On getting up early to work

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.