A few years ago, a magazine article changed my life. In the February 2002 The Atlantic, Joseph Epstein had wrote about he became an Early Riser. I had gone back to work. I had two children. I was getting no work done. And here Epstein had a straighforward solution: get up early.
I'd always resisted that. For me, the best time to get up is 7:15. Early by some standards, maybe, but certainly leaving only enough time to get ready for work, and go.
Epstein's description of how he faced a similar situation inspired me. And I did what he did: I started to get up early. Not quite the 5 AM he seems to easily manage: 5:30 is pretty good for me. But that gives me the hour or more that I need to get some writing done.
I won't claim that my eyes snap open and I say "Rejoice, for this is the day the Lord has made." There's usually some desperate negotiation between various selves, sometimes another warning bleep from the alarm. It helps if I have a work that's going well--at some level I'm anxious to get back to it.
I weigh myself, go downstairs, turn on the coffee maker, and head down to the cellar, behind the boiler, my place of grace. At this season I turn on the electric radiator under my desk. I record my weight in my spreadsheet (the morning self is more obsessive than the daylight self), turn on KBPS (a Portland, Oregon classical station I started listening to because I could get their commentary-light overnight show in my morning), and switch to my Writer user (no internet access, no programs but MS Word), and get to work.
Many nights I don't get to bed early. I stay up reading. It makes the morning more painful, but I don't really regret it. But, like Epstein, if I go through all that trouble and pain and then sit there staring at some inert pixels, I feel like an idiot. I do my best to get something done.
I'm not advising this for everyone. But, if like me, you have a life, and a job, and also the need to make your mark somehow, it's really worth a try. Done right, it's like unconvering a new continent. It's the discovery of uncolonized, unspoiled time. No one else is up. The world is quiet. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
And give thanks to Joseph Epstein, who inspired it all.