand up, I’ll put on a sweater, the one I have left right there for this purpose. And then I’ll have to pee, so that will get me out of the yurt. And once I’m the bathhouse, I might as well shuffle over to the Noah House. And once I’m the Noah House, there is my computer, left there for this purpose, and opening the file on the computer is totally easy. And once I read the first sentence, just one sentence, I’ll fall in to the work and write for an hour or even two. Presto.

Don’t ever think it is going to be easy, that getting up early will feel natural, or delightful, that you’ll bound out of bed they way you did when you were a kid and it was Christmas Morning, because it’s not like that. Basically, it sucks donkey dicks every time.

But that’s okay. If I just stand up, at one of those waking up times that is vaguely in the right territory, I’ll get it done. Just stand up, that’s all. The rest is like falling down a hill.

Sometimes, by the time I close my computer, the kids have woken up and are jumping on Paul. But more often, everyone is still asleep, or mostly so, Hallelujah! I tip toe back in, because the sleep field in the yurt is delicate at this time. The light coming in the dome is grey. People are moving a little under their covers. I crawl back into bed, gently, gently, and I go back to blessed sleep. It’s like a miracle, it’s like walking on freaking water, or waking up to find the coffee already made, only better.

I’m telling you, that half hour or so of sleep is the sweetest sleep in the universe, because I’ve already completed my writing for the day. I’m done. I’m free. I conk out like someone has tied lead weights to my consciousness. It makes an audible sound. Clonk. I probably have a freaking smile on my face. (Okay, probably not.)

But see? This is totally doable. Try it. Free your day from the stress of doing-or-not-doing one of the most important things in your life, whatever it is. Whatever it is you care about, just stand up at 5 In The Fucking Morning and get it done.

6 thoughts on “how to get up and write at 5 in the fucking morning

  1. CathyB

    Maya, your posts always make me smile. And this one elicited some serious belly laughs.

    Thanks for sharing your early morning insights. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  2. Deborah

    I wish. How I wish… My still-nursing 2 1/2 year old has a maximum sleep time of 1 hour and 47 minutes. He wakes up EVERY hour and 45 minutes. Maybe in a year. You should call Nike with this new “Just stand up at 5 in The Fucking Morning and get it DONE.” (Though, I’ve been boycotting Nike for years…)

    Reply
  3. Tracie

    Well Good For you! I totally get it.. getting up early before the rest of the world has its mixed blessings FOR SURE! There is something really really awesome in starting one’s day so early though. Keep it up as long as you can… BUT and this is a HUGE ASS BUT….. give your self that sleeping time…. ‘cuase the universe knows sleep IS one of the all time best things ever.

    Reply
  4. Tina Richardson

    I so enjoyed reading your thoughts of 5am. For a second I thought is was me talking because 5am can hurt some mornings.

    Reply

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