The early morning has gold in its mouth — German proverb
I am about to reveal to you the secret of massive productivity and inevitable success.
It involves maximizing your time and accomplishing more in a few hours than most people accomplish in a week.
It is a time-tested strategy used by the majority of writers, everywhere.
It involves doing some very, very important things before the hour of 6 AM.
Are you ready for the Great Secret to Writerly Success?
Alrighty then, here it is:
These are the 6 things every writer should do before 6 am
- Sleep, and…
- Sleep 😉
Are you serious? This is NOT What I Came For.
Where’s the “Secret to Writerly Success” You Promised Me?
Okay, okay, all kidding aside, you probably gathered by now that this is not a typical personal-development article for “self-help junkie” writers.
I have nothing against people who wake up early in the morning, or writers who advocate waking up early in the morning. For the most part, I agree with them.
But the point of this article is: every writer and every artist has their own (life)style.
A lot of highly successful writers DO wake up at 5 am and get in a couple hours of writing before they truck off to their day jobs. And in general, it does tend to be healthier for people to wake up early.
After all, as Benjamin Franklin once said:
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
But we artists and writers are a quirky bunch, and it’s not unusual to find a wide diversity in the way we do life…and creativity. For instance:
Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn Jr., the great American pianist, used to be a MAJOR night owl. He would practice piano until 5:30 am, then sleep until 1:30 pm. He explained his behavior in this way:
“You feel like you’re alone and the world’s asleep, and it’s very inspiring,”
Apparently, that schedule worked for him, because at the age of 23, Van Cliburn won worldwide recognition for winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition during the Cold War. This feat was so incredible, Time magazine featured him in a cover story, and New York threw him a ticker-tape parade when he came home.
Granted, most people agree that that’s generally not very healthy.
Van Cliburn was a fantastic pianist, but other parts of his life were not terribly well-balanced.
It’s hard to hang out with friends when you’re awake while they’re asleep, for one. Van Cliburn also later died of bone cancer, which may or may not have had something to do with his upside-down sleep schedule.
But it seems Van Cliburn decided that it was worth it.
Now, does his example mean YOU should stay up writing until 5am and sleep into the afternoon?
‘Course not. That kind of schedule is not feasible for the majority of people who have families and jobs and kids and things to take care of. But it does illustrate one key concept…
The REAL Secret to Writerly Success
This is not a totally tongue-in-cheek article. I DO have a “secret to success” to share with you. Here it is:
You do you.
But let me explain what I mean by that.
When I say “you do you,” I don’t mean “you should do anything and everything you feel like doing, impulsively, whenever the heck you feel like doing it.”
Obviously, such an undisciplined life will lead no one to success.
But be careful going too far in either direction — boundary-less “freedom,” which leads you to become a slave to your impulses, and hyper-rigid “discipline” which crushes your spirit and creativity.
True freedom is found by walking the line in between.
And whenever you hear someone give any advice — about when to wake up, how to live, what to think, how to succeed…consider and experiment with what you learn, don’t just jump on every shiny new strategy you hear of without thinking.
In order for you to “do you,” you have to understand “you.”
You need to understand how your body and mind works, your strengths and weaknesses, flaws and gifts. That requires curiosity, humility, experimentation, and paying close attention to what’s going on.
That’s what I learned when I self-helped myself sick, several years ago:
Idealism Isn’t Always Good For You
When I was younger, I sincerely believed that vegetarianism/veganism and regular fasting was healthy for everyone. I read lots of books and articles that told me so, and those authors recommended even more books and articles that corroborated their claims.
So I threw myself into a radical life/diet remodeling project. I tried going vegetarian, fasting one day a week, and even once did a water fast for an entire week.
It was too much. My body wasn’t used to such a big difference, and because of other factors, I ended up hurting myself and becoming anemic.
I quit the “project” and returned to my old diet, but it took me a while to recover, physically and emotionally.
Fasting and vegetarianism/veganism is probably healthy for many people. But it’s either not for me, or I didn’t understand how to do it correctly. Either way, I didn’t take the time to really study and test the waters. I just jumped in with both feet…and nearly drowned.
Now, when I read inspiring self-help articles and books about radically changing my diet, schedule, or lifestyle, I allow myself to feel excited, but also remind myself to be wise.
You see, not every piece of advice is for everyone.
There probably IS some revolutionary idea out there with your name on it, and once you find and apply it, you’ll be 10x more successful than you are now…
But be discerning. That means, don’t take everything at face value. Read the ideas, apply them gradually, see what happens, and adjust as needed.
Most of us probably SHOULD be going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier than we do.
People used to go down and get up with the sun, but thanks to modern technology, most people don’t do that anymore, leading to increased stress and health issues.
But don’t pressure yourself excessively. Use small experiments to figure out if certain “life advice” (whether it’s waking up at 5 am or doing anything else) actually works for you.
Go steadily in the direction of change, checking in with yourself regularly. Be gentle with yourself.
Trees don’t grow faster when we tug on them, and you also should be patient with your own growth. Just keep learning, keep applying, keep experimenting and revising based on your experimental results, and the growth will come in time.
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