Notes For Creators

cross fit for the creative soul

An experiment: 30 days of waking up 2 hours early to do The Work

It’s dark out, man, when you get up that much earlier . . .

Why oh why 2 hours early?!

Have you been frustrated with how your hours spin away from you in the day? Feeling like you’re not quite getting the best of your creative self? I’ve been in that zone, vacillating between days of electricity and days of chaos.

Here’s my situation — my life is lived in 3 modes:

  1. My lover woman wife and I own a successful contemporary art gallery in Palm Beach County, Florida. It’s thriving despite an extended near-death experience in the crash years. As any indie biz owner can attest, the job is never done. You’re answering emails at 11 at night; you’re running off early to make an art run.
  2. I’m also a creative myself. I write a growing blog: NotesForCreators.com. I write books, bookitos and now this nano book. Carving out optimal creative time is my greatest challenge every day.
  3. I’m a family dude. I don’t run all over town at night attending events and galas and charity functions. I don’t whittle hours out of my weekend for golf or boating or getting away from it all with friends. I could. It’s Palm Beach and there’s always something astir, there’s always an invitation in the air. Ann and I started late to a family, which means we’re all in with our son. We protect our family time.

Running a successful business is demanding. Hell, running an unsuccessful business is even more demanding! I know from our business near-death experience. You probably have a career equally as engaging.

You’re reading this because deep down despite your initial recoil at the thought of it, the idea of jumping into the day frightfully early appeals to you. You too are seeking a way to put your best, most creative energy into a project beyond your career and family.

It could be that your job or business has so much going on while you’re at it that you can’t concentrate on The Thing That Will Most Benefit Your Life.

How do you do it? How do you get at this Most Important Thing?

My dilemma is likely your dilemma

For years I’ve worked creatively at night. This worked pre-family. I could stay up till 1 or 2 or 3. Exhausted as I might be I was always counting on a second wind to sail me forward. Once our son came into our lives, his waking at dawn changed all that. Painfully, fitfully, awkwardly for a lifelong late nighter.

Ever since I’ve cobbled time wherever I could. When you run an art gallery you don’t have weekends. That’s when your clients are free ranging with their wallets. During the season it’s a 7-day affair. Even with an accomplished team, like we have now, weekends are partially work, partially family — and lots of clean up. Oh the dogs and kids and us and our messes.

So where does that leave me? And you, with your similarly busy life?

It leaves me inspired by Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning. In it he described his epiphany, that getting up an hour earlier was the key to fitting in all those practices he’d always wanted to fit in but couldn’t: Journaling, meditating, affirmations, visualization, reading something inspirational, a little exercise.

I already do those things throughout my day:

— I often speak declarations aloud while driving to work.

— Most mornings I jot a vision page while eating breakfast.

— I swim or bike or pole walk most evenings when I get home from the gallery.

(Pole walking is taking a hike with two tree limbs I’ve cut up for this purpose.)

(Yes I embarrass the hell out of my family and myself.)

(But here’s the interesting thing; it’s catching on in our area. After a few years of doing this I see other guys in our neighborhood out walking with poles now.)

(Sometimes it just takes the off-kilter guy to start a trend.)

— I read at night, in the bathtub, on the toilet, while waiting at an activity for my son . . . I read all the time. The way some people snack. Or snark. Or look at their phones.

— I meditate every night without fail before going to sleep. My form of meditation includes a visualization component. I’ve done this for years. I’m not sure I know how to go to sleep without meditating.

So for me, those aspects of Hal Elrod’s theme were already baked into my life. I didn’t need to wake up early to connect on a soul level with practices I’d long neglected. My life is a practice.

BUT I desperately urgently needed to figure out how to engage effectively with my creative work. It was suffering.

I started getting up early

In the beginning I got up early enough to fit in 45 minutes of creative work, 10 minutes of yoga and a 5-minute visualization. One hour early. It was glorious. No longer was I anxiously trying to steal away time from housework or connection time with family and friends late in the day.

But I haven’t been satisfied with only 45 minutes of focus on my creative work. It doesn’t feel like the ball is rolling fast enough. I was always managing to get in 45 minutes to an hour and a half before I’d made the change to mornings. Though it eased my mind and smoothed out my schedule, it didn’t feel like enough.

So when I relapsed into my old lifestyle for several days — not waking up early — the idea of a 30-Day Experiment came to me.

Wake up 2 hours early!

But just for 30 days. For a lifelong denizen of the night that’s as much commitment as I can muster. Mustn’t frighten the brain too much.

The idea isn’t to make this a lifestyle for the remainder of my days on this planet. Though boy oh boy that would be awesome if it were to stick. The idea is to to discover what 30 days of an ungodly commitment at an ungodly hour can spur.

The first two days have been dynamic. I’ve created more, faster. It’s as though Early and Focus are the ingredients needed for creative combustion.

The rest of my day was easier for having gotten the most important thing out of the way completely. To come home at the end of the day with nothing niggling on your brain to try to squeeze in between family time and house duties and relaxation — that’s peace.

Peace of an almost transcendental sort. I didn’t realize what a barrier to being homeful* it was, to have this creative jones pulsing at me from the back of my brain. Incessantly.

Now it is silenced. All because I got up early and made it happen. Then went on with my day.

You may want to tag along and try this yourself.

________________

* Mindfulness at home.

This is an excerpt from a nano book in process:
An Experiment in Living: How 30 Days of Waking Up 2 Hours Early Can Supercharge Your Creative Work

I’ll report back and let you know how it’s going. . . .

 

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